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The Gift of Life’s Disappointments

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

The holidays are often about gifts—what did you get for Christmas or Hanukah? Such gifts, no matter how impressive, may soon be taken for granted. But there are gifts of a different sort like the lasting lesson that comes from the gift of life’s disappointments.

As we end the year, some are still marching in the streets in protest of Trump’s election victory when some of the marchers didn’t even vote to defeat him. Such marching may get protestors air time on the nightly news, but it won’t change the results.

College students spending time marching or sitting in “safe rooms” might better turn their disappointment into working to change the next election. Persist in sharing their ideas, writing letters, supporting their candidates, and voting. Instead of complaining about “White Privilege,” may protestors realize the benefit of the “American Privilege,” the gift of living in this great country.

Instead of complaining about what they don’t have or the myth that others are holding them back, may they put their time, energy and focus into making their own American Dream work. True winners lose more than losers. They win and lose more because they stay in the game.

For it is handling disappointment and failures where persistence and strength of character are forged, where true self-esteem is earned. For youth, the experience of alienation, disappointment and heartache are all an essential part of growing up. Most grow up. Some never do.

We all hate disappointments, but they’re part of life. They serve us if we let them. They can teach us the value of hard work and persistence in meeting our life’s goals, or they can sidetrack us into crippling lives of constant complaining, unhappiness, and helplessness. There’s pain in either path—the pain of disciplining yourself to persist in pursuit of your goals or the pain of staying in your disappointment.

The actor Michael J. Fox has known his share of disappointments and setbacks and reminds us, “There's always failure. And there's always disappointment. And there's always loss. But the secret is learning from the loss, and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums.” It’s not the falling down but the staying down that’s the bigger danger.

If challenges were easy to overcome, they wouldn’t be challenges. If you’re falling short in your attempts, you’re at the edge of your potential which is where your gifts and confidence can grow. When you fail, ask yourself, “What can this failure teach me?” In sales, as in life, “no” is “on” spelled backwards.

Marianne Williamson shares a well-earned insight, “As someone who has faced as much disappointment as most people, I've come to trust not that events will always unfold exactly as I want, but that I will be fine either way.” With maturity comes the realization that we never win them all, but we still survive. The goal becomes not giving in to pity parties and bouncing back quicker.

Nineteenth Century author Eliza Tabor Stephenson affirmed a truth most Americans used to be taught, “Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” The wisdom still rings true— “What doesn’t break you makes you stronger.”

Dennis Prager, wrote in Happiness Is a Serious Problem: “We tend to think that it is being unhappy that leads people to complain, but it is truer to say that it is complaining that leads to people becoming unhappy. Become grateful and you will become a much happier person.”

Joel Osteen’s advice, in his book Your Best Life Now, is worth remembering: “You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It won’t happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.”

There’s an added benefit to such struggles, we tend to look back with pride and faith at the challenges we’ve overcome. They become our best stories, the kind of experiences that memoirs and a country are built on.

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