Digesting Disappointment


Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Ephesians 4:1-2

When people disappoint us we enter a danger zone for relationships. It’s tempting to turn our disappointed expectations into a blanket statement regarding the person or persons. Here’s how I’ve seen disappointment poison relationships: instead of digesting my own feelings of disappointment, I can label the other person as a disappointment and make them the cause of my pain, totally ignoring the reality of my own expectations as the major player here. That’s a danger zone!

When we view a person as a disappointment we are in danger of loosing love to the grim reaper called pride. We will invoke shame as a weapon and turn to violence of speech or action in order to vindicate ourselves and try to get the other person to make us happy — or go away.

Healthy relationships do have expectations. The Apostle Paul has expectations of the church. He hopes for them to live up to and into the calling they have had from God through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:1). Like him, we do look for each other to live up to the callings of our relationships by keeping commitments and demonstrating value for the person. However if we demand perfection to our expectations will restrict ourselves from love; we will not be able to accept each other in our weakness, warts, and all!

So when I’m disappointed here’s what helps:

1. First admit I’m disappointed and keep it to myself first.

2. Humbly examine my expectations with the Lord. Its here that I have to figure out what story I’m making up about the situation and the person.

3. Resolve to treat the other gently, not as an object for my happiness, but as a person who is deeply loved and valued by God.

4. Explore what kind of adjustments, allowances, or space, I can make for the faults (weaknesses) of the other. As Brene Brown’s husband Steve says in, Rising Strong, “All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.”

Having said that, even in disappointment I can and must determine the scope of my boundaries and gently and firmly reaffirm them. What the Apostle Paul encourages here in verse 2 is that we make allowances for other person’s faults because we love them.

5. And then if need be, discuss the situation with the other person without condemnation, truthing in love. This is the difficult but crucial conversation that must be waded into. But I think the health of our lives and relationships depends on our courage to do so. Digesting disappointment guards the heart against resentment and the many disorders of the soul that accompany such festering pain. Digesting disappointment creates space for us to grow in love.

When it comes to digesting disappointment, what have you found helpful?



For the next few days I will reflect on our experiences last week with the Tsawout Assembly of Praise.  We ran a camp with the church for children on the Tsawout reserve.  The week was one of tremendous difficulties but also tremendous blessings.  Cityview went to Tsawout in response to an invitation to join in the ministry of the church there.  I had a few inklings into how difficult it might be but the reality was much stronger than I had anticipated.  I must say up front that God has placed a deep love and appreciation for the children and families there. 

Reflected in the faces and behaviour of some of these children was great resentment and hurt.  I and my children became targets of hostility toward “white” people.  In a moment’s notice this button could be activated with stone throwing, name calling, and punches.  I respect the need for even children to find their own way through this pain.  The Gospel and incarnational living on the part of followers of Jesus from many tribes or ethne seems to me to be part of God’s way.  The Gospel provides an edge for kindness and dialogue.  As well the Gospel provides the transforming power of God to pull that bitter root out of our hearts.

My dual challenge in this setting was to not only be available to the children on the reserve but also to be available to my own children as they confronted for the first time such dramatic levels of hostility.  Teaching my own children the way of Jesus through modeling, conversation, and correction was not easy.  What we were doing as a family in response to Jesus through is small though in comparison to others I met during the week.  Other believers have been set by God as agents of reconciliation in that setting for weeks, months, and years.  Their challenge for taking hold of the grace of Jesus is much greater than my own and I respect them deeply.

One afternoon we had to stop and pray as a team for my children that God would help them confront the resentment that seeks to take root in their own hearts.  It seems that the lord of the flies is always at work to poison hearts and to take captives.  But Jesus is greater than our hearts.