Sorrow looks back
Worry looks around
Faith looks up
No one is immune to encounters with discouragement, the very young the very old and everyone in between. We are especially vulnerable when the reality that is unfolding does not conform to our wishes or our intentions. Learning to evaluate situations realistically can help us close the gap between what we want to do and what we are actually able to accomplish.
Recently, I found myself in just such a place. I will turn 60 years old in a few weeks. Everyone tells you that age is just a number; that you are only as old as you feel. Maybe. But I have discovered that this number means something to other people who have the power to make decisions that influence my life. I would like to speak more to this later.
I remember very well the day before Diane and I were married when, without warning, I lost my job. It was not the job of my dreams, but it would have allowed me to perform as the provider for my new wife. I recall how distracted I felt from what should have been a joyous day for both of us. I suppose it speaks well for my new bride that she looked at the situation as an opportunity for us to have a slightly longer honeymoon without the pressures of me having to be back to work right away. Apparently she had more faith in my abilities than I had in myself at the time.
Because of good friends, and past relationships, my stint of unemployment only lasted a few days. In hindsight, if I had known that I would find something else as quickly as I did, I would have enjoyed our wedding day and honeymoon much more. But at the time, the goal of beginning our married life without a job made me feel pretty nervous. I suppose those moments of self- doubt as we started out together forced me to evaluate my strengths and weaknesses in a way that might not have happened for a long time otherwise.
All people experience disappointment. If not for unhappiness, it would be very difficult to understand the joy that comes from overcoming obstacles and finding new talents. If we merely accept disappointment and become more or less content with a certain life-style, work or relationship, we miss the joy of accomplishment.
The problem that we face is maintaining balance and perspective. We will have disappointments. That is unavoidable. But we must examine our goals to decide if we are being realistic or if we have based our decisions for the future on some target that is impractical. In other words, are my expectations part of the problem in advancing my position?
Disappointment brings a kind of sadness. I have no illusions that anyone else can permanently make me happy. I understand that I must do that for myself. And the thing that brings me immediate gratification is seldom the thing that will bring me real long-term joy.
Well known motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar said, “The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want the most for what you want now. “
In Proverbs 3:5–6 we read: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
And perhaps the next scripture gives me the most direction and hope; Doctrine and Covenants 61:36: “And now, verily I say unto you, and what I say unto one I say unto all, be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you.”
True happiness, regardless of the circumstances that surround us comes from being true to ourselves and then trusting on the knowledge that there is a Supreme Being who not only knows that I exist, but actually cares about whether I am happy. Hence, the saying, “When you walk in the light of God’s Spirit, happiness follows you as a shadow!”
Some argue that a person does not have a great deal of choice about the problems he or she encounters. I counter this statement saying that many people make their own problems by getting into situations they could have avoided. If they would only walk in obedience to the commandments, they would be blessed with personal inspiration on how to deal with problems.
One thing I have learned about going to the Lord with my disappointments is that I must be persistent in involving him in helping me find the solution. At the same time, I do not have to repeat things in the same words over and over again to get His attention. Someone once pointed out that God is the most intelligent being of all and that we do not need to remind him of our predicament in the same way we might remind a small child, repeating things in the same words until we get the results we want. In asking for his intervention, we might look upon Him as a trusted friend who we have taken into our confidence, seeking educated advice on how we should proceed.
Another thing I have learned is that we should not wait for the Lord to do everything for us. We can, to a greater or lesser degree, exert influence over our own progress. It takes personal commitment to follow through on the steps we need to take to change things that are a hinderment to us. Too often, people expect others to solve problems for them, thereby foregoing opportunities to learn and grow.
When we boldly face disappointments and the pains that accompany them, we are more likely to see the solutions and begin moving in a more productive path. If we deny our frustrations or failures, chances are great that we will become worn out with finding unworkable solutions. Meeting our weaknesses with a prayerful attitude, asking for inner strength to overcome will not only bring quicker resolution, but will turn our adversity into an element of great strength and a firm foundation for further growth.
Mastering disappointment is the key to gaining experience and learning to control emotions that come through personal loss. The necessity to do this seldom occurs until we experience an impasse in our lives. Often, we will then see that our disappointment is not only directly connected with the present situation, but it may also be related to past experiences. A current crisis usually reopens problems from the past; past and present tend to merge.
Maybe this is one of the lessons that each of us must learn, that through disappointments in life we also find wisdom.
Diane used to say that I am a chameleon. I’ve always known how to adjust to change. I learn quickly, evaluate situations and then use my experience and skills to work with new conditions. I know I am still that man.
But looking at myself from another paradigm, (that number 60.) I realize that, to others, I am suddenly a gamble.
Will the bank be able to recoup a loan to a heart – attack statistic? Why should a potential employer train a 60-year-old man to take over a position of responsibility rather than a younger associate? Everyone knows that old people have no sense of humor, no people skills. They forget things.
So much for all the experience that I have garnered, I think.
But I’ll play along. Maybe I should list some advantages to taking a chance.
1. I go to bed at a reasonable hour. No longer worried about being “one of the boys,” I have nothing to prove by how late I can stay up. I go to bed when I am tired. I get up rested.
2. I enjoy hearing about other people’s interesting lives. Since the best years have gone by, I no longer take risks that would allow me to “one up” anyone in a conversation, I will always be a ready listener to a client who wants to hold court.
3. Company cars are safe with me. I don’t have to have anything ostentatious. Just give me plenty of legroom and an oldies station on the radio and I will be happy. I never get tickets because everyone knows that old geezers like to drive slow.
And #4. I’m never late to appointments because old geezers like to get where they are going early.
I’ve just proven that I can look at things from different angles, something else I’ve learned to do after many years of learning to master myself. I know that disappointments can be seen as either a prelude to continued failure or an overture to great personal growth.
The famous writer Aldous Huxley said it best:
“Experience is not what happens to a man:
it’s what a man does with what happens to him.”