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What to do When People Disappoint

When people disappoint us, we can be so surprised. We stand there with our pretty picture shattered and say now what? What do we do when people disappoint?(Last Updated On: December 1, 2017)

When people disappoint, it’s shocking. We know in our heads that people will disappoint us, but we can be so surprised when we are standing in that place because our hearts didn’t really believe it.

Sometimes, like over the past few weeks, some of the people who have disappointed us weren’t even in our lives except through our television or politics, but when someone we respected or even idolized turns out to be merely human, we feel deeply disappointed.

But when it’s personal, oh, that moment is so crushing-staring in the face of incontrovertible evidence that someone you love fell short today. We feel betrayed.

Our picture of that person is cracked or shattered in one fell swoop. Maybe the picture of your relationship cracked too, or your perception of yourself through their eyes changed.

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Maybe you sensed it was coming, but often, one final straw finally drifts into place on the proverbial camel’s back and our relationship is on the chopping block.

I’m right there with you. Earlier last year, I wrote about how weary I am, and part of my weary is dealing with some difficult relationships. Long distances, text messages, awful choices, and busy schedules all contribute to how we disappoint each other, and I’m struggling with tough places in a few different relationships.

Here is where I’m resting today.

People always disappoint.

Because we’re flawed and human, All. Of. Us. We are going to disappoint each other, in little ways and big ones, at some point.

I had to stop being surprised when people are human.

Stop being surprised people are human. Restore them in gentleness when people disappoint. Click To Tweet

We set ourselves up with unfair expectations. We expect sinners to never fall into temptations when we fall ourselves, daily.

In that moment, when the disappointment is raw, put yourself in their shoes. Giving them all the benefit of the doubt, what do you think they were thinking? Have you ever slid down a slippery slope one tip-toe step at a time until you were headlong into the mud?

I know I have!

What do you think they are feeling now facing your disappointment? How can we meet them in Christ where they are?

How we handle the moment of disappointment may speak louder than anything else we do.

Galatians 6:1 ESV  Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

What does it look like to restore someone in gentleness and avoid the temptation to sin ourselves?

First, I remember my own failures and God’s grace for me when I don’t deserve it.

I have yet to survive one day without failure. Offer grace first when people disappoint. Click To Tweet

I’ve been reading 1 & 2 Samuel recently. I’m blown away by how these familiar stories speak new wisdom to me today. The stories of Saul and David say so much about how to act when people disappoint us.

Saul was God’s anointed king for Israel, but (1 Samuel 18) in his sin, he fell from God’s grace, becoming paranoid and selfish, plotting to kill David.

David is disappointed, heartbroken, his king that God anointed, wants him dead for no failure of his own. If anyone had a right to feel disappointment, it was David.

David had loved Saul like a father. Saul’s son Jonathan was David’s best friend, closer than a brother. Yet, David had to run for his life.

David’s life on the run was miserable. He and his men were cold, hungry, uncomfortable. Again, if anyone had a right to be angry and bitter, David did. But that isn’t how David behaved.

Could you have supernatural grace for someone trying to kill you?

David twice finds Saul served to him by God’s hand, in the cave (1 Samuel 24/26 ) and in his camp asleep, but instead of letting his hurt and anger rule him, David chooses to show Saul he could have killed him, but did not.

David takes steps to protect himself, but sees Saul is really sinning against God, not himself. Despite sadness and dismay, he does not seek to return hurt for hurt.

TWICE, David spares a man who is murderously plotting against him without cause, leaving Saul’s fate in God’s hands.

Twice? why?

David’s righteousness made Saul’s sins more glaring. In light of the opportunities to kill Saul that David didn’t take, Saul should have seen David’s loyalty. However, his own sin completely blinded him.

Also, David’s responses serve as examples for us of how to continue in righteousness, even when offense piles upon offense.

So, I’m still disappointed. I have hurt feelings, I’ve lost trust in some people, and some of my relationships may not be restored right now.

But my focus has to be on God who never disappoints and staying righteous in His eyes.

I have to remember my emotions are nothing compared to God’s ability to rebuke or restore, forgive and sanctify. I can wait on Him.

Protecting myself is okay, but I should avoid returning sin for sin.

Letting God rule my heart even in the midst of big disappointments isn’t always easy. I get angry; I hurt. Indignant doesn’t look good on me, but in my own sin, I disappoint people all the time. I’m not usually trying to fail when I do.

