Almost every day we are presented with opportunities to learn how to get over disappointment. I am an optimist by nature, and feeling disappointed is not something I particularly enjoy.
But disappointment in life comes just like dirty laundry, toothaches, and other disruptions and changes.
One story reminds me of the importance of learning how to get over disappointment.
My daughter and I unpacked the car and headed to our campsite. We had been looking forward to our trip with her third-grade class for months. For our special weekend, we were expecting campfires, hikes, and a quaint cabin in the woods.
As we walked up to our sleeping quarters, I quickly realized the cabins were not exactly what I had envisioned. They were rustic, screened huts with no power and no restroom. To some of you, that may sound quaint and fun, but to me it was horrifying. I was incredibly disappointed.
My daughter was delighted because her expectations had been different from mine. She had friends, she had snacks and she had me.
I had to make a decision. To enjoy the experience and not be a downer for my daughter or anyone else, I had to practice how to get over disappointment.
I decided to get over myself. We had a couple of bad night’s sleep, ran through the dark woods to the restroom, saw interesting bugs, and had a great weekend.
Would I do it again? I hope not, but I did learn how to get over disappointment, adapt, and grow stronger in the process.
What is Disappointment?
Disappointment is when we feel sad or surprised because something did not happen or someone did not respond as we expected. Not all disappointment is a big deal, but some disappointment negatively affects us; that feeling of loss that hits unexpectedly and lingers.
Disappointment can cause us to get stuck emotionally and spiritually and slowly pull us away from embracing our identity in Christ and our purpose in life. If we are not careful, disappointment collects and starts eroding pieces of our hearts.
What is disappointment? It comes in many forms, but here are a few situations that have disappointed me:
- When you look forward to lunch with a friend and she calls and cancels.
- When you confide in someone and find out they shared your secret.
- When you help your child study and they still fail.
- When your husband forgets your anniversary and runs to Walgreens for an “as seen on tv” gift!
“Someone once said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” The quote recognizes that when we experience disappointment, our hopes and expectations are out of line with reality.
We all feel this way from time to time. Some of these disappointments will not make much of a difference, but there are also disappointments that can change the course of our lives.”
Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries Harvard Business Review
There is a saying, “if we have no expectations, we have no disappointments”, but that is not a rewarding way to live. We enjoy expectations because they are motivating and exciting. But because of our natural tendency to expect, we all experience disappointment.
A better motto is, Jesus promises to comfort us even when we are disappointed and hurt. A life connected to God helps us learn how to get over disappointment and grow in our trust and reliance on Him.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication”
How to Deal with Disappointment
The hardest disappointment to deal with occurs in relationships. That is why learning how to get over disappointment in relationships is so important; only then can we live honestly and authentically.
When we learn how to deal with disappointment, our relationships have a chance to grow after disappointment instead of being destroyed.
Many disappointments are small and can be prayed away. Other disappointments need to be communicated and worked through. But some disappointments can lead to irreparable damage in relationships.
Our spirit needs to be protected from the disillusionment and discouragement that can follow disappointment
It usually holds true that the greater the expectation the greater the disappointment. Regardless of the size of our disappointment, we grow when we learn how to deal with disappointment and know God is bigger than any disappointment we face.
4 Tips to Learn How to Deal with Disappointment:
- Admit you are disappointed. It is ok to acknowledge that we feel disappointed. We just can’t stay there for long.
- Accept the loss and resist the urge to camouflage the pain. Some loss is not a big deal and we can shake it off. Other disappointment may need some processing alone, in prayer, with a friend or a counselor.
- Adapt to reality and let go of the expectation. At some point, we have to accept the reality of the situation and decide to turn the corner.
- Adjust expectations to avoid future disappointment. We may need to take a closer look at our expectations to determine if they are healthy and realistic.
In my camping story I had to use these tips on how to deal with disappointment:
I admitted to myself that my accommodations were disappointing. There wasn’t much discomfort (other than a slight backache!), but I did have to accept and adapt to reality. My other options were to spend the weekend moping and complaining or leaving. That option would not have made me a welcome or encouraging part of the group.
For our next camping trip, I was able to adjust my expectations by asking questions prior to the trip. Sometimes learning how to get over disappointment is avoiding it altogether.
Ultimately there is not an exact formula to deal with disappointment because it comes in all shapes and sizes. But there is a God that can help us overcome and actually grow from every disappointment that comes our way.
“For we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Why does Disappointment Hurt so Much?
Disappointment can hurt so much. But it is usually through our greatest disappointment, we see our greatest growth.
When we experience disappointment because life doesn’t turn out the way we like, such as a job loss, relocation of a close friend, or a teenager who struggles in school, we need time for healing and a refresh.
These situations hurt but tend to cause frustration and discontentment more than prolonged hurt.
