No matter how often it happens, whether the last time was 5 years ago or 5 minutes ago, it hurts every time.
I want but am thwarted. I need but am frustrated. I ask and am refused. I try and fail. I strive, reach, hope...and am disappointed.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." How do we do that?
As I write, I'm recalling the bitter, heartbroken frustration and sense of failure I felt a decade ago when I had to leave a faith community I had been with for the 10 years before that. I had tried every tool I knew to resolve interpersonal conflict with the spiritual leader of the community, and had been disappointed over and over -- by her betrayal of the community's values, her relentless negative reframing of all my efforts at resolution, and my inability to find the magical words that would untangle all the apparently intentional confusion.
This episode in my life was a gargantuan disappointment, a deeply-felt loss that I, at first, simply avoided feeling (thank you, compartmentalization and ice cream!), and then grieved for several years. I nearly lost hope of finding a faith community that could meet my spiritual needs, and give me the human connection I want for exploration of mystery, philosophy, and faith practice.
Life always gives us another chance, an opportunity for a second attempt, it seems. (Unfortunately, we mostly seem to use this second chance to repeat our same mistake again...and then again on the third try...and again....) So I tentatively, slowly, carefully took on some roles in a new faith community. I tested the waters there, inch by slow inch, looking carefully for signs of the same kind of dysfunction that might re-create a similar disappointment.
I'm still there, and still not disappointed. Yet, I recently have been given several opportunities to feel somewhat disappointed by some of the leaders of my new faith community.
This time, I wasn't. This time, I didn't need to repeat the loss of hope, the grief, or the recovery. This time, it didn't hurt.
The Childhood Treasure of Acceptance was the key. This powerful gem is the crowning glory of the Treasures, capping off the solid structure built by the first six. It's the Treasure we're meant to mine at seven years of age, as the antidote to disappointment and so much more. Acceptance asks us to truly and deeply understand that life is not a balance sheet.
In the first of these two experiences, my pain resulted from the mistaken notion that the leader's disappointing behavior was, somehow, related to my own. I thought I could change what she was doing that was hurting me, by better understanding the situation, or by helping her better understand it...or me. Truly, I believed that I could fix our interpersonal conflict. Why? Because I didn't deserve to be treated that way. I hadn't done anything wrong.
So that's the crux of Acceptance right there. None of that matters.
No, I didn't deserve to be treated that way...but people's treatment of me usually has little to do with me. It's about them. No, I hadn't done anything wrong...and her judgment about my actions was none of my business. That was about her, too.
So there it is. Infinite hope is maintained by Acceptance -- by embracing the truth. Simply open to the reality that people do what they do out of internal drives, motivations, and pathologies that have absolutely nothing to do with you. Don't take any of it personally. It. Is. Not. About. You. Period.
That's when it stops hurting. For real.