Blindspots, flashlights, and doing hard things
Of all the things I try to be, grateful is at the top of the list. No matter the situation, I try to stay appreciative regardless of what’s going on. Yes, things can be less than ideal, but there are still good pieces and for that, I’m thankful.
This was an idea instilled in me growing up. We were your typical middle class family. We went through good times and we went through hard times. In the good times – when we were able to take an extra vacation or go out to eat more often – I was taught to be thankful for the ability to do those things. In the harder times – when my dad had to take a second job and money was tight – I was taught to be grateful for what we did have and to not focus as much on what we didn’t have.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit?” I’d never heard it until a couple years ago when my daughter came home from daycare and said it to me. When I heard it – I loved it! It fit my worldview perfectly! Be thankful for what you have and don’t pitch a fit over the things you don’t have.
I loved that phrase so much that anytime Olivia would start going off about how she wanted something, I’d look at her and say “You get what you get and…” to which she would roll her eyes (at 3 years old!) and mumble “and you don’t pitch a fit” while walking away.
Finally, a way to keep this little terrorist from whining and complaining about what she wants but can’t have.
I still keep that phrase in my back pocket and pull it out from time to time.
I don’t think we used that exact phrase growing up, but the sentiment was very much a part of my childhood.
As with anything – there’s a flip side. For every good and pure trait any of us have, there’s a blind spot on the other side of the coin that we rarely realize until a light gets shined on it.
For me, the flip side of being grateful is being disappointed.
While I spent most of my life growing up learning to be thankful for what I had, I never learned how to process disappointment. The craziest thing is it wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized this blind spot and how much of an impact it’s had on my life.
About seven years ago I experienced a gigantic disappointment at work. I had been working my tail off and was drowning. I went to my boss and told him I needed help. He went to his boss – someone new who was still learning everyone’s role – and told him I needed help. That boss came to me and told me he was hiring someone to help me out. I literally hugged him I was so excited.
Then, after he hired the person, I found out they were hired to be my boss. The help I was asking for – the help I thought I’d be leading – ended up being a demotion. It wasn’t intentional – he didn’t realize I had the title and responsibilities he was giving the new person – but it was a demotion nonetheless.
Imagine how 26-year-old Jonathan who didn’t know how to process disappointment handled that.
It wasn’t pretty.
That decision started the cycle that led to me ultimately losing a job I truly loved. After I left, it had a huge impact on me for years to come.
Last fall, a counselor asked me to write down the personality traits I had before that happened and how they’d changed in the years since. After walking through that list, she looked at me and said, “You were disappointed and you didn’t know how to deal with it.”
It took a few sessions to unpack that statement, but what we found was a list of disappointments going back to when I was a kid and each of them was followed by similar reactions:
I’d get mad.
I’d give up.
Eventually, the pattern shifted to where if I thought there was a chance I’d be disappointed, I wouldn’t even try something. The kid who was all about chasing dreams was becoming the man who only did things if he thought they’d actually work because he was scared of being disappointed.
That’s how blindspots work. They lay in the background and continue to grow and grow and grow until they suffocated the light. Thankfully someone came in with an even brighter light to expose what was going on within me.
So what’s the point in telling you all of this? I think it’s three things:
1. It’s okay to be disappointed. It’s not okay to live in your disappointment, but it’s important to admit it’s there and acknowledge it’s real. If you’ve never done that, it’s going to be hard. I still struggle with accepting it at times.
2. It’s not okay to run from disappointment. One of my favorite quotes is the Jon Acuff quote from Finish that says to “be brave enough to be bad at something new.” It might not work out. It definitely won’t be easy. But don’t run away from something that could be great because you’re scared of the disappointment that might come from pursuing it.
3. You need a friend with a flash light. We all have blindspots. They exist in corners of our lives we don’t acknowledge or go near. We need friends or counselors or therapists or pastors who can sit with us and shine a light on those dark places. It’s the only way they’ll disappear. Darkness can’t exist in the presence of light. Find a friend with a flashlight.
I’m still struggling with actually feeling disappointments. Nicole and I will joke about it at times when I’m particularly mopey. She’ll ask what’s wrong and I’ll tell her I’m trying to be okay with my disappointment and I don’t like it! She usually laughs at me and gives me a few minutes to myself when that happens.
My hope for you this week is for you to find the friend with a flash light because I want you to be the full version of who God created you to be. If we’re going to change the world, we’ve all got to be at the top of our game. It’s time to stop letting the darkness win and start getting to the fullness of who we were created to be.
Say your prayers and take your vitamins.
Have a nice day!