Every day a minefield of potential disappointments needs to be navigated. They range in scope, complexity and depth of pain. In the last couple of months I have walked with people through a number of disappointments. For example:
- A young man processing a freshly broken heart.
- A marriage that ended after years of counseling and struggle.
- Another life taken by the devastation of cancer.
- Multiple people who lost jobs and dreams.
- Stressed out couples looking foreclosure in the face.
- One woman who has faced over 70 surgeries that haven’t worked.
- A hard conversation that didn’t end as the person had hoped.
Disappointments happen, but they don’t have to define you. Too often people who experience disappointments begin to create an identity out of them which leads to a victim mindset and actually perpetuates a deadly cycle.
Disappointments happen when our expectations and considerations are not aligned with reality. Current studies are revealing that a person who lives with a sense of constant disappointment is at a higher risk for health issues such as chronic stress, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems just to name a few.
How To Deal With Disappointments
1. Own Your Feelings
I have worked with people who employed many different methods of coping with disappointments. Perhaps the most used method, and also the most destructive one, is taking a long cruise on that big ol’ river in Egypt… Denial. Denial comes in many forms. There is the classic minimizer who seems optimistic by minimizing the current situation, but truth-be-told, it is just another form of denial. Full blown denial simply chooses to not embrace or admit the emotional toll that a disappointment has created.
Comments like, “It’s no big deal” “I’m fine with it” “It really didn’t matter to me anyway” or even “It doesn’t affect me” reveal that we are not in touch with our emotions. If we don’t own how a disappointment has affected us, the emotional pain will drive down deep and eventually leak out in destructive ways onto other people.
So the first step in dealing with disappointments is to be honest, admit how you feel, acknowledge the emotions that are churning inside you and grieve what was lost. This brings your emotional reality into the light where it can be dealt with and healed instead of of being pent up and eventually combusting.
2. Change Your Perspective
While you may not be able to choose what events happen in your life, you do have the ability to choose how to respond in a given situation. If you have dealt with the truth about how a situation has made you feel, then you are better able to respond instead of react.
If you haven’t dealt with your emotions and the reality of a situation, more than likely you will either moves towards denial or depression. If you have dealt honestly with how you are feeling, you can make a choice to look at the circumstances differently. Most people that I know seem to be professional worriers, so their thoughts swirl around the negative and keep the disappointment alive. Instead of dwelling on the disappointment you need to choose different thoughts, different data to center on.
Perspective Changing Questions: Ask yourself some question that will help you change your thinking. “I wonder what God is up to in this?” This question reminds me that there is a bigger picture and a higher reality at work all the time, and that God is always working in my life through the good, bad and ugly. While God may not be the cause of every situation I face, His promise is to be with me through all of life’s circumstances. This gives me hope and I remember that as long as I am breathing, God is still at work in me.
The second question I ask is “How should I respond in a way that has integrity and vision” To respond with integrity means that I have choices that will grow my soul or shrink it. When I react, my soul shrinks and I become less human. When I pause, evaluate and respond, I have the opportunity to grow, be light and get a higher view of the situation.
To think vision means that I believe there is a preferred future that this disappointment can shape me for. I have found in my own life that it has been the disappointments and the dark nights that have grown my soul and not the mountain top experiences. Every life experience is a soul-forge, changing your perspective from disappointment to vision unleashes potential.
3. Move Your Body
This might sound strange at first, but doing something physical makes a big difference in moving from disappointment towards hope. Staying on the couch asking “why” questions over and over will keep you stuck in a rut. Get up, get out and do something. There is a direct correlation between physical exercise and emotional and spiritual health. They are all integrated. Here are a few things to consider doing to help you change your perspective:
* Hit the gym. When you go to the gym to work out you can tale your iPod with you and listen to good music, great teaching and all kinds of positive reinforcement. you can listen to my messages by going here or on iTunes by simply putting my name in the search bar.
* Go for a walk or a hike. Get outside and breathe in some fresh air and immerse yourself in God’s creation.
* Time to pray. Prayer can also be physical by incorporating them on your walk, run or treadmill. Talk to God, ask some soul questions as you go, you’ll not only get some air into your lugs and blood moving through your soul, but you’ll also connect with God while you do it.
* Become a MMA cage fighter. Just kidding, but ongoing involvement with a Karate class or Tai Chi are great ways to keep your body moving, help you focus, and integrate a healthier lifestyle. I have found that when I am balancing the three areas that are me (Body, Soul and Spirit) I am better at handling the disappointments that come my way.
Questions to consider:
+ where do my thoughts go, and what do I dwell on when I get depressed or am disappointed?
+ how can I look at a situation with integrity and vision?
+ who is in my life that I can call to help me with my perspective?
+ what small step can I take towards getting physical activity in my life?
Give me your thoughts and leave a comment!
Great stuff! Allowing our disappointments to move us positively — not just in blind faith — but in honesty and integrity, is a spiritual discipline. It’s “renewing the mind” and “becoming truly human while fully dependent on the divine” on the most elemental level. Thank you for this excellent reminder.
Thanks Tanya 🙂 renewing the mind is key to finding joy and finding God in the good and bad, you are right on there…
Hi Babe…(hope it is ok to call my Pastor, Babe)…As we enter the 2 year mark of Cody’s death’, I would love to sit with you for just a brief time to share some good, joyful news with you. I love this post on dealing with disappointments As I read thru it, I am so convinced and thankful that God is so faithful. I personally have experienced the worst and saddest day/disappointment of my life and I have survived! We have survived. God is not only good, He has an incredible sense of humor. Let me know when you have a few moments to meet over coffee, tea or whatever. I love you
you got it! i’ll shoot you a note…your journey has been long and hard, and God is up to something in you through it all…you are loved my friend 🙂
Sometimes disappointment can flatten you and take the wind of out of your sails. At times it appears that things will not change and yet We are called to be grateful. A big pill to swallow at times and often harder than not, however when we rise to occasion to search for that and call on Him in our pain and inspire of our pain, disappointment and hurt He runs to comfort us. Sometimes just getting up and getting dressed is a task…a nice walk outside (or in my case a swim…and a prayer) can change the day.
Hi Kristen! great words flowing from an incredible person 🙂 as you mentioned practicing gratefulness is a powerful way to change perspective in the midst of it all…
Thanks Monty! Every difficulty can be an opportunity to grow!
Hey old friend (Monty), Yes, dealing with disappointment is difficult – for me.
…be content with what you have…”Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”. Hebrews 13:5