The Last Time You Were Disappointed

Photo by whoislimos on Unsplash

You have been there. We’ve all been there. You help a friend out of a jam and hope they’ll reciprocate but they don’t. You’re courteous on the road and hope (even if a little) other drivers will be too but they’re not. You hold the door open for someone, they walk right past you without a “thank you.” You donate to a charity and the news reports a scam or mismanagement at said charity. You do the work and hope for success to come but it doesn’t. On it goes.

These disappointments, big and small, come from an expectation we deem out to materialize as a result of our actions. We lay claim to what ought to happen before it happens. We paid so now must come our due.

That’s Ego.

Ego has a nasty way of making us want things. It places us at the center of the Universe and tells us that we deserve to be rich, beautiful, thin, smart, thanked, revered, adored, loved, feared, or whatever your desire of choice may be. And when those things do not materialize as our Ego told us they should, we become resentful and start to blame the world around us because we didn’t get what we’re owed.

Remember, then, if you deem what is by nature slavish to be free, and what is not your own to be yours, you will be shackled and miserable, blaming both gods and people. But if you deem as your own only what is yours, and what belongs to others as truly not yours, then no one will ever be able to coerce or to stop you, you will find no one to blame or accuse, you will do nothing against your will, you will have no enemy, no one will harm you, because no harm can affect you.
— Epictetus

It’s funny how the more you want the less control you have. It takes a long time to see and understand how much this applies to virtually all aspects of our lives. We are trained at birth to expect, to want, to seek output for input. Our parents teach it, our teachers also do it, our spouses and significant others do it, our bosses do it. You do for me and I might do for you. It’s the proverbial dangling carrot.

That’s handing control of yourself to someone else.

I read somewhere that you have the right to your labor and not the fruits of your labor. So what if, and I’m asking a lot here, what if we just did but without expecting something in return? That would place you and I, squarely in control of what is actually in our control, wouldn’t it?

I suppose I could end with some profound bit of wisdom that puts you on the path to Egolessness, but that would be my Ego talking. You and I face the same challenge every day so I’ll just ask that if you found this piece useful in some way, recommend it to others. Or don’t.