how to overcome disappointment

We all face disappointment. It’s just one of those not so fun parts of life. Simply put, disappointment happens when our reality doesn’t match our expectations. Life just doesn’t go according to our plan very often.

It’s one thing when your team loses (hey, it is just a game) or it rains on your outdoor plans. That’s disappointing. It’s another thing altogether when the stakes are higher, like when you don’t get hired, or your health fails, or someone you love or depend upon falls short in your eyes. That’s really disappointing, and those can hurt a lot longer. If we’re not careful, it can even cause bitterness if we don’t handle it well. And you know, I haven’t met a person yet who wants to be bitter. So it’s a pretty big deal to know how to overcome life’s disappointment. Otherwise, disappointment will overwhelm us.

We usually get over the rained out plans faster than we get over the hurts from larger life issues that didn’t meet our expectations. That seems to make sense, because of the “size” of the disappointment, but interestingly enough, the process for overcoming a big or little disappointment is the same. Let’s take a look.

We have a couple of options to consider when we’re disappointed. If possible, we talk to the party that disappointed us in hopes of a different and better result (at least the next time). That can be a good process if it goes well.  Or, another option is to seethe and stew. (Hint: this is the least helpful option.) Or, a third option is to change our expectation. This last option gets less media attention. Initially, this might not seem like an option for some, because it seems like that would mean lowering our expectations, and who wants to do that? (Pride alert….)

Changing our expectations isn’t lowering them at all. It’s changing because we’ve realized we need to (don’t want to seethe and stew, right?), and this realization can happen for a number of reasons. Perhaps our expectations weren’t very realistic in the first place, and after some evaluation or coaching from a friend who will be honest with us, we make reality adjustments.

Living in the First World really wreaks havoc on keeping a healthy perspective, and it’s really, really easy to fall into the entitlement trap. It’s really easy to lose a proper sense of gratitude in the First World. It’s really easy to expect more than is healthy. Heck, not only do we do this with people close to us, we do this a lot with God too. We get mad at Him for the rain, for not answering our prayer for that job, or for not fixing that relationship for us, or for our daily everyday struggles. Hey, life is hard at times, and no one gets a pass.

How we deal with our disappointments will greatly influence the amount of enjoyment or contentment we find in life. Sometimes it takes time with a good friend to help us be willing to change our expectations. Sometimes it takes some heart to heart conversation with God to remember that when we lean on Him He is working for our good, and maybe just maybe, our disappointments will lead us to grow. And that’s a good thing.

Rev. Greg Griffin is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and Forgiveness Coach in private practice in Marietta, GA. His specialty is relationship repair and rescue- helping partners, spouses, and parents and their adolescents. He’s also the author of Dungeon Times Survival Guide, and Vital Faith.

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