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The Disappointment of Life – Part 1

Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Cheever made this interesting observation;

“The main emotion of the adult American who has had all the advantages of wealth, education, and culture is disappointment.”

In the work that I do with men, I find this to be particularly true for men as they approach mid-life. It begins to dawn on them that “My life has not turned out the way I thought it would.”

When a man is 22, he looks at the future with all types of hopes, dreams, and aspirations. However it is just a matter of time before their dreams run headlong into reality. They realize this is not the way I planned my life, it was supposed to turn out so much better than this.

What I find to be so fascinating is that I see this disappointment come from both ends of the spectrum. On one end there are those who have been beaten up by life. Over time they are crushed by their circumstances and find that life is sorely disappointing.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who have achieved everything they ever dreamed of. Sometimes they have exceeded their expectations, and yet they too find life to be disappointing, but it is a different type of disappointment. It comes from the realization that what I always dreamed of does not satisfy me the way I thought it would. It is quite a frightening thought for some men, that if this does not satisfy me, what will?

Ravi Zacharias made this observation:

“The loneliest moment in life is when you have experienced (or achieved) that which you thought would deliver the ultimate, and it has let you down.”

Back in 1994, rock music icon Kurt Cobain shocked the music world when he took his own life. His followers were stunned because he was on top of the world, both wealthy and famous.

Tim Keller talks of a conversation that he had with his own son about Cobain’s suicide. His son could not understand why someone who had it all, would take his own life.

Keller said he and his own son concluded that there are two types of suicide. There are those who conclude that they will never achieve their dreams and therefore feel like they have failed at life.

However, there are those like Cobain who realize their dreams and have achieved everything they have ever hoped for, yet it leaves them feeling empty and disillusioned.

This reminds me of a popular true story told by philosopher Dallas Willard. It is about a greyhound dog race.

“They train these greyhounds to chase an electric rabbit, and one night the rabbit broke down and the dogs caught it. They leapt in circles, yelped and bit one another, totally confused. That’s what happens to people who catch their rabbits. Whether it is wealth or fame or beauty or a bigger house, or whatever, they catch up with the prize and it makes no sense. It lets them down.”

Willard goes on to say that when this happens, people do not know what to do with their lives.

The bottom line is that people need to find a rabbit that won’t break down. It has to transcend everything in this worldly life.

Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French philosopher and mathematician said, “Each person has a God shaped void in their hearts that can only be filled by Christ Himself.” This is the only rabbit that won’t break down.


Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.

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