Rejection. Some people can rise above it. Others are crushed by it. Regardless, everyone will taste the bitterness of being made to feel unworthy at some point in our lives. It’s a sting that, depending on its severity, can affect us for the rest of our lives. Rejection visits in many different forms. Divorce. Job loss. Disapproval from a parent. Social alienation. And (sadly) even isolation within religious circles. In each situation, rejection has the ability to cause a person to be insecure and question everything they do. In my experience, rejection can be the loneliest of feelings.
“There’s nothing like rejection to make you do an inventory of yourself.” (James Lee Burke) When you’re told you’re not wanted, the first natural response is to wonder what’s wrong with yourself. I remember questioning everything about myself, big and small, in order to figure out why I wasn’t good enough or what I could have done different or better. In many ways, this type of self-inventory is very healthy. We all need to take the time to assess our lives and our character. Through it, we can experience growth and refreshed life. However, too much inner searching can be damaging in the aftermath of rejection because it can become an unhealthy obsession that leads to self-pity and bitterness. I found that being in regular communication with people I trusted helped me stay out of the cesspool because I could bounce these thoughts and discoveries off them to keep me grounded in reality.
Finally, I learned that regular forgiveness has to be given to the person(s) you feel rejected by. Jesus told Peter in Mathew 18 that we should forgive 70 times 7. That’s a lot! But what I’ve discovered is that deep wounds, like those caused by rejection, take a long time to heal – much longer than you think. Practicing forgiveness helps the healing process along though. And then, one day, you realize the rejection actually made you stronger. I really like what Ralph Waldo Emerson said about rejection:
Dear to us are those who love us…but dearer are those who rejected us as unworthy, for they add another life; they build a heaven before us whereof we had not dreamed, and thereby supply to us new powers out of the recesses of the spirit, and urge us to new and unattempted performances.
Isn’t that incredible insight? If we will allow it, times of rejection can truly make us stronger.
Rejection really is the loneliest feeling in my opinion. To be deemed as unworthy can be devastating depending on the severity of the hurt. But we can endure it, learn from it, and push forward to experience new life we never thought possible.