Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Have you ever had the experience of being rejected? For example, how would you react if your boss called you into his offce and said, You’re fired as from today. How would that feel?
Unless you were wanting to leave, it would be a terrible and humiliating experience. Or if your husband suddenly says, Our marriage is over—I’m leaving you now. Or a life-long friend explains, I don’t want to be your friend anymore. I despise you.
How would you handle this type of rejection? We are vulnerable to serious and more devastating rejections as well as the smaller less significant issues.
We All Can Suffer Emotional Pain
Whether the rejection we experience is large or small, one thing remains constant—it always hurts, and it usually hurts more than we expect it to. The question is, why? Why are we so bothered by a good friend failing to ‘like’ the family holiday picture we posted on Facebook? Why does it ruin our mood? Why would something so seemingly insignificant make us feel angry at our friend, change our mood, and make us feel bad about ourselves?
Rejections are the most common emotional wound we sustain in daily life—so say the psychologists and therapists. Counsellors would also agree. Because we are human, we are susceptible to all kind of negative emotions. And that is called emotional pain, just like physical pain—except you can’t actually see it.
Emotional pain is like physical pain—except you can’t actually see it.
The reality is we have a deep need to be valued and accepted by others. Each day there is a big possibility you will be rejected—someone will disagree with you or you may have a falling out. But that’s not the end of the world. Everyday situations can lead to feelings of rejection, too, like if your joke didn’t get a laugh, if no-one remembered to save you a seat at the lunch table, or if the person you really like talks to everyone except you—the list goes on and on. Feeling rejected is the opposite of feeling accepted. But being rejected—and we all will be at times—doesn’t mean someone isn’t liked, valued, or important. It just means that one time, in one situation, with one person, things didn’t work out.
Rejection hurts. But here’s what’s important. It is impossible to avoid it altogether. In fact, you don’t want to: People who become too afraid of rejection might hold back from going after something they want. Sure, they avoid rejection, but they’re also 100% guaranteed to miss out on what they want but won’t try for. Try to keep things in perspective. Tell yourself, OK, so I got rejected this time. Maybe next time, I’ll get a ‘yes’ or Oh, well. This is what happened. I don’t like it. It’s not how I wanted things to work out. But everyone gets rejected—and I can try again.
Jesus Understands Our Pain
The word rejection comes from a Latin word that means ‘to be thrown back’. When we experience rejection, the feeling not only stops us in our present pursuits, but it sometimes causes us to retreat from progressing because we fear future failure. In psychology, this phenomenon is called learned helplessness. We are most vulnerable at the point of rejection. We experience disapproval or repudiation, and that experience becomes a catalyst for self-defeat.
I want to suggest something else. Jesus gives us the ultimate example of how to thrive through rejection. If we look to the life of Jesus, we will notice that even the Son of God was not immune to the sting of rejection. From the onset of his ministry, Jesus encountered opposition and disbelief. People questioned his authority and authenticity… He even told his disciples to expect rejection by the world (John 15:18). Even when hanging on a cross, at his lowest point of rejection, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34). What an incredible inspiration!
When someone hurts us, we often respond in anger or sadness. We try to cope in a number of ways like denying the event, blaming others, or retreating. Healing comes, however, when we approach God with our pain. Name it—and tell him all about it. He understands and loves you.
Confront these negative emotions. Allow yourself to be honest with God, and I am sure you will experience his mercy and his grace.
(To be continued in Getting Past the Fear of Rejection – Part 2)