Who hasn’t experienced the sting of disappointment? Recently, I went through the emotional turmoil of a major disappointment. After years of work, raised expectations and serious promises, it all came crashing down and I was left out in the cold as the rug was pulled out from under me.
Rather than experiencing the disappointment, working through it and letting it go, I found myself resorting to anger, gossip and criticism.
I did not like the situation, but I was finding that I was disliking my reaction even more. I decided to spend some reflection time on what it all meant. Let me share some of the fruits of my reflections.
The first thing I noticed was that my disappointment was not based on something that did happen, but something that was supposed to happen. It was based on failed expectations. I was feeling a sense of loss, even though I didn’t have something in the first place. I guess that’s what disappointment is — a sense of loss for something I never had, but desperately wanted.
The second thing I realized is that my bitterness was eating me up. The ones who let me down probably have no feelings about it at all. They have moved on to wherever their choice led them. I realized that even if I were betrayed, I needed to release my disappointment at once so that the bitterness had no time to take root. I needed to let go for my own good.
Deeply disappointed people must make a decision that they are going to move on. It won’t happen automatically. They will have to find a way to say to themselves, “I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.”
The third thing I came to understand was that not getting what I expected may have been the best thing that ever happened.
Sometimes we get so stuck on what we can’t have that we don’t re-think whether we really wanted it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was being let off the hook as far as a lot of hard work and even more drama.
The compensation for “letting it go” is freedom — freedom from responsibility and freedom to make an alternative choice, maybe an even better choice.
The fourth thing is that what I need and what I want are not the same thing. I realized that I needed to ask myself whether I was going to die if I didn’t get what I wanted. I had to face the truth that I was putting what I wanted in the same category as being disappointed that someone backed out of donating a kidney to save my life. I wanted what I wanted, but I certainly didn’t need what I wanted.
Father J. Ronald Knott