Finding Healing From Same-Sex Relationships

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In the novel The Color Purple, the main character Celie develops an intimate relationship with another woman, Shug Avery. Though she is a married woman, her husband abuses her, so she seeks respite in the arms of a kind friend who pays attention to her.

Though we might think this is the kind of scenario reserved for the pages of fiction, I believe this kind of situation is not uncommon. Though the details might not unfold in exactly the same way in every story, we may find ourselves more susceptible to finding love in a place we never thought we would in the wake of a rejection of some kind, abandonment, or other serious attack to our worth.

Certainly, same-sex relationships can happen because individuals have feelings for or an attraction to the same sex, but as The Color Purple illustrates, individuals who never struggled with a same-sex attraction can drift into same-sex relationships for emotional fulfillment and security, especially if those individuals are in a place of feeling unloved and insecure.

I would know — because this happened to me.

My Story of Same-Sex Relationships

When I was in high school, I had friendships with other girls that started off as regular friendships and then grew physical. This wasn’t a pre-meditated decision. I wasn’t struggling with same-sex attraction or unaware of what the Bible said about homosexuality. I grew up in a Christian home and knew the Bible’s stance on same-sex relationships.

But I was afraid of the opposite sex. I went through an awkward stage in middle school and early high school and was teased by a handful of my male peers. Sensitive and insecure, I internalized the criticism and determined something was wrong with me. I bought into the lie that no guy could ever like me. Even as I had interest from some males and friendships with males that developed into dating relationships, I secretly believed that they could not really care about me.

I needed an out for the pain I experienced when others rejected me and a place to boost my sagging sense of worth. I didn’t know how to place my identity in Christ or find in Him the love and acceptance I was missing. Therefore, these physical relationships evolved. I denied what was really happening and even thought that I was saving myself for marriage.

Even though this experimentation with the same sex ended before I graduated from high school, I carried a deep sense of shame for what I had participated in. I resolved that I would never tell anyone what I had done. I would keep my past sins a secret.

However, I didn’t know that stuffing down your sin doesn’t heal or liberate you. It places you in bondage. To get free, we have to do as the Bible says and choose to walk in the light (1 John 1:7-9). The Bible says that we are to confess our sins to others and bring out in the open what we are hiding (James 5:16). Although individual confession in our own prayer time is needed, we also find healing by sharing our sin struggles with others and asking others to pray for us.

Certainly, open confession isn’t advisable in every circumstance, and we shouldn’t run around and confess every thought and action. In addition, we should be wise about whom we confide in, as there are some who can’t handle the details of our story. However, we find a great release of guilt and shame when we choose to be transparent with others.

This could look different depending on our circumstance, but this might mean confessing to a fellow believer, pastor/church leader, or Christian counselor. This may mean telling others our testimony, as I am doing here. Whatever the case, God will lead us in the right way to go when we open ourselves to Him and choose to surrender over the dark parts of our life that need redemption.

Walking in the Light of God’s Freedom

Some time ago, I watched a documentary where siblings, abandoned by their mother, went on a search to find out their mother’s identity and the reasons for their abandonment. With the help of an agency, the agency found a relative in their mother’s family and set up a meeting to meet with her. The aunt, as she identified herself, gave details about their mother. Yet, after the initial meeting, when the agency pressed for further meetings and details, a truth immerged that no one expected: the “aunt” was actually the biological mother of the children. She was afraid to tell the truth because she didn’t want to inflict more pain on her adult children and identify herself as the one who had abandoned them. Yet, when the agency suspected the truth based on the details she gave, she finally caved.

Before her confession, her secrets were weighing on her so heavily she had been having heart problems, but when she chose to be honest about her shortcomings, the burden of guilt and shame she had carried lifted — and her heart problem began to improve.

I tell this story because confession is not easy. Those of us raised in the church may have the hardest time confessing sin because we know better, and it’s all too easy to play the perfect game by dressing up each Sunday and warning a pew, but no healing can come until we get honest with God and sometimes others, depending on the situation. Only then can healing come.

God Heals Us When We Turn to Him

If you are someone who has had same-sex experiences in your past, you don’t have to live in shame and condemnation. Maybe you have always felt different and have been attracted to the same sex. Or maybe, like me, you found yourself involved in a relationship with the same sex at a time in your life when you felt unloved or unworthy. Or maybe you are someone is attracted to both genders and consider yourself bisexual.

Whatever the case, when we veer outside of God’s plan for sex and relationships, our actions cause burdens of shame and guilt that we cannot remove on our own. God promises not to turn anyone away who comes to Him — and grants healing to those who call on Him and desire to walk in His ways.

If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can do that now and ask Him to help you walk a new way. And, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you can approach Him with confidence as a beloved child of God. In either scenario, He is waiting with open arms.

Related Resources:

This is part of a 2-part series on same-sex relationships. Check out my first article in the series about what our approach should be as Christians to the topic. If you’d like to hear more details about my personal testimony, check out my podcast episode at the top of this post.

Feel a little confused about what it means to confess our sins to others and what the Bible says about confession? Check out this free resource detailing a few guidelines about confession (when to share and when not to) that I’ve learned on my journey.

Want to learn more about breaking free of sexual sin? Check out these following articles on severing unwanted soul ties: “Breaking Negative Soul Ties; Getting Rid of Emotional and Romantic Baggage” and “Breaking Unhealthy Soul Ties: How to Get Over Past Romantic Relationships.”

*Updated September 15, 2018.

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Helping Others in the Midst of Your Pain

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An ultrasound when you’re not pregnant has to be just about the saddest thing ever.

That was my thought as I walked into my doctor’s office a week after a devastating miscarriage. I was scheduled for a follow-up ultrasound to check on me after a surgery at the hospital the week before.

