5 Things to Do When People Disappoint You

disappointment 2


We have all had days like yesterday was for me.  It felt like everywhere I turned, I learned about someone near-and-dear who had let me down.  The spectrum went from the extreme of betrayal—involving heart-deep issues—to a mild notion of carelessness on social media.

As I reflect on the milieu of emotions that have emerged from my visceral reactions to the day, I find that I have five responses.  I am not sure any are indicative of a psychological-rocket-science or of a necessarily profound wisdom, but I nevertheless share them with you, from one spirit to another.

  1. Ask, “Have I done the same to others in the past?”  For me the answer is simple: Yep.  Not out of cognitive intention, but nevertheless real and hurtful.  And I regret it.
  2. Remember purpose.  The seemingly “easy” answer is always to use the disappointment as a probably justifiable reason to quit.  To run away in a huff.  To get “offended,” and to try to start a new chapter.  I have rarely seen this strategy work.  True greatness emerges from tenacity, forgiveness, self-reflection and commitment.
  3. Don’t throw away all that has been cherished and learned.  Previous disappointments and anger bubble up at these times, and again serve as justification for walking away.  But that would mean throwing away years of learning, valuable aches of the heart, and the very principles that can lead to betterment.  How cavalier and careless!
  4. Ask, “Might they be experiencing heartache greater than my disappointment?”  Is it possible that my feelings are not the supreme beings in this reality?  Maybe my indignation could be replaced by compassion—or at least by a consideration of their perspective and lived experience.
  5. In short, consider, maybe this is not about me.    

(Last year, I created a similar post about strategies for responding to hurt.  See it here, should it be of interest.)

5 comments for “5 Things to Do When People Disappoint You

  1. Rachel
    June 8, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Thank you for this Nathaniel. Yesterday I felt overwhelmed by disappoint and it left me emotionally bankrupt at the end of the day. #4 seems particularly poignant to me. Others tend to act out and punish those they love when they themselves hurt. I have to remember that I am loved and that I need to have more compassion.

  2. suzy from Africa
    June 8, 2013 at 9:34 am

    PLEOPLE LETTING YOU DOWN, seems to be on a rampage right now. So sorry you have had to endure it. Your blog has,once again, helped me immensely. I am going to share it with staff. Be encouraged by your own thoughts and words—we are there with you in heart and mind. Suzy from Africa

  3. Sharon Cranford
    June 8, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Nathaniel, These five points help bring back perspective and that is what we need when we are let down. To see beyond the circumstance and remember what we are about. Thank you for articulating so well today.

    • June 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm

      Sharon, I appreciate this feedback, and am pleased that the notion of a big[ger] picture came through. Asante, friend. –N

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