Realistic Expectations

Q: I’m very concerned about my daughter’s relationship with friends. She doesn’t seem to be able to handle disappointment when they cause her anguish or pain. I know peers can be cruel, and besides helping her go through each circumstance as best as I can, I feel frustrated that I can’t help her more. Any thoughts on how to handle this?

A: Disappointment is such a large part of life. Although it can be painful, it is a learning experience.

So much of a person’s responses to life are connected to what his individual expectations are in relation to a given situation. Having a friend is a great brachah, but what are you expecting this person to do to change the scope of your universe? Sometimes expectations of friends are unrealistic and, when unfulfilled, the let-down is crushing. A balanced friendship will take into account the human factor: people are not perfect and come with their own personality traits. It is almost impossible not to encounter disappointing behavior at some point in a relationship.

Truly being a same’ach b’chelko means appreciating life from moment to moment. Having bitachon that “gam zu l’tovah — this, too, is for the good” — decreases anxiety in relation to day-to-day frustrations. So often what we worry about for days never occurs, and what we would never dream about happens. A person has lower expectations if he has hakaras hatov for life’s ongoing blessings, large and small. One will not put all his energy and hope into the vacation he hopes to enjoy for two weeks out of the year if he appreciates the time he spent playing Frisbee with his children unexpectedly one afternoon. That spontaneous hour can be remembered more lovingly by the family than the two-week vacation that got rained out daily.

A parent needs to verbally “frame” life’s experiences with appreciation when speaking to his children, acknowledging hashgachah pratis and the wonders of all we see around us. This appreciation creates a most satisfied and happy human being. Such a person can laugh if something “goes wrong” and quickly attempt to find a solution because, to begin with, he didn’t expect everything to always go perfectly. Parents need to be role models for the child, exemplifying the behavior they would like to encourage and facing disappointment with the positive attitude that if something happened, it must be for the good — even when the reality appears to be different at the present.

In this way your daughter will also take disappointments in stride when faced with peers who don’t fulfill her expectations. She will learn to cope, becoming a more mature, understanding person and perhaps give her friends the benefit of the doubt more often. She won’t feel so ‘betrayed’ as she will realize that her friends were lacking awareness rather than intending to cause pain or heartache.

Harchavas hadaas (loosely translated as equanimity) comes from undisturbed thoughts and the ability to focus on the task at hand. If one continually focuses on life’s limitations and not life’s potentials, one then lacks this clarity of vision, as feelings of sadness and disappointment can become all-consuming. With true hakaras hatov to Hashem, we can have clarity of vision and be able to use more of our own potential on a regular basis to rise above disappointments and grow in character.