I was disappointed greatly this week.
What was I disappointed about? I shared a video I thought was humorous to me with a group of friends. I have a darker side to my humor, and I enjoy satire a lot. My friend, and others, were not happy about this. Immediately, comments were thrown left and right about how it was wrong, and terrible, and hardly a portrait of the truth. One of my friends more or less said I was wrong, and I needed to correct myself with humility.
You might be able to identify with me at this point. I shared something I thought was humorous with friends, people I thought would accept me, that knew me, that could dialogue with me. I ended up getting into a few arguments and we both said stuff that wasn't nice. I felt rejected, I felt wrongly accused, and I felt blindsided by their objection. And I was angered by the implication that I was the one who had to reassess my stance on humor.
Yes, this is small compared to other disappointments in life. I have a great family, I have a great husband, and I have other supportive friends and people I can rely on. But the results, I would argue, are the same. Rejection, alienation, self-doubt, fear, anger, and retribution.
There have been other times in my life where I haven't always felt welcome among other people. Whether we didn't share core values, or we did but believed in different ways of fulfilling them, I have always been able to say I have believed we could find a way into common ground. When it can't be found, it is always discouraging and demoralizing for me.
When I was in high school, I know there were people who didn't understand me because of my faith, and because I was not the best spokesman for Christ. I was awkward and shy and if you ever get to see me speak in front of more than five people at a time, you'll see remnants of this. I'm better with a coffee cup and one on one or one on two conversations. A lot of who I wasn't hasn't changed, even with the practice that came with teaching.
So when I run into problems with people, and we disagree, and it is hard to find common ground, fallout is likely not far behind.
Disappointment, when it happens, always hits me hard. I have been able to gauge expectations of people, and estimate their skills fairly well - it's one of the reason I make a good teacher, even if the speaking part is challenging for me (I have students who assure me they don't find my speaking awkward at all, but what I feel is different from what they hear. So I can be "good" at it, but still think I am "bad" at it. This chasm between my perception and theirs is another reason I make a good teacher - I understand we are often better at things than we think we are.) So when I am disappointed that I have been wrong, either because I overestimated their skills or underestimated them, it hurts my pride. Then, of course, any fallout where harsher words are exchanged can hurt me. That's the demoralizing part.
There is a good side to all of this, of course.
I do believe that disappointment, if you let it, can make you a better person. I do believe that the world has no chance apart from God. People disappoint me all the time, and God allows me to forgive them. Hopefully, they will also forgive me when the time comes (because it does need to happen a lot more than I'd like.) In a perfect world, I think it would be hard to see the value of forgiveness.
In a perfect world, I also wonder if it would make gratitude harder to fully understand. As disappointment comes, I always try to combat it with things that I am grateful for. I am grateful for the good relationships I have, where we can be honest and open and vulnerable with each other. I am grateful for all the people who have encouraged me to open up more about who I am, and what I believe, and why I believe what I do. I am grateful for that confidence that they give me.
Disappointment is hard. I know. Believe me, I know. But it doesn't have to end with being disappointed. That's the best part. Disappointment can lead to so many good things in the long-term, even if you have pain in the short-term. Only if you let it, of course. That's part of the reason Peter commands us to give God our troubles. Only God can recreate things, and give us everlasting hope along with our heart's resurrection and renewal.
It is my prayer tonight that if you have hurts and disappointments and anger at someone who hurt you, you will find a way to forgive them and appreciate the good things in your life that you do have even more. People will disappoint you, but God is greater than your disappointment. He can give you beauty out of ashes, and redemption from your stumbling. That is my prayer for me, and my prayer for you.