But when we experience disappointment in a relationship, it hurts the most and lingers the longest. But if we want to experience healthy relationships we must grieve and move on from the disappointment.
Why does disappointment hurt so much? Because we were not created to live in conflict and pain but to experience the love and acceptance of God and others.
When our heart hurts it is unnatural but part of the fallen world we live in.
Disappointment in Life
As I awaited the call from my doctor, I just knew. I knew my long-awaited pregnancy was ending in a miscarriage. The news was devastating and I was incredibly disappointed.
A cloak of sadness draped over my spirit as I tried to come to grips with a very different reality than the one I desparately wanted.
But God met me in my dark space. I called out to Him in prayer. I talked to my husband and a close friend about the loss. And then at some point, I turned the corner to see hope again.
Disappoint in life happens. Some situations are not as painful as a miscarriage but some situations are worse. But whatever unexpected circumstance we are facing, God is available to provide the comfort and peace only He can bring.
Our relationship with Jesus helps us learn how to get over disappointment in life.
Disappointment in a Relationship
We waited at the airport to depart for New York City. My friends and I were excited about the trip we had planned for several months. One of my friends was running late so we searched the concourse to see if we could see her.
We finally spotted her walking toward us, and the first thing I noticed was she did not have luggage and was not dressed to travel to New York in the winter.
She walked up, face turned with eyes down, and sheepishly admitted she would not be joining us. The disappointment dropped on me like a heavy weight.
Although she had reasons to cancel her trip, her handling of the situation was insensitive to the rest of us. Her deception was forgivable but cast a shadow over our relationship going forward. Our friendship only lasted for a season and this disappointment helped begin its unraveling.
Disappointment in a relationship is hurtful and takes longer to process; even when there are reasons for the disappointment. We are wired for healthy human connection and we need each other but repeated disappointment in relationships often shakes the core of our security in a person.
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT
How Do You Get Over Disappointment?
In order to learn how to get over disappointment and experience growth, it helps to pray and talk to others who have experienced a similar situation.
At the moment of feeling disappointed, it is hard to think about what we can learn from a season of discouragement, but in time we can accept that our relationship struggles will help with our transformation.
How do you get over disappointment? Knowing that after our greatest disappointments in life, God is there. Second by second. Moment by moment. Day by day.
God helps us learn how to get over disappointment until the sweet presence of the Holy Spirit restores our hope and steers us in a new direction.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
Romans 5:3-5 NLT
Learning how to get over disappointment is most difficult in relationships. In the book “Real Relationships”, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrot address how do you get over disappointment in relationships:
On letting the disappointment go and preserving the relationship:
“So, you’ve been burned, betrayed in a way you never deserved. You want to get even. But you have a choice: you can experience some momentary satisfaction by slamming the door shut and keeping it locked with resentment, or you can give yourself space and time to cool off and collect your thoughts.
The point is that if you cherish a friendship you shouldn’t be too quick to burn all of your bridges. Time really does have a way of healing deep hurts. Time allows forgiveness to wash away the anger and keep us healthy.”
On moving on and letting the relationship go:
“Sometimes we simply cannot repair a friendship even though we’ve tried and tried and tried. Sometimes, no matter how terribly sad it makes us, we have to accept the fact that a friendship has died. No friendship can weather a crisis if only one person wants to preserve the relationship. When that’s the case, the best we can do is grieve the loss.
We must note those things we will miss because that person is no longer a central part of our life and accept the fact that the relationship is over. We must give ourselves permission to feel sad. And we must move on.”
Whatever decision we make to deal with disappointment in a relationship, we must decide.
Unchecked disappointment and unforgiveness can lead to bitterness and a slow deterioration of even the best relationships.
“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again, my Savior and my God!”
Psalm 42:11 NLT
Disappointment in the Bible
But two of the greatest examples of how to get over disappointment in the Bible are when Jesus was betrayed by His closest friends and disciples. First Peter and then the ultimate disappointment; the betrayal of Judas.
“So, they arrested Jesus and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally, she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!” But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”
After a while, someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!” “No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted. About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too. “But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter”
“And even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests and elders of the people. The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.” So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss. Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.”
Matthew 26:47-50 NLT
Can you imagine the sadness on Jesus’ face as he “looked at Peter”? Or the tone of His voice as He instructed his friend to “go ahead” with the betrayal?
Jesus endured severe disappointment in the Bible and was still able to unconditionally love and forgive.
He was fully human so he felt the sting of loss and betrayal but loved anyway and continued on His mission to save the world.
Knowing and being confident in our identity in Christ and our call to love and forgive is the greatest tool to help us learn how to get over disappointment.
“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So, let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
How about you? Have you faced a great disappointment? Did you learn how to get over disappointment and grow closer to God in the process? I would love to hear your story in the comments.