When Humans Disappoint

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have the right to do and what is right to do.

Potter Stewart, a former Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court

It’s been a long time since I’ve been physically ill due to the unexpected poor behavior of another human. I’m suppose I am lucky it hasn’t happened more often.

My personality chooses to trust until proven wrong – not necessarily a good attribute in this day and age, but it served me well in my youth and young adult years.

It wasn’t until I was in my 30s and a mother with children that I realized that trusting first wasn’t (sadly) OK anymore.

My first sickening disappointment occurred in a grocery store.

My then-husband’s girlfriend (you read that right), unaware that I knew who and what she was, approached me in the produce department to thank me and tell me how grateful she was for my husband’s friendship during the tough times after her divorce.

The only reason I didn’t deck her on the spot is because my young daughter was standing next to me. I barely made it to the restroom before vomiting.

The second time I became physically ill as a result of another human’s actions, was in a church parking lot.

He had been one of the first people I met when I had joined the congregation and was someone I considered a friend and mentor in faith of sorts.

I’d heard rumors of his unethical business practices, but I was skeptical of the rumors. I only became concerned when family was negatively affected by his apparent lack of conscience.

But I had never personally experienced anything negative with him until one day when I ran across the church parking lot to say hello (still trusting in my first impressions of years before). And it was creepy. His words, his fake smile, his demeanor, his empty words. Everything gave me the chills.

I couldn’t walk away fast enough. And I vomited on the sidewalk.

It was bizarre, but real. My only thoughts were that I had been in the presence of evil. And my entire being was sickened by it.

There have been other times I became sickened from my shock and disappointment resulting from my naive belief in another human. Some more severe and injurious than others.

I’ve personally experienced nearly everything women fear in life from the hands of another – emotional, physical, financial, spiritual.

For years and years, I beat myself up for my failure to see bad coming my way. For years and years I beat myself up for trusting naively. And even tried to NOT trust. Anyone. Ever.

And yet I still believed and still believe in humans. I (naively?) believe people are innately kind and good.

There are varying degrees of bad behavior. Emotional abuse and bad business are both bad, but not to the same degree. But then again…

Right is right, wrong is wrong, good is good, and bad is bad. It’s not rocket science, right?

Then why do there seem to be so many gray areas? Is it about greed? Is it about pride? Do humans simply not care any more? Are we really that selfish?

Could it be because ethical behavior and unethical behavior may be at opposite ends of the ethics spectrum, while also sharing the same end of the legal spectrum? In other words, unethical behavior is often not illegal. Does that justify being unethical?

No, it does not.

Are humans confused by this ethical/legal disparity and do we allow it to provide the “rational” justification for unethical actions?

Why is it so hard for some humans to do the right thing?

Again this week I was reminded that people whose reputations are built on a media-generated perception aren’t always who we think they are.

We’ve had a disappointing experience over the past year with Camping World. We’ve been repeatedly and consistently disappointed in their service, their culture and their leadership.

Camping World’s lack of responsibility has cost us personally, as well as our 501c3 nonprofit organization 10,000 Beds.

We’ve lost value in our RV as it sat in their service lots for a total of 9 months, we’ve lost time on the road, we’ve lost the opportunity to help thousands of people, and we’ve lost money.

I haven’t been physically ill in the face of this most recent disappointment, but I have definitely lost sleep, income, focus, and a little bit of my faith in humans.

I’ve even been a tiny bit snide in my response emails following conversations with Marcus Lemonis. I regret that, but I’m not perfect. I am, however, able to admit when I am wrong.

I am disappointed and I am angry. I feel betrayed and taken advantage of; disregarded even. It’s not a good feeling. And it should never have happened.

When I face disappointment, my heart hurts…for them. For me too.

So how can we do better than this? How can we manage disappointment better than I am doing? I loved this Woman’s Day article from December, it starts with wallowing and ends with perspective.

Sounds like a plan to me! Wallow for a bit, reassess, and discover a new perspective! Easier said than done, but definitely worth the effort.

And for me, I forgive. The girlfriend in the grocery store, the con-artist in the church parking lot, those who have taken advantage of me.

So, how do we management disappointment? It’s not easy, and I’m not the perfect example for certain. When we are disappointed in another human or situation, we often feel hurt and betrayed. Our expectations were for an end that didn’t happen.

To effectively deal with disappointment, we need to understand what happened…and there’s the rub.

When an individual’s actions don’t match their stated mission or their reputation (which is what you build your expectations on, believing in them because that’s what they want you to do), when you can’t understand why things went the way they did, it’s difficult to deal with disappointment.

In these cases, we have a choice…we can continue to tell our truth hoping they will finally recognize it, or we can just walk away and chalk it up as a learning experience. Both have their value.

Ironically, this quote is from Marcus Lemonis:

“Businesses are based on relationships and relationships are based on people.”

Marcus Lemonis, Camping World, Good Sam Enterprises, The Profit

Some things are just hard to make sense of.

But no matter what, when dealing with disappointment, we never compromise our standards or our position. We always take the high road: tell the truth, hold fast, and move on. With heads held high. And learn what we can along the way.

Disappointment is not meant to destroy us. If taken in stride, it can strengthen us and make us better. In spite of its devastating emotional impact, we may even consider encounters with disappointment as journeys toward greater insight and wisdom.

Harvard Business Review, Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, Distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development and Organizational Change at INSEAD in France, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi.

Too many people don’t practice what they preach. They make a lot of money preaching, but the doing part, the ethical part, the people part: not important to them. No matter what they’ve said and been quoted as saying in the past.

The quote at the top of the page and at the very beginning of this post nails it. “We must recognize the difference between what we have the right to do and what is right to do.”

Of course you can do whatever you want, especially if you have millions of dollars or millions of votes or hundreds of thousands of social media followers. But that doesn’t make it right. And wealth, accolades, awards, followers, and fame will never change that.

Right is right, wrong is wrong.

Choose the right. Do the right thing. Step up. Get out of the self-serving gray area. Look beyond yourself. Be honest. Be good. Be who you say you are. Be who we believe you are. Take a minute to pay attention. Just do it.

What matters most? Integrity, honesty, doing the right thing. As someone once said, and I paraphrase, “Be certain your handshake means something.”

“Your dream is to feel good; God’s dream is for you to do good.”

Shannon L. Alder

There is nothing better than both doing good and feeling good.

It’s never too late to make things right. Just do it. There’s honor in that.

My life hasn’t been perfect and I’m not perfect. And yet here I am today, stronger than ever, striving to be better every day of my life, hoping and praying I can help others, and still believing in humans.

If only they wouldn’t disappoint me so often.


Jean Krisle is the Founder & Chief Inspiration Officer at10,000 Beds, Inc, a national 501c3 non-profit organization connecting individuals battling a substance use disorder with vetted addiction/recovery programs through treatment scholarships. A motivational keynote speaker and trainer and nationally certified recovery and life coach, Jean helps organizations and individuals rebound from challenge, rejuvenate energy, and refine their best selves. jeankrisle.com

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