Resolving disappointment. . .does your child know how?

Resolving disappointment. . .does your child know how?

Resolving disappointment. . .does your child know how?

Do you trust others to meet your needs? What happens if we turn that question around. . .do others trust you to meet their needs? What do we do with the disappointment of unmet needs?

Conversations about needs get interesting pretty quickly; have you ever said –

A.  “I don’t need anything.”

B. “I don’t trust anyone; I’ll just take care of myself.”

C. “I’m never enough (to meet your needs).”

Performance-oriented Americans may be fooled by choice A; professional resumes include success stories – and hide struggles. Most interviews focus on what a candidate brings to the table – not what they need.

This deception may have started in school. The truth is “confusion precedes real learning,” but there’s not much room in our comfort zones – or classrooms – for confusion. “Needs” are often given a label in the classroom; teachers struggle because some students need more help than others – and then helping can get called cheating. (BTW – helping is only cheating when we choose the wrong source to meet our needs.)

Personal maturity requires each of us to learn to ask for what we need – and receive provision for our needs in relationships of trust. This one indicator is what clinically marks the difference between a “child” and an “adult.” Yeah, I know. I wish someone would have told me that sooner, too.

Choice B is planted by the seed of unmet needs. Unmet needs offer a single occupancy lease to our hearts – and the trauma from unmet needs often weaken us enough to sign on the dotted line and agree to “go it alone” in caring for ourselves.

The wisdom offered in “it’s not good for man to be alone” can help us understand hiding from hurt also includes the consequence of hiding from help. Just like a lack of appetite is always a sign of physical illness, an unawareness of needs is not an indicator of emotional or relational heath.

Choice C may not initially appear to be a mature option – and it’s not if we share this thought in frustration or anger. But the truth is, my efforts (and yours) will always be insufficient – by design.

A wise mentor explained it to me this way:
“I try to help KNOWING MY EFFORTS WILL BE INSUFFICIENT. God will have to work the response in someone else’s life. And there will be many other factors besides my efforts. So, I see my efforts as an offering to God rather than the key for someone else. God then takes that offering and does whatever He wants with it.”

I will always need you – and God. You will always need me (or someone) – and God. My needs may be very real – and more than your capacity. So I make two important choices:

  • Do I trust you and receive your help?
  • What do I do with the rest of my need – and the disappointment I probably feel because you don’t/can’t provide everything I need? Will I take my need – and my disappointment – to God, or let it erupt in hurtful ways in our relationship?

My healthy role in relationship with you is to remind you (as a believer) who you really are – Christ in you. Immature — maybe. Weak — maybe. But growing and developing into the perfect DNA that is already your new nature.

I won’t play this healthy role if I blame you – or shame you – for my unmet needs.

Your healthy role in relationship with me is to remind me (as a believer) who I really am – “on my worst day, Christ in me.” Immature — maybe. Weak — maybe. Trusting God, you, and others to offer me wisdom and strength, I will mature into who God already sees me to be.

Unhealthy relationships are confused about real needs. As parents, we are called to prioritize and meet our children’s real needs; this often requires us to not get confused with their wants. Our calling is also to help them learn to let imageGod meet their needs – especially the real need of resolving disappointment and hurt. They’ll probably learn this lesson by watching our relationship with God. I know – ouch for me, too.

I look forward to your thoughts, questions, and comments. Thank you Scott Morrison ( for being a wise friend and mentor. For more information on indicators that distinguish the maturity of a child from an adult, see the resources by Dr. James Wilder on the GOOD STUFF page on

  • Scott Morrison

    So well said, Janet!

    • Janet

      Thank you Scott – wise mentor and friend!