Wednesday, 15 June 2016 10:20

5 Ways of Dealing with Disappointment

Written by  Victor Parachin
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Life offers equal opportunities when it comes to setbacks - separation, divorce, bereavement, life altering illness, unemployment, bankruptcy, rejection, loss of a love interest, a problem child, a dysfunctional parent and more. The Bible records several people who experienced life’s disappointment. 


Some examples include: Rachel, wife of the biblical patriarch Jacob, who could not bear children, and cried out: “Give me children or I’ll die.” (Genesis 30:1, New International Version); the prophet Elijah, who was so disappointed, he demanded of God: “Take my life.”


While some people allow disappointment to constrict and contract their living, others respond in ways which are constructive and expansive. Rather than becoming fragile and frightened, those who manage disappointment skillfully emerge bigger, bolder, braver and better. Here are five ways to deal effectively with disappointment.


1. Suspend judgment.

When things don’t go the way we want them to, our tendency is to make a snap judgment and turn negative on the spot. Avoid this temptation. Don’t jump to the conclusion that an unwelcome event is terrible and disastrous. A wiser course of action is to face it skillfully but give it time to see how it ultimately plays out before arriving at a pessimistic conclusion. A powerful example of this wisdom operating comes through the life of Rabbi Akiva (c. 40 – 137 CE) one of the most influential individuals in Jewish history. He was traveling from one village to another accompanied by his pet rooster, a donkey and lamp. Arriving at a small village he sought refuge for the night but the only inn was full and he was turned away. So he made his way to a field nearby where he and the two animals settled in to spend the night.


That evening a strong, loud windstorm emerged and blew out his lamp. Because of the noisy winds, Rabi Akiva did not hear when a fox came and ate his rooster. Nor did he hear a mountain lion approach, attack and drag away his donkey. The same night while he slept in the open field, a mercenary army attacked the village killing those who resisted and capturing all others to sell off as slaves. Immediately he realized that had the rooster crowed, had the donkey brayed, had his light glowed, he would have been discovered, possibly killed and certainly carried off as a slave. What initially appeared to be an adversity turned out to be an advantage for him. The lesson from Rabbi Akiva’s experience is simply this: only with the passing of time can we properly evaluate the full meaning of an event or experience.


2. Trust.

Believe that God will use your disappointment. Trust that God will turn a disappointment into a detour leading to something bigger and better for you. Take comfort from the words of the prophet: “The Lord says: ‘My thoughts and my ways are not like yours. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, my thoughts and my ways are higher than yours.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 Contemporary English Version) Several years ago a young woman in her twenties was working for her father’s tax consulting business “making good money, more than my friends who were college graduates.” However, the position meant that many days she worked eighteen hours. Then, one morning, she and her father received a call saying their office building was on fire. Rushing there, she watched “as everything I worked for burned.” Though she was shocked, upset and in tears, it was also a life transforming catalyst “because it was the first thing that made me stop and say, ‘Okay, hold on here. I’m crying because my adding machine is gone. What does that tell me about my life?’” A conviction grew within her that buried within this disaster could be an opportunity leading her to “create a better life.” The young woman, Cheryl Richardson, left the tax consulting business, and over the next two decades, has become a best selling author of numerous motivational books.


3. Identify three positives.

Any time and every time an event comes into your life which is disappointing and damaging, look at it carefully, and identify three positives. This is a technique used by business consultant Shirzad Chamine, author of Positive Intelligence. He once asked a national sales manager of a company to come up with three positive scenarios which could emerge following the recent loss of her company’s biggest customer. Initially expressing skepticism, she came up with the following three: “1) This could sober up the whole company to the fact that we are losing our edge and trigger more urgent action on new product development, which could in the long run get us many more clients; 2) This could make my sales team more open to upgrading its skills; 3) This could free up our service staff to serve our existing customers better and result in even more referral than what we lost with the recent customer.”


Chamine’s technique is a powerful one which can be used anytime disappointment strikes. For example: if you are suddenly downsized, identify three positives which emerge from becoming unemployed; if you experienced a serious health setback, identify three positives which emerge from loss of health; if you’ve been injured in an accident, identify three positives which emerge as a result of the incident; if you’ve had to file for bankruptcy, identify three positives which emerge because of financial losses. Practicing this technique will minimize despair and maximize hope.


4. Neutralize bitterness.

“Perhaps the most challenging thing we will ever be called on to do is to remain aware of the redeeming qualities of people who have hurt or disappointed us” says Rabbi Harold Kushner in his bookOvercoming Life’s Disappointments. The way to remain free of bitterness and anger toward those who have disappointed or hurt is by attempting to see their virtues as well as their vices. This perspective is one Rabbi Kushner promotes to those “who complain about over controlling parents and to those who complain about neglectful husbands and wives who are contemplating divorce because their mates turned out to be less perfect than they once thought they were. Relationships require us to recognize people’s limitations and accept them as they are.”


5. Grow from experience.

This is especially important to do when you are the cause of your own disappointment. There are times when most of us will fall short of our own standards and values. Rather than dropping down into self-condemnation and self-rejection, commit to self-growth and increasing self-awareness so it doesn’t happen again. Here’s an example. A man tells of an incident which happened many years ago when he was much younger and less patient. He was driving to his parents’ place when he became highly irritated by a very slow driver ahead of him. Becoming angry, he tailgated the auto so closely that he couldn’t even see the rear license plate on the vehicle ahead. His aggressive driving clearly intimidated the driver in front of him who seemed relieved at turning off onto a side road.


However, that side road was the very one he was taking to visit his parents. The driver soon realized that the person driving in front of him was his own mother. Immediately, his rage turned to enormous shame and great guilt, but he didn’t stay stuck there. Fortunately, he had the maturity and wisdom to learn from the experience and growth. From that time on, whenever he encountered a particularly slow driver or was cut off in traffic by a careless driver, he repeats this mantra to manage any road rage: that could be my mother…that could be my mother...that could be my mother. That simple five word phrase transforms hostility and anger into respect and love, impatience into acceptance.


Being disappointed by life is inevitable. Being defeated by life is optional. It all comes down to a matter of choice. Choose your options wisely.


Victor Parachin is a pastor and freelance writer.



Last modified on Wednesday, 15 June 2016 10:27
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