Dealing with disappointment

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Maj.) Jonathan Hurt
  • 8th Fighter Wing Chapel

"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We all have to deal with disappointment at some time in our lives. Truly, we deal with disappointment on a regular, even a daily basis. That meal wasn't as good as it looked. That relationship was an epic fail. That car you bought turned out to be a lemon. The package you expected in the mail didn't come today. That's disappointing!

About a month ago, I tried to request something on behalf of one of my daughters back in the States. Since it involved one of my precious little girls, I was deeply emotionally invested in the request. It seemed like such a simple thing. I am here in the Republic of Korea. The least they can do is bend the rules for my daughter to have an easier time while I am away. That's what I was thinking.  However, the people who had the power to grant the exception to policy were not willing to do so. They wouldn't budge, and I was very, very disappointed. I wrote in my journal that day:

I am trying to let things like this go, but it seems so unfair, unjust and just plain stupid.  People who have the power to say "yes" just don't want to do so . . . the older I get, the more I realize I am truly no one . . . insignificant to the Air Force and powerless to affect change.

Can you sense the disappointment? I've had other far worse disappointments in life, but this seemed so easy! I think most of us try to give people the benefit of the doubt and trust them to act with understanding and kindness. That is why these events are so difficult. 

I have struggled with bitterness and anger over a lot of things, and I don't like those feelings.  They cause my heart to feel dark and heavy. Disappointment left unchecked leads to the belief that a trusting worldview is ignorant, short sighted and naïve. Bitterness leads to a world of despair where you think the worst of everyone, don't trust anyone and have a lot less compassion. 

So what do we do...just keep becoming more and more bitter?  Is there a way to let go and be at peace, be content with our lot in life and embrace the fact that we are insignificant in the grand scheme of things?

I think the only way ahead is to remember I am special and important and do make a difference to the people closest to me - to my two children and my wife specifically, but also a few others .  While I am here in Korea, I can make a difference in their lives by communicating with them regularly or even sending them a note or a care package.

One thing my 4 and  eight-year old daughters love is when I draw pictures for them. I am not an artist, but I try to make it colorful with cool Korean crayons! I think they like that I try hard, and it makes them feel better about their own artwork.

I can also make a difference for the people in my office space by bringing my best effort and attitude to work each day. If I put in a little effort, I may be able to make a difference to my squadron, or even my entire wing while I am here.   

That simple thought gives me comfort, but it is not the full solution. Faith also comes into play. God has called me to love others even when they keep letting me down. He promised to make it right some day and promised that He will be with me into eternity. Faith that God will reward you for doing good is one way. But even if you don't believe in God, you can still have faith. Your faith may be in the simple world view that good actions result in good living. If you keep planting the seeds of good deeds toward others, those seeds will produce fruit. Faith. . . I struggle to hold onto it, but it is still there. It stirs my heart at times, and in those moments I am at peace.

"When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in."     
-- Kristin Armstrong

"The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality." 
-- Conan O'Brien