Disappointment comes to us all. We believe in someone and are betrayed. Or we apply for a job and it doesn’t happen. Someone makes a promise and they break that promise. We try to achieve something – we fall short. It happens to everyone.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose birthday and legacy we celebrate today said,
We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.
But how can we do this?
Who Do You Feed?
I think that we can prevent bitterness the same way we prevent scrub oaks from growing in the flower bed: we pull them up when they are small.
However, we shouldn’t continue to revisit the hurt and focus and dwell on it. Instead, we must learn to redirect, forgive, and move on.
Perhaps the best explanation can be found in an old tale from the Cherokee Indians, the Legend of Two Wolves, that goes like this,
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
We cannot help being disappointed. Disappointment is a normal part of life. Inevitably it comes to us all.
Decide What To Do with Your Disappointment
However, when we’re disappointed, we can help what we do with it. Will we feed our anger? Do we feed our self-pity? Shall we feed our resentment?
If we do, bitterness will grow. It has too.
If you live long enough, you’ll meet someone consumed by their anger, self-pity, and resentment. They have fed all their disappointment to the angry wolf. He crowds out the good.
But if you live long enough, you’ll also meet someone who should be angry but is not. Who should pity herself, but does not. Who should be resentful but is full of kindness and joy and peace.
You can’t pick your pain. However, you can pick your wolf.
Today, as you pursue excellence, think of your most recent pain. Are you processing that pain in healthy ways? Or are you revisiting it to feed your anger, self-pity, and resentment?
The wolf you choose to feed makes all the difference in who you become.