Disappointments can be tough. I’m not talking about the kind of disappointment that happens when you open the cabinet and realize that you forgot to get your favorite cereal at the grocery store. I’m talking about the kind that happens when you study two weeks for a test and fail it or spend lots of money during the summer to train for particular sport and then don’t make the team. I’m talking about not getting your first choice job or house, or having the first medication you try give you such bad side effects you want to simply give up and remain unable to get out of bed.
We can turn a disappointment into a tragedy. If you are prone to depression or anxiety you know exactly what I’m talking about. You ruminate on, “Why me?” “My life is ruined” and “I’m a disgusting specimen of humanity.” Then of course there is the all-time self-defeating belief, “It was my last chance!”
Yet disappointments are good. They are instructive. They give people the opportunity to learn how to persevere and side-step obstacles.
Years ago Martin Seligman, PhD described three unhealthy ways to interpret disappointments, negative life events. The first is to assume they will be permanent. The second is to believe they affect all aspects of our lives rather than just one. The third is to make the negative event a statement about us personally. He said, and it is true, that these beliefs foster a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, which in turn increases the risk for depression and its sister anxiety.
In truth all disappointments aren’t our fault alone. 98% of the time others, situational politics, and timing contribute. Experiencing a negative event also doesn’t mean we are destined to continue living from one negative event to another. If we look hard enough we will notice there are times we do get what we want. Finally, there are always other parts of our lives that are positive even in the midst of disappointments. Think of one of the ultimate disappointments– losing everything in a tornado, earthquake, or hurricane. What do you often hear? “I am just so grateful I still have my family” and “We can rebuild better than before!”
When disappointments occur don’t cling to that one particular loss. Tell your self, “This will pass, there are other options,” and “maybe there is something out there just as good or better than this thing.” While doing that, set your gaze on God who creates good out of all disappointments. Don’t expect to necessarily get you what you want. Rather expect that if you allow it He will create in you a new, stronger, and more holy person. Believe that and helplessness/hopelessness will give way to hope and resilience. This will give you the confidence to look for alternatives even if that means excepting second best and still feeling successful. You are successful if you allow disappointments bring you closer to God.
So now go into that cabinet and try a different cereal for breakfast, or take the extra time and effort to go get the one you want. You may find it on the grocery shelf.
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