After the articles on the Powers and Dangers of expectations (https://chrismlegg.com/2011/09/12/the-dangers-of-expectations-part-i/),
I was asked by a good friend to follow it up with a conversation on the topic of: Disappointment.
And I hate to let him down…
Budda bum bum bum.
This one is for you, Chad.
I realized that it was a good idea since I seemed to indicate that disappointment was the emotional result of not getting what we want, hope, or desire.
I was contrasting this to the emotional response of not getting what we “expect” (betrayal, frustration, etc.)…
Or the emotional response to not receiving an “entitlement” (anger, rage, justification).
But, then, am I saying that even when we have the appropriate desire for something – a hope for a certain gift, that we could still end up experiencing disappointment?
And I think it is important to recognize this. We respond with such horror to the idea of either
- Being disappointed or
- Being a disappointment.
It will be shocking to future generations how deeply in denial we are, and how we rarely seem to take an honest look at our existence.
Of course we experience disappointment! Of course anyone who would relate to us will experience disappointment with us.
The emotion of disappointment is the constant companion of all of us… welcome to the human condition – possibly as God intended! (but more on this later).
I think only in our vain, egocentric, or pampered lives do we respond this way to the idea of disappointment. One evidence of this is the way that
virtually no one even uses the word “disappointment” anymore.
When we want something and don’t get it, we are “devastated” (often “utterly”).
When we desire and our desire goes unmet, we are “crushed” (often “absolutely”).
First, maybe it would be easier for us if we could go back to just being disappointed. I got all of these amazing gifts that are free and fun, but I didn’t get something that I wanted. Bummer. A little disappointment. Life goes on and it is still great.
Now, of course, there are things that can happen in our lives that are crushing, or devastating.
In fact, recognition of this is part of why I wanted to publish the articles on grief first. https://chrismlegg.com/2011/08/01/grief-and-grieving/
I would never want experiencing a loss of any kind, especially a loss of gravity and importance, to be belittled or minimized. Wanting, expecting, or desiring are not the only options. There is pain and grief and need and more.
And, of course, consistent or constant small disappointments can be as crippling over time as one big one.
The writer of Proverbs rightly reminds us that “deferred hope leads to a broken heart” (13:12).
So, while not minimizing what people experience, I just want to remind us that disappointment is a normal and healthy part of life…
And it has to be ok in any meaningful relationship for disappointment to exist! If I am not allowed to be disappointed, then I am also not allowed to hope, or desire, or even want. Let us allow each other to want and desire, and when we cannot fulfill what they want, it is ok to encourage them in their disappointment…
Even when we are the cause of it!
God forbid we steal other people’s opportunity to want and wish for things, but being too frail or too prideful to let them be disappointed
Finally, please not how this creates two ongoing effects (at least):
1. We get to give and receive grace all the time. If I can accept that there are things about me or my behavior that, of course, are going to disappoint my wife, kids, friends, students, others, then I can live basking in the grace that lets them love me anyway!
Ok, so I know someone is thinking that would be an excuse to be lazy, but that is quite obviously not accurate – Victor Hugo once said ““The
greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved — loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”
2. We don’t get too attached here, because we never quite attain a life without some kind of disappointment. Even if life is really good in 90% of ways for a few moments, we experience disappointment, even if just small amounts, all the time.
This, I think will be one of the major differences between Earth and Heaven. There, we shall be home, where we are meant to be, and likely experience not even the least disappointment.
Disappointment is a great way of making sure we never mistake this life, in all of its wonder and grandeur and abundance, as home.