So many thoughts running in my head today. These thoughts are definitely just that. Thoughts. Not answers, not conclusions, (how very postmodern of me).
I’ve been thinking today about the complicated relationship between love and disappointment. I’ve been wondering if we’re sabotaging the components of healthy relationships – intimacy, passion & commitment – with our fear of disappointment.
Please note: it is not disappointment that I see sabotaging healthy components, but rather, the fear of disappointment.
Disappointment seems like something we should fear. It seems dangerous. (1) First of all, it feels awful. (2) Secondly, we’ve all watched it be followed by troubling things, like hardening of our hearts, bitterness or ejecting on relationships. (3) Third, many of us have been told that disappointment is evidence of unbelief. You wouldn’t be so disappointed if your hope was in God.
We’ve been taught to fear disappointment since before we could say the word. Our parents made decisions to protect us from it, those who loved us most sought to shelter us from it. “I just don’t want you to be disappointed.”
But drawing disappointment out into the light it’s sort of simple and powerless. All it is, in the cold light of day, is is a feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.
Sure, (1) it feels awful, but so do a lot of things and that doesn’t make them bad. It hurts when I step on a nail, but that doesn’t mean I should take shots to make it so I don’t feel pain. It hurts when someone dies, but that doesn’t mean I should try not to love people in case I lose them.
It hurts when you think or want something to happen and it doesn’t. We call that disappointment, and that pain, that sadness, it’s not your enemy, it’s just a feeling providing information. You lost something – a dream that you wanted. That’s all that feeling means. That there is a certain pathway lost to you, and you are sad about it. That’s it.
(2) We fear it because we think it can lead to terrible things, but what if all the dangers of disappointment – all the terrible places we fear it will lead us – are less connected to disappointment and more correlated with a despising of disappointment? It is our obsession with avoiding disappointment that leads us to harden our hearts in bitterness or eject on relationship, sabotaging intimacy, fearing passion, withholding commitment.
(3) We fear it because we think it means unbelief. Hey, I don’t know you. Maybe you really do think God is holding out on you and maybe you really do think He’s trying to screw you. Maybe disappointing circumstances are revealing that even more clearly. But those realizations are not themselves disappointment.
When someone dies, you feel grief, and you may ALSO feel that God is your enemy. Grief may reveal that more clearly, but grief does not occur because you think God is your enemy, it occurs when you experience a loss. And faith does not play out as dry eyes any more than faith plays out as an un-disappointed heart.
Disappointment may be infected with unbelief, disappointment might highlight your unbelief, but disappointment does not equal unbelief. Even if you could inject a person with perfect faith you would still witness them experiencing disappointment in this broken world (e.g. God).
So I guess today the question to process is:
- Why are you afraid of disappointment? (feels awful? it will lead to bitterness? feels like a lack of trust?)
- How does this fear of disappointment effect your intimacy, passion and commitment (with God and with people?)