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What a Letdown!

Coping with disappointment

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5


To encourage us to consider strategies for handling disappointment and betrayal.

Preparation and materials

  • The story of Peter’s betrayal of Jesus - which is described in the ‘Assembly’, Step 2, and in the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly - can be found in all four Gospels: Matthew 26.69-75, Mark 14.66-72, Luke 22.54-62 and John 18.15-27.


  1. Have you ever been let down by someone you trusted, someone you believed was a close friend?

    Jesus had that experience. One of his closest friends was a man named Simon Peter, a big, bold, outspoken fisherman. Jesus summed up Peter’s character by giving him the the nickname ‘the rock’. He was the kind of person you thought you could rely on totally.

    However, at the moment when Jesus most needed somebody who had his back - when he was the object of an illegal trial, and subjected to abuse and slander - Peter denied all knowledge of him. When the crowd at the trial identified Peter as a follower of Jesus by his face and accent, Peter rejected Jesus not once, but three times. Jesus looked on, betrayed by someone he thought he could trust, a man who, hours earlier, had boasted of his own bravery.

  2. Is that an experience that we can identify with in any way? Have we ever been let down by someone we trusted deeply?

    To start with, that experience depends on a close relationship. With a close friend, it’s possible to be totally honest, let our guard down, become vulnerable and get used to that closeness. It’s special to have relationships like this; they offer real friendship and security.

  3. But what happens if our close friend suddenly pulls the rug from under us by revealing our secrets and betraying our confidences? Perhaps they make us feel like a fool in front of everyone, or they turn away when we most need their support. They let us down.

    Do we know how it feels to be let down like that?

    It can be devastating. We’re on our own, feeling that we have no one to turn to. It’s confusing, it’s depressing, it’s lonely. It can drag us down so that we feel like we can’t cope, like we’re going under.

Time for reflection

So, how did Jesus cope when Peter let him down?

First, Jesus was a realist. He accepted that no one - not even strong, brave Peter - was perfect. In fact, earlier that week, he had predicted that Peter would deny all knowledge of him. Should we be the same? However deep our trust in people, anyone could let us down for reasons of pressure, panic, embarrassment or fear. Maybe it’s a good idea never to let someone else take control of our life.

Second, Jesus acknowledged the rejection. In one version of the story, Jesus looks straight at Peter as he denies him for the third time. When we’ve been let down, the temptation may be to run away, to hide, to bandage our emotional wounds. That may be a natural reaction at first, but eventually, it will be more constructive to face up to the former friend and acknowledge the effect that their action caused. They may be feeling mixed up themselves, possibly even regretful. Peter certainly was.

Finally, in the end, Jesus forgave Peter. And it wasn’t a resentful, superficial forgiveness either. Jesus accepted the man Peter was, warts and all, and was willing to look forward. In fact, Jesus gave Peter the key job of leading the new Church that Jesus had initiated. And, true to form, Peter made some mistakes there too.

How are we at forgiving? Maybe being a realist helps us to forgive more readily. If we know and accept that people will let us down, maybe we could be prepared to forgive. It might even lead to a new, stronger relationship.

Ask the students whether they have spotted any link between some of the phrases used in this assembly.

Read the following:

- going under
- need somebody
- no one to turn to
- know how it feels
- I let my guard down
- you pulled the rug
- I was getting kinda used to being someone you loved

The final three possibly gave the game away . . . all of these phrases are from the Lewis Capaldi song ‘Someone you loved’. The song reminds us of the importance of considering the relationships that we have in our lives. Let’s always remember to be grateful for them.

Remind the students of where they can find help if they are struggling at this time, or if the assembly has raised any issues for them.


‘Someone you loved’ by Lewis Capaldi, available at: (3.06 minutes long)

Publication date: November 2023   (Vol.25 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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