Obviously on a basic level, we want to be loved, accepted, and included so any time those things are neglected or removed, it hurts. It’s hard. Maybe a friendship ends, or a relationship failed, or you ask someone to go on a date and they say no. Maybe you were passed over for a job or promotion, or maybe your parents or family have rejected you in some way. These things are all a part of life. We have all experienced rejection of some kind, and it always communicates something along the lines of “you’re not good enough” or “you’re too much” or “you’re a failure” or “I don’t want you”. These are extremely difficult things to hear from people; hard from people we barely know and excruciating from people we love and have chosen to trust. The natural human response is to self protect. When we are hurt and rejected, we respond by withdrawing, retreating, building walls and often even vowing that we will never let that happen again. Why? Because we often find our identity in the opinion of others.
I’ll be honest, I’ve been rejected. And I’ve really struggled with that in the past (and some currently too). I’ve internalized rejection and allowed it to shape my opinion of myself, and even allowed one or two examples of rejection to shape how I believe everyone else sees me. As relational beings, it is natural to internalize the actions and reactions of relationships in our life, and certainly words from others have great influence to uplift or tear down. You and I take rejection very personally. Because it is personal. Rejection is a part of life, and definitely a part of relationships. And what I have learned is just because someone (or more than one someones) rejects you, does not mean a) that you are worthless and b) that everyone else will reject you as well. We naturally use our past experiences to predict our future experiences, which makes sense, it’s logical. And there is certainly wisdom to be had in learning from mistakes and making good decisions. However, if we allow our past experiences with rejection to keep us from pursuing relationships or situations in the future, we are allowing the opinions of others to trump Christ’s opinion of us. And that, my dear friend, has now turned into an issue of unbelief, which is sin.
As Christians, we can freely move towards situations that may (or probably) involve rejection because our identity is rooted in Christ. Christ has already said, “I accept you” because of His work on the cross. It’s not just God deciding one day to accept us and the next deciding we’re not good enough. Our acceptance is based solely in Christ’s finished work. We’ve all heard it before: “just find your identity in Christ”, but there is nothing “just” about it- it is everything! And finding our identity in Christ is no easy task. However, the familiarity of that statement should never undermine the reality of it’s deep truth. But we must choose to believe it because our feelings of hurt or embarrassment or disappointment will never naturally lead us to that truth.
Emotions are a powerful force, and they have tremendous power to shape how we see ourselves and how we see other people. And they are not to be overlooked or brushed aside. When we are rejected, our feelings of hurt and pain cannot simply be shut off. They’re real, and a very apparent effect of being rejected. But if we let them, our emotions will take the reigns and lead us down a path we never meant to go. And even more so, they can and will lead us away from the truth of acceptance we find in Christ. When (not if) we feel hurt, betrayed, misled, worthless, undesirable, left out, or any other negative emotion that comes from living life with other sinners, we turn inward in order to avoid those emotions in the future. If we shut ourselves off to other relationships or experiences, we can mitigate the feeling of inadequacy. However, when we do that (put up walls, avoid relationships, isolate etc.) we are inadvertently allowing our own selfishness to dictate our actions. We’ve made it about us and not about others. Like I mentioned earlier, there is wisdom to be had in all situations, but we as Christians are called to love others, to seek others good, and to forgive and press forward in community because we are firmly established in our relationship with Christ.
So basically, rejection sucks and we fear being rejected because we care a lot about what other people think about us. But Jesus says you and I are worth something far more than a dream job or a first date or a perfect relationship. So I say, let’s press forward in relationship and risk rejection because whether you believe it, feel it, or understand it, if you are a believer, Jesus Christ has accepted you, and He proved that when He went to the cross.