I recently received a call from a constituent who is also a dear friend. He was really upset that his best friend and confidant let him down, and he is literally losing sleep at night. This was no ordinary friend; this was more like a brother from another mother. Essentially, this “friend” reneged on a deal and cheated him, and to add salt to the wound, he was demeaning. He was rightfully hurt, angry and disappointed. He proceeded to ask my advice on how he can get over all this pain.
The Talmud discusses pain and comes to the conclusion that time does indeed heal wounds. As an example, the Talmud states that the reason we mourn the loss of a loved one for a year is because after a year it is not appropriate to mourn excessively. Instead of sadness we must be positive. Instead of lying in bed with one’s thoughts of loss and despair, we need to honor the person by doing constructive actions in their honor.
This is true in most cases of loss. However, in my experience this does not hold true when a parent loses a child, as it is a completely different loss and cannot, and should not, be lumped into the generic term loss. Losing a child is not natural. God designed the world so that children say Kaddish and mourn their parents. Parents in the position where they (God forbid) have to say Kaddish for their child is so unbelievably painful, they cannot rebound from this loss. They learn to live with the pain. I know a group of incredible parents who have lost children who have somehow gathered up the strength to assist other parents like themselves who have lost children. There is a beautiful organization called The Cope Foundation which supports parents and siblings dealing with premature loss. I am in awe.
The bottom line is that for most, loss, whether it be literal loss of a loved one passing or a lost opportunity or a lost friendship, is something we need to give time.
The Rambam, Moses Maimonides writes that when one becomes angry, it is as though he has worshiped idols.
Why is Maimonides so extreme to compare anger to worshiping idols? He could have simply said, losing one’s temper is unacceptable. The author of the Tanya, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, explains as follows, “That at the time of his anger, faith has departed from him. For were he to believe that what happened to him is of G d’s doing, he would not become angry at all.”
The author continues, “It is a person possessed of free choice who is cursing him, or hitting him, or causing damage to his money, and therefore is guilty according to the laws of man and the laws of Heaven for having chosen evil—nevertheless, as regards the person harmed—this was already decreed from Heaven, and ‘the Omnipresent has many deputies.’”
What this means is that instead of getting angry and all worked up to the point of not being able to function, one should ask themselves, “What is the message, what is God trying to tell me?” This is clearly a teachable moment and one should use this opportunity to learn from it.
Disappointment is attached to expectations. I always tell people that if you have expectations from this individual, then you have the possibility of getting disappointed, which is painful. On the other hand, if there is no expectation then there will be no disappointment or minor disappointment.
So, does this mean to avoid disappointment we should have no expectations?
While there is truth if one minimizes one’s expectations of others this will make you less disappointed, this does not mean we should not have expectations. What it does mean is that we need to do some soul searching when the “alleged” disappointments occur.
The first thing we need to do is split expectations into two categories. Namely, reasonable and unreasonable. If after some contemplation, you come to the conclusion that your expectations were in fact unrealistic, then there should be no disappointment as you are the one who made the initial faulty judgment. This should relieve 90% of the disappointments in your life. A newly married couple trying to understand each other may make the mistake of shooting too high in some expectation or another. As an example, it may not be realistic for your new wife to pick you up at the train station every night at 8PM. Just because you expect her to does not make it right. Therefore, you will have to take an Uber and leave her be.
The real pain comes when you have realistic expectations and they do not happen as you expect them to. Let’s take the same aforementioned couple. The new wife expects to spend most weekends together but it never happens because the husband is out of commission due to friends and sports. This is true disappointment because she is right to be upset. He needs to be told that he is not meeting her expectations as a husband.
The congregant who called me told me that this was his best friend. Here is the good news, he will never be able to disappoint him again as now he knows not to have expectations or any dealings with him.
HEALING FROM DISAPPOINTMENT
One way to deal with real disappointment because of another or even within ourselves, is to forgive the person or our inner self. It does not eliminate the feelings of disappointment but it allows one to move on in a more positive way. We need to first and foremost protect ourselves from toxicity. Forgiving someone who hurt, angered and disappointed you allows the inner poison, which can lead to depression, despair and hopelessness, to exit the body and soul, and allow us to heal.
I am reminded of a one-liner that I once heard. “Don’t let the offender occupy space in your body rent free.”
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