Rejection hurts but it doesn't have to break us or define us. Here are 5 ways to heal.
Excerpted from Fierce Faith: A Woman's Guide to Fighting Fear, Wrestling Worry, and Overcoming Anxiety, by Alli Worthington, with the permission of Zondervan. Copyright © 2017 by Alli Worthington.
Jesus knows the pain of being abandoned, the gut punch of having your closest friends betray you. As Isaiah 53:3 says, "He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain." But people's rejection didn't lessen who Jesus was. He didn't take it personally or question his calling.
Now I'm sure you're thinking, Well of course Jesus didn't let rejection stop him from fulfilling his purpose. He's God. Yes, as God, Jesus turned water into wine, raised the dead to life, and turned one tuna fish sandwich into enough to feed the masses. We don't expect ourselves to do those things. But Jesus was also human. And there are lots of things that Jesus did, that Jesus modeled, that we should strive to emulate.
I believe that Jesus not getting sidetracked by the pain of rejection is an important lesson for us all. Like Jesus, we may feel the pain of rejection, but we can also know that we are loved and called by name to a destiny set out before us.
Here are five ways to cushion the blow and comfort ourselves when our hearts feel rejected.
1) Don't assume that the rejection is personal
Sometimes we are left out, but even then, the oversight might not be personal. I often say, "Not everyone can be invited to everything. And that should be okay. We aren't in high school!"
2) Ban negative self-talk
When we feel rejected, we shouldn't take it out on ourselves. It's too easy to kick ourselves when we are already down. If we aren't careful we can take rejection from others to heart and start a pattern of self-rejection through negative self-talk. When we feel hurt, we have a tendency to make matters worse because we talk to ourselves in a negative way. The voice in our head is often negative and critical, saying things like, "I shouldn't feel this way," or "I'm so stupid," or some other negative comment. If Jesus doesn't talk to us that way, why do we think it's okay to be mean to ourselves? When you catch yourself being self-critical and self-rejecting, you have to pray that Jesus will help you see yourself the way He sees you and that you will treat yourself the way He wants you treated.
3) Remember how Jesus sees you
Reassurance from other people will never be enough until we know we are loved and valued by God. God made this promise to His people, the Israelites, and repeated it again to believers in Jesus: "Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6,8; Hebrews 13:5). What a comfort! Jesus, by His very nature, will never and can never reject us. People may hurt our feelings, leave us out, or even break our hearts, but Jesus loves us, accepts us, and will never leave us. Once we dig in and understand how Jesus sees us and stays with us, we can live lives secure in His love. We can grow from self-rejection to self-compassion.
4) Connect with people who care about you
When we feel rejected, we don't feel like we belong. Rejection's pain is especially painful because it touches on our deepest fear triggers of, "Am I good enough? Am I worth loving?"
We have to get that deep sense of belonging back, first by connecting to Jesus, then by connecting with others. Our close friends or family members often provide the reality check we need, reminding us that we are loved, that we are accepted, and that we belong. Having good friends that you can visit or talk to at a moment's notice restores our need for connection.
5) Ask yourself, "What would I tell my best friend?"
When we feel pain, we tend to take a negative outlook on things, brooding over worst-case scenarios in our head. But if we get a little distance from our pain, we will be able to see it more clearly. If your best friend came to you and told you about the situation, what would your encouragement to her be? Because when it's a friend's pain and not our own, we're less likely to overgeneralize or blow things out of proportion.
As we learn to fight our fears, especially the fear of rejection, we become better equipped to deal with that fear and learn not to let it keep us from living our lives with joy and purpose.