We all know the old saying, “You can’t please everybody”. That is true in business, in ministry and in life. No matter what you do, someone is going to be disappointed.Sometimes that disappointment is justified. If we don’t live up to a promise, or we make a costly mistake, we have failed to meet expectations and need to do our best to make up for it.
But often, we’ve done everything “right” and with the best of intentions, and still … somebody’s expectations have not been met and they are unhappy.
I find it interesting that Jesus, who lived a perfect, sinless life, managed to disappoint an awful lot of people. Mary and Martha were disappointed that He didn’t arrive in time to heal Lazarus. The Jewish leaders were disappointed that He didn’t point an accusatory finger at an adulterous woman. Even His disciples, His closest friends and allies, were disappointed that He had no interest in setting up a military kingdom on here on earth.
So how did Jesus deal with all these disappointed people? And is there anything we can learn about dealing with the disappointed people in our own lives? I found four things that Jesus did consistently in these situations.
Show Compassion and Preserve Relationships
I can only imagine the scene when first Martha and then Mary confronted Jesus. Their brother, Lazarus, had been dead for three days and they were convinced Jesus could have prevented his death.
Martha, the more practical and direct sister, marched out to the edge of the city to meet Jesus and confront him. Mary, the more emotional sister, fell weeping at His feet. With these two distraught women hurling accusations at Him, it would seem easy for Jesus to be defensive and shut himself off from them.
But, of course, he didn’t. He reminded Martha their relationship was based on his divine nature as the resurrection and the life. The Bible says He was “deeply moved and troubled” and He wept with Mary. (John 11:33-34)
When we are confronted by disappointed people, we can preserve the relationship with them by identifying with their pain and frustration. Often just acknowledging someone has been harmed takes the sting out of the situation. Most people long to be heard and if we can walk just a moment in the pain with them, it will help them move forward.
Stay in the Present and Let Go of the Past
Often, disappointed people will want to continually visit the past and go over and over the things that went wrong. But when Jesus was dealing with the Pharisees, he would have none of that.
When they brought him an adulterous woman and asked what should be done with her, Jesus did not dredge up all of her past sins. He asked the teachers of the law to look at their own present shortcomings. And he instructed the woman to move on, declaring, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)
While it may make someone feel better to reconstruct the past and pinpoint the exact moment that someone did them wrong, it is neither helpful or healthy. A focus on the present situation and specific actions to change it will produce more growth in them, and in you.
State the Truth and Choose Not to Argue
Some people just want to have an argument. And they often base the argument on their own distorted view of the facts. That’s what happened with some of Jesus’ disciples.
The resurrected Jesus met some unsuspecting followers on the road before they realized who he was. They began to express their disappointment in the Messiah who did not save himself and set up an earthly kingdom. In those three years they spent together, it seems they heard what they wanted to hear and not what He actually said.
Jesus used this as a time of teaching and “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27) He spoke truth into the situation and did not argue about how they may have misunderstood.
Be Direct and Deal Openly
Jesus dealt with all of these situations head-on. He did not isolate himself from the disappointed people, hoping to avoid a confrontation. Or pull them off to a corner to handle them privately. He faced them directly, honestly and publicly.
All too often, we try to keep these things quiet and limit the damage, but in reality, when disappointment is left to fester, it will do far more damage in the long run. Shining the light on the situation will help everyone put it behind them and grow from the situation.
Being in business or ministry, it is inevitable that some people will be disappointed in something we have said or done, usually based on their perception of what is “fair” or “right”. If we can deal directly with the things the way Jesus did — show compassion, stay in the present, state the truth — people will feel that we have been fair with them and be less likely to let disappointment poison a working relationship or friendship.
How have you dealt with disappointed people?