The disappointing terrorist attack of 9/11 was clearly not a blessing in disguise. Evil got its way and many people were very badly physically and emotionally hurt. Nor in any conceivable way can many a disappointing setback be described as a piece of good fortune even if tiny morsels of something positive might be salvaged from such events. On the other hand sometimes a personal trouble can have a unexpected opportunity for a helpful outcome. For example occasionally a bout of illness can help a patient re-appraise an unhealthy lifestyle. The difficulty is in recognising what might possibly be a blessing when your expectations are so severely dashed against the painful rocks of reality. Here are 5 questions that will help you look for any blessing in disguise after you suffer a disappointment.
Was the disappointment due to your unrealistic expectations?
Sometimes when you think life is predictable, the universe has other plans. You may be taken by surprise, if for some reason you complacently suppose calamity will always affect somebody else and not yourself. Yet people do get injured on the roads in large numbers. Nobody can tell what is around the corner. Who can say one won’t get run over by a bus tomorrow?
You may assume you always get your just deserts. Don’t we reap what we deserve? But actually this is may not be the case. A drunken driver or a badly maintained aircraft can be the sole cause of mayhem to innocent passengers.
Was the disappointment something of your own making?
Not everyone learns from their own mistakes. The painful inflamed tendon in my arm was frustrating as it forced me to rest and ration my work of splitting logs instead of overdoing it everyday. It was my wife, who rightly pointed out, that I needed to learn to pace myself in re-using muscles and tendons which have grown tight and weak due to under-use. Apparently it is a common problem for gardeners to rush out in the spring and strain their backs after a winter of inactivity.
Did the disappointment show greater effort was needed?
I got excessively cross with my young grandson who was refusing to abide by the rules of the board game we were playing. Sometimes adults forget just how noisy, untidy and demanding they themselves were when children. My emotionality spoiled what should have been a leisurely family occasion. I have now resolved to try harder to be more patient with the boy whilst still remaining firm about the rules.
“What keeps me going is a constant sense of disappointment with what I’ve already done.” (Robert Wyatt, rock musician)
If we see a setback as a challenge then it can be a stimulant for bigger effort.
Did the disappointment broaden your horizons?
Say you were to suffer a major misfortune such as losing your job through redundancy, or your spouse through marital breakdown or death. Then you would be faced with a huge challenge. Perhaps having to find a livelihood doing a different kind of work. Or having to cope as a single person with no partner to intimately support you face life. In either case you will probably be obliged to get out of your comfort zone: deal with new kinds of situation: learn new skills: meet new people.
“Disenchantment, whether it is a minor disappointment or a major shock, is the signal that things are moving into transition in our lives.” (William Throsby Bridges, senior military officer)
If you happened to have a tendency towards self-pity here is an opportunity to stop adopting the victim role. This role seeks to focus on blaming something or someone else for one’s troubles. If you are such a person you will have a chance to learn instead the role of the survivor and adopt the courage that is required to tackle the unknown and experience the new confidence that comes from success.
Did the disappointment mean you need to put your hope in something beyond yourself?
There are times when you will feel like you don’t have the physical, mental, or emotional strength to pull through. The life challenges you to possibly put trust in something more than yourself – whatever that may be.
” As someone who has faced as much disappointment as most people, I’ve come to trust not that events will always unfold exactly as I want, but that I will be fine either way.” (Marianne Williamson, spiritual teacher)
This reminds me of the biblical story of Jonah. His conscience told him to go to do a job of work but he didn’t want to do it and so he journeyed in the opposite direction only to end up in the sea and swallowed by a whale. In his distress he called to his God for help, vowing to make amends for his disobedience. The whale vomited him safely on to dry land.
Conclusion on disappointment
I would suggest there is no such thing as bad luck. Facing and dealing with setbacks is a part of life for all of us.
If you will, you can choose to find only the negative in your disappointment.
“When disappointment festers in our soul, it leads to discouragement.” (Joyce Meyer, Christian speaker)
Or you can look for possible blessings in disguise.
“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” (Henry David Thoreau, transcendentalist poet)
Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher, claims there is a loving Divine Providence, that secretly balances the bad things people do by inspiring good things. In this way we are free to swing one way or another and some lessons of life can result. According to this view, your time here on earth can teach you how to be more spiritually mature and thus experience a deeper long-lasting happiness.
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., Christian activist)
Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems