Unmet Expectations and the Art of Living with Disappointment

As you may know, I love hearing the stories of others, their triumphs, their victories, and their perseverance. As I ponder my conversations this week, I realize disappointment and unmet expectations are often a large part of the development of a personal story. They are a necessary part of the plot; for every hero, there is a villain. For the yin, there is a yang. With the ups come some downs. In all of these things, there is greater strength, growth, and change.

Having gone through a transitional season recently, we have seen our share of frustration, shattered dreams, and discontinued plans. I want to offer some of the stories I’ve heard this week and ask about the options you see in the current realities of some of my friends. Your insights may be able to help others experiencing transition or change. I have withheld the names of each subject; the focus is on their current season.

With tear-filled eyes, the old man shared how he is running from what God has for him. He is from a long lineage of pastors. He fears how God could use a man like him. He is finding shelter on the streets and in a bottle. He is broken-hearted and afraid.

Her journal is filled with entries of happiness and despair. Within weeks of finding out their family is going to increase, they discovered the baby was not growing and will be still-born. She is trusting God for His plan. She is sad but finding joy in the present. She writes of a sense of peace in times of chaos and pain. She and her family find contentment amid the tears.

Their International visas were initially rejected, and their new ones needed attention. As their delayed flight landed in an unfamiliar city, they found out their contacts were not able to meet them. They had to get to their lodging and navigate the transit system with all their baggage. They are tired, foreign, and frazzled.

Her voice was soft and wavering when she answered her phone. I could hear the tears in her words. Her heart was broken with another relationship ending. She is now alone, scared, and scarred.

With each disappointment comes a choice: to let it build in character or deconstruct an attitude.

  • How do you set your expectations? Are they too high, too demanding, too soft, or are they attainable?
  • How much control do you have over the results?
  • How do you cope with the accomplishment, lesson, or experience?
  • How much time do you need to heal? What does the healing process look like to you?
  • What is your next step? Is there a next step?

Disappointment is a normal part of life. It took me a while to embrace this fact. My hope is you can find someone to walk with you through the process of coping with disappointment, unmet expectation, or loss.

Asking a trusted friend to share a conversation over a cup of coffee is a significant first step toward healing.

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