Disappointment – The only thing certain about life is uncertainty
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
We all make plans, have dreams, and set goals. Will our plans materialize or end in complete failure? The only thing certain about life is uncertainty. So, our frail attempts may end in glorious victory or frustrating defeat. Such is the nature of life. We are destined to engage in a series of celebrations interspersed with a series of disappointments. Because of this, it is important to learn how to deal with disappointment. Martin Luther King, Jr. suggests one way of coping; mainly, by accepting it. After all, disappointment occurs in just one moment of time. And hope, or the understanding that future successes will follow, lightens its burden.
The word disappointment is made up of DIS and APPOINTMENT. DIS means separate, apart, or asunder. So, disappointment describes a feeling of dissatisfaction or anguish, which is experienced when we are torn apart from our expected appointment with fate. Yet, we don’t have to experience pain when things don’t go our way. The negativity surrounding disappointment exists not in the real world, but only in our mind. It is not the event, but our interpretation of it that causes pain.
Every time I take a walk with a friend, Will, regardless where we go, he always finds coins in the street and on the sidewalk. Mainly pennies, but sometimes nickels, dimes, and quarters. Hundreds of people walk by unaware of the change beneath their feet. So why is it that Will, who could use the extra money, always seems to find it? There’s no mysterious force at work here. Just common sense. Will finds the money because he’s looking for it! This is just a simple illustration of an important principle of life, which is WE FIND WHAT WE LOOK FOR. When things don’t go as I had hoped they would, is that bad? It is if I look for something bad. If I am slammed on the head by disappointment, is that good? Yes, it is, if I look for something good. We find what we look for.
For several years I participated in public speaking contests. I was a regular winner. One day, I lost in a national contest by coming in second. When I heard the verdict of the judges, I had a moment to reflect, and was surprised by my lack of disappointment. You see, I had LOST a contest, but GAINED an experience. Despite the many contests I joined, I had never thought of how the ‘losers’ must feel. Now I could better understand how it feels to be defeated. I gained increased respect for all the competitors who took the risk of competing. I was also thankful for the opportunity of learning how to lose graciously. Was my defeat good for me? You bet it was! Can disappointment be good for you? You bet it can! We can lessen the negative effects of disappointment, or eliminate it entirely, with the right attitude. Here are some steps we can take to develop that attitude or lighten our burden.
1. No matter how careful or positive we are, we are bound to experience grief, suffering, pain, fear, and anxiety, for they are part of life, the price we pay for the privilege of sharing in the joys of life. Since you can count on suffering, make sure you can count on joy. Do this by planning family outings, get-togethers with friends, and time to enjoy your hobbies, nature, and the arts. By constantly planning for fun, you guarantee that any grief you experience will be interspersed with joy.
2. Don’t be guilty of reverse vision. That is, don’t look inward when you should be looking outward, and don’t look outward when you should be looking inward. Here’s what I mean. Are you disappointed in friends that don’t live up to your expectations? If you are, you are guilty of reverse vision. You are looking outward (at your friends’ conduct) when you should be looking inward (at your own conduct). How can you be disappointed by the failure of your friends or relatives to live up to your expectations when you yourself fail to live up to your own expectations? When you see your own weaknesses, you’ll be able to accept the weaknesses of others. Are you sometimes devastated by misfortune and wonder how life can be so cruel? If so, you are guilty of reverse vision. You are looking inward when you should be looking outward. How can you beat your breast and cry out, “Woe is me,” when so many people are suffering to a much greater degree? When you begin to cry out, “”Woe are them,” you’ll start to be thankful for your blessings.
3. When you learn to welcome challenges and love problem solving, disappointments will disappear. Enjoy the thrill of being a champion by relishing battles, whether you win or lose them. Whenever things go wrong, analyze the situation and see what you can learn and then move on. If you are constantly running into hurdles when pursuing a long-term goal, just remember there is no failure until you give up, so don’t! Don’t you love puzzles? Life is a maze (it is also amazing). Enjoy it! When you run into a dead end, just turn around and try again! Be an explorer, an adventurer. Take risks. Shoot for the stars! To do so is to experience an exhilaration that far exceeds the power of any disappointment that may come your way.
4. You will not enjoy or win at cards if all you do is complain about the hand you’re dealt. Expect nothing more from life than what it offers and you will never be let down. Welcome the opportunities it provides by making the most of the cards you’re dealt. Also, don’t forget to feed your mind with positive thoughts by reading good books. Then make those thoughts your own by reflecting on them. When you understand them, you will fill your mind with light. Apply what you learn by practicing it.
5. If you experience a disappointment that you find difficult to overcome without help, talk to friends. That will help you realize that you’re not alone and that others have overcome similar problems. And speaking of friends, don’t disappoint them and chances are they’ll never disappoint you, but if they do, forgive them, for how can someone hurt you if you forgive them? If you appeal to the best side of your friends, the chances are you won’t be disappointed.
6. Abandon childish demands and foolish expectations. Are you looking for the perfect mate? If you are, you’re sure to be disappointed. For only God is perfect. We mortals are imperfect. If you can accept that, you can eliminate much unnecessary misery from your life. The same is true for the perfect job, perfect child, or perfect life. It doesn’t exist (unless we are among a handful of remarkable individuals who have enough clarity of mind, purity of heart, and understanding of life to see nothing but goodness).
7. Finally, cultivate patience, for as Joseph Addison (1672 ~ 1719) wrote, “Our real blessings often appear to us in the shape of pains, losses and disappointments; but let us have patience and we soon shall see them in their proper figures.”