It’s easy to feel rejected. People disagree with us. Sometimes, folks even take the risk of sharing constructive criticism and it hurts. On the other hand, we disagree with people around us, often people we love and care about. When we believe something deeply, it becomes personal. Disagreement about an issue, choice, or tradition can look and feel like personal rejection, even when it isn’t.
If you have ever lead a group of people or attempted to start a new endeavor, chances are you have felt the sting of people either leaving your group or declining to join your team in the first place. Likewise, if you have ever made a significant switch in your life (changed jobs, churches, or place of residence), you have probably made someone feel rejected, whether you meant to or not.
A few thoughts on dealing with this feeling of rejection:
- Don’t try to sweep your pain under the rug. Take time to experience healthy, holy grief. Admit that it hurts to be left behind. Don’t try to make the feelings go away, instead quiet your life and ask God to show you the good and the bad in what you’re feeling. Additionally, don’t numb the hurt by getting occupied with a new project or diversion.
- Assume the best about the one who has “rejected” you. I use quotation marks because even though it may be crystal-clear to you that they have wronged you, the person most likely doesn’t intend to cause you pain or grief. Pray for this person and avoid gossip at all costs, even at the cost of your own reputation.
- Stick to the facts. They simply changed jobs, or don’t have the same passions as you, or they need to make changes for the good of their own soul. When we start to interpret motives or read into things they said- especially when we are sad or upset- we move into very fallible territory. Remember: people nearly always make decisions that seem reasonable and wise to them, even when we don’t understand.
- Be quick to forgive. When you hear that something good has happened to the one who rejected you, are mildly disappointed? Does your spirit get a boost from hearing bad news about this person? If so, you are bitter and unforgiving. Hurry to find reconciliation and peace with this person. A favorite aphorism: Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Jesus offers us a somber reminder [emphasis added]: Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
- Consider your own faults. This can be dangerous if you think you wouldn’t ever do the wrong that has been done to you. If you’re honest, you’ll confess that you’ve hurt a lot of people in your life, too, probably more than you’re willing to admit. Think about how you wish those people you hurt in the past would assume the best about you and forgive you. Colossians 3:13 “…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
- Do good to them. OK, maybe they really are dirtbags who want to stab you in the back and twist the knife around for good measure. Don’t join the fight. My grandpa might remind you to never wrestle with a pig; you’ll both get dirty and the pig likes it. Instead, find all the ways you can to love, serve, and do good toward the one who has hurt you.
- Remember the Gospel. If you are a Christian, you have a Father in heaven who is 100% forever accepting of you. He will not leave you or reject you. Even if the whole world, including you closest friends and family, were to reject and slander you, you still have the only approval that matters in eternity. Perhaps we get so preoccupied with who has rejected us because we have a hard time remembering Who has accepted us.
I have no doubt, unfortunately, that my life will continue to have a series of people who hurt me and others who I hurt. Rejection is a terrible pain, perhaps one of the toughest in life, especially when we experience it from friends and fellow Christians.
May God give me grace to be more forgiving, more loving, and less rejecting as time passes. Christ’s amazing display of eager forgiveness and humility, especially while he died on the cross, is our example as well as the source of our ability to forgive.