How Do You Handle Disappointment?

Boy Child Sad Alone Sit Sitting On Jacket

Parent help is among the highlights of my week. I love going into my son’s class to aid his teacher and other school staff. I love working in another school environment as a chaplain. And I loved helping in my daughters’ classes when they were children too.

It strikes me, the more I’m involved with school environments, just how holistic education is. It’s not just about the academic work or the’formative’ years. There is very much a social dimension to instruction which carries through beyond school, even, hesitant as I say this, into life as a 50-year-old. We are always learning.

I was reminded of this as I watched my child interact in a class session on the mat. I saw myself in his disappointment.

‘It is what it is, son. Acknowledge it and move on.’

That is what I believed I heard God say to my soul. It was both a private Word from my God to me, His child, in my disappointments, and from me to my son, as I agreed fully with the fact God showed me in my own disappointment.

It’s inescapable. And we always feel like we have been hard-done-by. If we are not careful disappointment grows legs and runs full tilt toward bitterness and headlong to the eventual’prize’ of bitterness.

As a five-year-old the disappointment seems obvious on the face, a heart that’s momentarily rejected, but they seem fast to get over it. But on a fifty-year-old that disappointment is often concealed in an’Oh, I’ll be fine… it’s really okay…’ when at times my spirit is actually saying,’Gee, that hurt!’ And,’If I’m honest, I’m stunned!’

The point is disappointment stings. We don’t expect not to get our way. And it reinforces feelings of injustice (‘it is not fair!’) Or residual feelings of inadequacy (‘these things always happen to me’, and’why am I always the target?’) Or one of a range of other not-so-good feelings and attributions.

Two things we can do about disappointment: 1) acknowledge it happened; we felt the sting of disappointment, and that that is fine, without judging it, and 2) proceed. That’s right, we simply move on. We don’t give the disappointment that communicates any more attention than it deserves.

I didn’t enjoy it when it happened, but I’m not going to let it define me.

Hard as it is, when disappointment happens, it is best to admit it hurts, take guts to sense it, learn what you can, then let go and proceed.

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