Sooner or later, everyone you know will disappoint you in some way. They’ll say something or fail to say something that will hurt you. And they’ll do something or fail to do something that will anger you. It’s inevitable. Unfortunately, you make things worse when you stew over someone’s words and deeds. When you dwell on a rude remark or an insensitive action made by another person, you’re headed for deeper problems.
In fact, the more you dwell on these things, the more bitter you’ll get. You’ll find your joy, peace and happiness slipping away. And you’ll find your productivity slowing down as you spend more and more time thinking about the slight or telling others about it. Eventually, if you don’t stop doing it, you’ll even get sick. So what should you do the next time someone betrays you?
Take responsibility for your feelings. Even though the other person may be at fault, even though the other person wronged you, you are still responsible for your own feelings. In other words, other people do not ’cause’ your feelings. You choose them. For example, two different people could be told that their suggestions made at the staff meeting were ‘stupid and idiotic.’ One person may ‘choose’ to feel so hurt that he never speaks up at any other meeting again. The other person may ‘choose’ to feel sorry for the critic, sorry that the critic couldn’t see the wisdom and necessity of her suggestions.
As long as you blame other people for your feelings, as long as you believe other people caused your feelings, you’re stuck. You’re a helpless victim. But if you recognize the fact that you choose your feelings and you are responsible for your feelings, there’s hope. You can take some time to think about your feelings. And you can decide what is the best thing to say or do.
Walk away from disappointment. It’s difficult to do, but it’s possible. The famous 19th century Scottish historian, Thomas Carlyle, proved that. After working on his multi-volume set of books on ‘The French Revolution’ for six years, Carlyle completed the manuscript and took volume one to his friend John Stuart Mill. He asked Mill to read it. Five days later, Mill’s maid accidentally threw the manuscript into the fire. In agony, Mill went to Carlyle’s house to tell him that his work had been destroyed. Carlyle did not flinch. With a smile, he said,’ that’s all right, Mill. These things happen. It is a part of life. I will start over. I can remember most of it, I am sure. Don’t worry. It’s all here in my mind. Go, my friend! Do not feel bad.’ As Mill left, Carlyle watched him from the window. Carlyle turned to his wife and said, ‘I did not want him to see how crushed I am by this misfortune.’ And with a heavy sigh, he added, ‘Well the manuscript is gone, so I had better start writing again.’
Carlyle finally completed the work, which ranks as one of the great classics of all time. He had learned to walk away from his disappointment. After all, what could Carlyle have done about his burnt manuscript? Nothing would have resurrected the manuscript. All Carlyle could do was to get bitter or get started.
And what can you do about anything once it is over? Not much. You can try to correct it if it is possible, or you can walk away from it if it isn’t. Those are your only two choices. Sometimes you’ve just got to shake it off and step up. It’s like the farmer who had an old mule who fell into a deep dry well. As he assessed the situation, he knew it would be difficult, if not impossible, to lift the heavy mule out of the deep well. So the farmer decided to bury the mule in the well. After all, the mule was old and the well was dry, so he could solve two problems at once. He could put the old mule out of his misery and have his well filled. The farmer asked his neighbors to help him with the shoveling. To work they went. As they threw shovel-full of dirt after shovel-full of dirt on the mule’s back, the mule became frightened. Then all of a sudden an idea came to the mule. Each time they would throw a shovel-full of dirt on his back; he would shake it off and step up. Shovel-full after shovel-full, the mule would shake it off and step up. In not too long a time, the exhausted and dirty mule stepped over the top of the well and through the crowd.
That’s the same approach we all need to take. We need to shake it off and step up.
Forgive. It’s difficult, especially when the other person doesn’t deserve your forgiveness or doesn’t even seek it. It’s difficult when the other person is clearly in the wrong. Part of the difficulty comes from a common misunderstanding of forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that the other person’s behavior is okay. And forgiveness doesn’t mean that the other person is off the hook. He’s still responsible for his misbehavior. Forgiveness is about letting yourself off the emotional hook. It’s about releasing your negative emotions, attitudes, and behaviors. It’s about letting go of the past so you can go forward to the future. Everyone in your life, everyone on and off the job is going to disappoint you. If you know how to respond to those situations, you’ll be way ahead of most people. You’ll be able to live above and beyond your circumstances.
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