We had a girls' night yesterday and amidst six-minute pizzas and creating silly videos while wearing strange hats and munching on decadent banana chocolate pecan bread, we talked about fantasy. I admitted to having a mind that loves to create scenarios of how things could go, usually perfectly or terribly, best case or worst case scenarios. I imagine details of events, relationships, social or church gatherings, and the occasional stint as a world-famous artist. Some of it is pretty harmless and excellent fuel for fiction writing, but some of it could drag me into a vicious cycle of not dealing well with disappointment.
1. Disappointment. We all encounter this in life, but what do we do with it?
2. Denial. One way of coping with disappointment is to deny the impact the event had on us. After all, it seems weak and embarrassing and immature to admit that some person's actions or not getting that job made me cry for an hour. So I tell myself it is no big deal. I fail to address the issue and create an alternate scenario, one that casts me a person of strong character, able to brush off these hurtful episodes as minor annoyances. It makes me look and feel better, at least that's what I hope.
3. Embellishment. Unfortunately, this alternate scenario where I am invincible and not affected by circumstances leads to embellishment, an unrealistic view of who I am and how I interact with my world.
4. Substitution. Instead of addressing the issue, I then turn to something else, wrongly believing that in some way I am moving on. I substitute someone or something else for the very thing that has disappointed me. If our mate is less than all we had hoped, we can substitute other people to try to fill that void. This is how affairs and divorces happen. Masturbation and prostitution are prime examples of substituting immediate gratification for real intimacy and lasting relationship. A job may be unfulfilling so we look somewhere else to feel challenged and successful (e.g. gambling).
5. Disappointment. Substitution always leads to disappointment because it is not the real thing and it has not taken care of that underlying pain. It is a temporary reprieve that can have some pretty devastating consequences in the long run. And so the cycle continues.
So, how are we to deal with disappointment when it comes our way?
THE WAY OUT
1. In humility, know who we are. We must get real. Ask God to show us what is going on in our hearts. Ask good and truthful friends to be straight with us about what they see in our lives, about how we handle tough situations.
2. Know the difference between what is a solid foundation and what are shifting situations in life. Do not confuse the two. As an example, a job is a shifting situation. If I place all my hopes on securing a certain dream job and believe this will make me happy, I am setting myself up for disappointment. Employment is not an immovable foundation. God is the only solid foundation. Certain people can be strong pillars in our lives as well and I should know whom I can trust with my vulnerability and whom I cannot. Rest assured, some people and circumstances will fail me. Do not place unrealistic expectations on temporary, shifting situations.
3. Trust God with all those areas of disappointment. Clean them out and don't let them become seeds for an unhealthy fantasy life, fuelling the never ending cycle of unreality that keeps us stuck where we are. Deal with the issues and the disappointments, don't ignore them.
We ended the evening with green tea and getting real by praying for and helping each other deal with those personal nagging areas of disappointment. God was most gracious to flood the evening with His spirit and a wonderful mix of peacefulness and excitement rested on the girls there that night. Really.
This is a picture of a street in Remedios, Cuba.