I knew a lady who wanted her tombstone to read: “To my best friend, my adorable dog, who treated me better than any of my five husbands.” Now that was a lady who had experienced rejection.
As a psychologist, I work with people who suffer from rejection. One guy said he felt so rejected in childhood that even his invisible friend didn’t like him. Inevitably, everyone will be rejected. It’s like meeting the Church Lady, and instead of hearing her say, “You’re special,” she says, “You’re history.” That’s rejection.
What are the characteristics of feeling rejected?
Suspicion. One guy wouldn’t go to football games because he thought the players were talking about him in the huddle. This attitude indicates a lack of trust.
Sensitivity. You have to be really careful around sensitive people because they take everything you do personally. It’s like the girl whose date is late for dinner. She can think about it in different ways. Positively, she realizes she now has a little more time by herself. Or, neurotically, she can think, “He’s trying to get back at me. He’s late because he hates me.” Sensitive people take everything personally.
Self-criticism. We get too serious. We look in the mirror so much that we can’t take compliments anymore. Someone might say, “Your dress looks nice.” Your response: “That old thing? I’ve had it for years.” You put yourself down when people are trying to compliment you. Some pastors are super-spiritual. When you say, “You preached a great message,” the pastor replies, “Well, the Lord did it.” You want to say, “The Lord can preach better than that. I was just trying to compliment you.” Self-critical people belittle themselves, which leads to self-pity.
Self-isolation. Pulling back from people leads to self-destruction. Some people turn to alcohol. The problem is, alcohol makes life worse because you do dumb things. A drunk phoned in a report that thieves had been in his car. “They stole the dashboard, steering wheel, brake pedal, even the accelerator!” he cried out. However, before the police investigation could start, the phone rang again and the same voice said with a hiccup, “Never mind. I was in the backseat.”
Let me tell you how to respond to rejection. Face the fact that people will let you down and that it’s usually the result of their own problems. Don’t take it personally. Have a do-something mindset. Reject the rejection, and decide to do something.
Remember the word “fun.” Loosen up a little bit. Laugh some. Aspirin doesn’t cure your illness. It simply raises your threshold of pain and makes you feel as if you are not feeling as bad as you really are. Joy is spiritual aspirin. It raises the threshold of your pain and helps you through difficulties.
Finally, focus on God’s unconditional love. People will never be able to give you enough love. If you expect them to, you’ll feel rejected and resentful. You’ll have bad relationships because people will always disappoint you. Instead, focus on God’s unconditional love.
A Christmas program featured a 6-year-old handicapped boy who had finally gotten up the courage to be in his first recital. As he struggled across the platform, an older boy made a disparaging remark about the boy’s handicap. Completely demoralized, that little boy just froze and started to sob. A man rose from his seat and walked to the platform. He knelt beside the boy, put his arm around him, and said to the audience, “It takes a very cruel person to say what was just said to this little boy. He is suffering from something that isn’t his fault. This was the first time for him to venture out with his handicap to say anything in public. He’s been hurt deeply, but I want you to know that this little boy is my boy. I love him just the way he is. He belongs to me and I’m proud of him.” My friend, that’s God. That’s unconditional love.
Every leader experiences rejection. I experience it just about every week because I make a decision that people don’t like. I couldn’t make those hard decisions if I didn’t know that when I walk onto the platform, I’m God’s little boy. He loves me unconditionally. It doesn’t matter what I do or what I say. I’m God’s little boy. When you understand that relationship, you can handle any kind of rejection.
How do you feel today? Do you feel low, slow, droopy and pooped? The fairy tale about frogs says a frog is really a prince if only a beautiful lady will kiss him. The only problem is that it is difficult to get a beautiful lady to kiss a frog. But God kisses all of us frogs with His grace and love. When He does, we turn into princes and princesses and realize that we are children of the King. When you understand that, you don’t feel low and slow. You begin to feel like God’s little boy or girl. That’s how to respond to rejection. You may still feel froggy, but remember: Kermit didn’t do so bad feeling that way.