Even in my biggest failures, one small decision led to another that led to disaster. I never set out to sin, but temptation erodes slyly.

1 Peter 5:8 ESV /Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

If I hope for grace, I have to offer it too. Recognizing that my worth and value in God’s eyes is immutable gives me pause to connect their failures with human nature, and offer a chance to explain, to understand, to apologize.

In the end, when people disappoint, I guard my own walk with Christ and forgive them, and wait for God to direct the situation. His guidance is always right on time.

29 thoughts on “What to do When People Disappoint

  1. Loved the part where you said, we must stop being surprised when people are human … restore them to their original identity “in Christ” in gentleness and full of mercy. mercy shown to us by God needs to be extended without conditions.

  2. Jen- I think that’s so true that people will always disappoint! I will always disappoint others also!
    I’m so thankful we have a God that is steadfast and true! He will never disappoint us (even when I think He has, what I get is better than I could ever imagine!)
    Thank you for this reminder!

  3. Hi Jen! This is such a lovely reminder to us to be gracious in our dealings with others as the Lord has been and is still being with us. I’m glad you pointed out we shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations of others. They are after all imperfect human beings like ourselves, prone to mistakes and failure. And thank you for recounting the story of Saul and David. David’s treatment of Saul is such a glowing testimony that the advice in this post is feasible. Thank you for taking the time to address this important but difficult subject.

  4. I guess we need to remember to give as much grace as we would like to be given when we ourselves fail.

    1. Matthew 6:15 is a good reminder – “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

  5. I am so thankful my Jesus never disappoints. I don’t know how people deal with life without him. It amazes me whenever we counsel someone how in so many cases their disappointment is from their preoccupation with the world. *sigh*

    1. Yes! Our picture of life based on the messed up world leads to so much pain and disappointment.

  6. This is such a painful but such a necessary lesson! To let people be human, messy and imperfect, and let God alone be perfect is fundamental. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I like that – to let God alone be perfect.

  7. Jennifer,
    What an encouraging post. I love the grace-filled approach you are taking of forgiving and guarding your own walk with Christ. This is an area I’m continually learning to grow in. Wishing you a blessed week!

    1. I am learning this skill more than I would like, but gets easier with practice.

  8. It’s so important to be ready to forgive because we know that we will be hurt. Keeping our focus on God does make it easier.

    1. I agree being ready with Christ’s answer makes it so much easier to not respond from our hurt.

  9. It truly is a tough thing to deal with disappointment of others. Having a preteen we’re navigating those waters quite frequently… 🙁

    1. I bet! My five year old has big feelings. She will be interesting as a tween.

  10. It’s so easy to let our sense of justice take hold when people let us down. We want them to feel the hurt they caused us, and in some cases we feel like we’re compromising that internal sense of justice when we forgive. But really we are only hurting ourselves.
    Great post! When we see the big picture it’s easier to extend grace when we’ve been hurt, because we realize how much grace our Father has given us.

    1. Yes, and to realize they need more loving help to get right with God instead of us pushing them away.

  11. I had a very big personal disappointment in the past couple of months, and really appreciated this blog post. Thank you. I especially love the way you summed it all up: “In the end, I guard my own walk with Christ and forgive them.”

    1. I am glad you were encouraged by it. I have to have those little sayings to hold in my head when I’m standing in the middle of heartbreak. It helps remind me of the things God has taught me.

  12. praise Him for His grace and mercy!

    1. We all need both, don’t we?

  13. I spent most of my childhood and teen years being disappointed by people. Luckily, we were a church going family, so I learned early on to depend on God. As imperfect as people are, at least God will always be there for me.

    1. My family had this high need for perfectionism. If we knew God, we were supposed to get it right all the time. I didn’t know how much freedom there was in admitting when I failed. Being weak in Him, strengthened me more than pretend perfect ever did.

  14. This is so true, Jen and great advice. We are human and in truth, the only One who will never let us down is God. He is our sure hope and strong tower. Good word!

    1. Yes. The world disappoints so often. Clinging to Him is the only answer but we all need the reminder sometimes.

  15. “I have to remember my emotions are nothing compared to God’s ability to rebuke or restore, forgive and sanctify. I can wait on Him.” This is such a powerful statement! I need to remember this! Thanks for sharing. This is such a great post!

    1. Thank you! I needed to learn it all myself.

  16. thank God that He doesn’t disappoint!

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