REJECTION. It can be something as simple as an idea or as complicated as the rejection of a dearly loved one–regardless, when you experience rejection, it hurts. Wikipedia describes rejection as a verb, as in “to throw back.” When fishing with my husband, he will often catch a fish that he decides is not something he wants to keep, clean or cook. So, he throws it back into the water. In essence, this is what rejection feels like–you’ve not measured up in some way and have been thrown back. In most cases we internalize rejection as being thrown away–determined to be unsuitable. In social circles, rejection is often manifested by excluding someone from the group. It’s hard to be the one left out. Your heart hears, “You are not good enough.” There are few of us on this earth that get by without feeling rejection from one source or another. Rejection can come from any direction or place, e.g., the rejection of playground playmates, a job or college application, parents, spouses, children, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc. The deeper you love, the greater your dreams or expectations for the relationship, the more it is going to hurt.
I listened to a TED talk recently describing some of the research into the brain surrounding romantic love. It is visible in pictures of the brain. Romantic love triggers that obsessive need for another person. Interestingly enough, pictures of the brain of someone going through rejection show stimulation in that same part of the brain. Just as you cannot stop thinking about someone you are falling in love with, so rejection is similarly treated in the brain. You can become obsessive over the other person or situation, willing to do anything to regain approval, acceptance or love. Basically, it’s physical, your brain is driving your thoughts and the hurt you are experiencing. It’s real; it’s physical. In essence it will drive you to turn thoughts inward and place blame at your doorstep–you are unworthy. There is something wrong with you. And depression begins to surround you with its cloak.
So how do you get past rejection and the pain associated with it? It’s not easy. You have to take control of your brain. You have to stop remunerating thoughts (those thoughts that put you down; thoughts that you play over and over like a broken record). You have to intentionally replace those thoughts with positive thoughts. My guess is that there are many wonderful things in your life and many people who love you, care about you, and see you for who you are. But somehow the pain of rejection is clouding your real view of life. So together let’s find a way to move on.
1. Take an appropriate time to grieve. If this was a relationship you cherished, it is going to hurt. It is ok to cry. Find some time alone to inventory the good and bad of the relationship and to feel the loss of your dreams and expectations. Proverbs 3:12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Your hope has been crushed. It’s normal to feel heart sick. But we don’t want this sickness to destroy us. Determine to take some medicine and to find a place of healing. Begin by comforting yourself with a walk through a park or garden, some comfort food, a bath with essential oils that uplift the spirit; e.g., lemon, lavender, jasmine, rosemary, cinnamon or peppermint. Remind yourself that you are worthy–besides, pampering feels good.
2. Talk to a friend–one trusted friend. This should be someone who cares about you but will tell you the truth. Stay off social media and avoid sharing your pain with others. Try not to put the offending party down. Having your friend agree that they are an ogre won’t help–you’ll both just wallow in ugly things. Focus your attention on your pain and their support in helping you find ways to heal.
3. Accept the rejection. Whether it’s a rejection letter for a job, college application or manuscript you’ve submitted or the overwhelming loss of a significant relationship, step away from the rejection itself and analyze what you might do better next time. The only person you can change is yourself. Determine to learn from this situation and to improve your resume/application or to become a better person. Don’t beat yourself up, we all make mistakes. Some are costly mistakes, but we can take steps to correct our mistakes.
4. Don’t take rejection personally. This is the hardest step of all. It was personal-it hurt YOU. Unfortunately, relationships must be mutual. If you’ve received a rejection letter from a job application, it wasn’t that there is anything wrong with you–they simply found someone who better met their specific needs. If the rejection comes from a close friend or family member, it is probably more about something they are going through than anything to do with you. Pray for them. Show love and grace if given the opportunity. Trust God with the relationship. Maybe restoration will happen someday, but for now you need to let them process their feelings and wait. Isaiah 40:31 “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles.” Maybe it’s your time to soar in another direction.
5. Don’t pile on. Don’t hoard your hurts and keep piling each rejection on top of the last. Everyone experiences rejection in some form or another. We aren’t entitled to a “yes” from every situation. This is just one rejection. Face just this one and move on. God does not pile our transgressions on top of each other and condemn us. He deals with each sin as we bring it before Him and then removes it and remembers it against us no more. You can’t live life to its fullest if you are burying yourself under every mistake or rejection. Use these circumstances as stepping stones to your bright future. Trust that God is leading you even in these times. He has a plan for an abundant life for you. Focus on finding it as you hold fast to His hand. (Jeremiah 29:11)
6. Don’t allow it to control your view of yourself or your future. Stop the tapes. Remind yourself of the wonderful person God created you to be. Focus on your gifts, talents, interests, skills, attributes, etc. that make you unique–for you were fearfully and wonderfully made. And when God made you, He said, “It is good.” Maybe you need to frame a list of all the good qualities/attributes that God gave to you–ask a friend to list what they see in you if you are blinded. Read the list daily until you remember who you are–who God made you to be.
7. Focus on all the good in your life. It’s time to up your thanksgiving before the Lord. Make an inventory of all your blessings and read over them often.
8. Determine to try again. This doesn’t mean you continue to hound that employer or a former lover or even a loved family member. It’s time to move in a different direction. So spiff up that resume, manuscript or wardrobe. Upgrade/update–and try again. You are a winner. You will win. Proverbs 11:30 says “When the desire comes-when the object of the longing is obtained-it is a tree of life.” So get out there and plant a few seeds and expect your tree to grow and blossom. There are so many hurting people in this big world who need love and care. Open your eyes to them. Luke 6:38 reminds us that if we give, it will be given unto us. So find someone on whom you can bestow grace, mercy and love and get ready for your own cup to overflow.
9. Reach out for life. Matthew 6:34 encourages us to look to the future. You never know what God has for you just around the corner. So run to Him and let Him show you the path of life. Lean into hope.
10. Believe in yourself. You can do this. You will succeed. You will find happiness. You will experience love and acceptance. Time to try again.
It you are hurting from the sting of rejection, I want to pray for you before we part. “Oh, Father, you said that all that come to you, you will in no wise cast out. I praise you that in you we find acceptance, love and security. We belong. We are safe. We are secure. We are home. Comfort those who are reading these words and hurting today. Envelop them in your love and reassurance. Encourage them to find the right next step toward healing and give them the courage to take that step with you. In your precious and Holy name I pray. Amen.”