I could visualize it now: my empty uterus blown up on the screen, its rounded walls encircling life no longer. No comforting blinking blip of a baby’s heartbeat — just a yawning expanse of gray fuzz where a fetus had been just a few weeks earlier.

To make matters worse, I was not feeling great. I had a racing heartbeat and low iron levels. Walking from the car up to the office was an effort for me. I felt sorry for myself, and I was prepared for others to feel sorry for me too. I figured God had arranged a motherly ultrasound tech to do the ultrasound, perhaps a kind nurse to minister to me in my time of brokenness.

But God had other plans.

Telling Our Story Helps Others Find Healing

The ultrasound tech who found me in the waiting room was not the maternal tech I was hoping for. She was younger than me, thin. There was a vulnerability about her. Although she gave me instructions in a most professional way about what clothes to remove and where to position myself on the table, I felt a sensitivity immediately in my spirit, a prick.

We chatted pleasantly for a few minutes. As pleasant as a conversation about a lost baby can be. Yes, I did just lose my baby at 11 1/2 weeks. Yes, I was supposed to have my 12 week ultrasound today, but instead they changed it to my post-miscarriage ultrasound. No, this was not my first pregnancy. The conversation then took a rather innocent turn. I had mistakenly thought that my ultrasound was going to be after my doctor exam (and urine sample) and had filled up on water. So, I commented on how excruciating it can be to have an ultrasound with a full bladder. She began to relate a story to me of an ultrasound she had had recently where she was in intense discomfort.

I assumed she had children and asked how many she had. She quickly explained that she had no children but had actually had an ultrasound to look at a cyst on her uterus that she had been having problems with for the past few years. The moment that she said “cyst” a word dropped into my brain, and I tried to shake it off, but it came again. Unforgiveness. She continued to talk and the word came again. Unforgiveness. It drowned out all other sounds and kept interrupting my thoughts like an incoming message chime in an email.

As much as I would like to say that I am a wonderful Christian and that I wanted to speak to this woman and tell her about my own past struggles with unforgiveness and the physical problems it caused me, I really didn’t. However, I also know that God gives me very specific words for people at extremely inconvenient times, and when I ignore His assignments I always regret it. Feeling a thin film of sweat develop on my brow, I made my way off the table and into the bathroom to get the rest of my clothes on. God, do you want me to tell her that her condition may be caused by unforgiveness in a relationship? I only heard silence and the efficient hum of the ultrasound tech’s movements on the other side of the door.

I already knew the answer.

In the least awkward way possible, I opened the door, smiled at the woman and said to her, “I am not a medical professional, and this may not even be for you, but when you were talking about cysts a moment ago, I got a word in my mind for you.” I then proceeded to tell her I was a Christian and how my decision to hold onto hatred for a friend after she had hurt me had caused a problem with bleeding.

The issue continued for over a month until I felt convicted and apologized to my friend. The very day I forgave her and sent her an apology email the problem went away. I told the ultrasound tech that sometimes we just get physical problems (we live in a fallen world and experience illness as a result), but at times we get physical problems as a result of emotional or spiritual problems. I offered her my story and told her I did not want her to suffer, so she could weigh out if what I said applied to her.

The awkward thing for me in that moment was I could very well have been wrong. I could have imagined the words in my head and imagined that it had anything to do with her. I could have greatly offended her and made a stressful situation worse. Yet, Jesus was bold with people. He gave them actions to complete and didn’t mince words. He was compassionate, but he didn’t just stand around and lament the condition people were in. He healed them.

I wasn’t Jesus and I didn’t even feel much like Him in that moment, but if He was indeed giving me these words for this woman, He was offering her a step to healing. And a step to Himself.

I was just a flawed woman in a doctor’s office after the loss of a pregnancy. A woman feeling dizzy and lightheaded and sad for my baby. But when I began talking, I felt such strength and power, as only Christ can provide, and I didn’t feel sad at all. My problems were so far removed from me at that moment. And I really felt that there was something sadder than an ultrasound when you aren’t pregnant: a person without the hope of Jesus Christ.

Even in my condition, I had a hope to lean the weight of my sadness on.

She didn’t say much in response, but I could tell by the look in her eyes that my words had moved her. And because nothing else came to mind and she looked like she needed a moment to process everything, I gave her a hug and stepped away. I didn’t know what was going on her life or what was going on with her body, but God did. And all I could do was offer Him.

Helping Others Helps Us Heal

The lesson I learned in the ultrasound room is this: God wants to use me even when I feel that I am at my lowest and weakest point. He always has others on His mind. While I mainly have myself on my mind — reaching out and ministering to others in my own broken state can heal not only the other person but can help to heal my own heart. As Shelene Bryan notes in Love, Skip, Jump, “It is in sacrificially loving others that God can use us and fulfill us in a way that nothing else can. By surrendering our plans and desires to Him we can be part of something He wants to do.”

Is there something right now that the Lord might be asking of you? Something that makes you a little scared, a little uncomfortable? You may have to push aside your own desires or even reach out in the midst of your own suffering, but if you do, you may be able to forget your own sadness and feel the goodness of God in the midst of your pain.

Related Resources:

As stated in the article, physical illness is not always a result of an emotional issue or sin in our lives. Physical illness is part of the fallen world we live in. However, sometimes our physical illness can come as a result of emotional pain or sin struggles in our lives. If you’re interested in learning more about illness that comes as a result of an issue in our lives such as unforgiveness, check out this series on healing: Part One: Is There a Healing Formula in the Bible?, Part Two: How Confession Brings Healing, Part Three: How Repentance Brings Healing.

Have you missed hearing co-hosts Suzy Lolley and Carol Whitaker talk through the points of our posts on our podcast? We’ve taken a break from the podcast this summer, but we’re coming back in September, so mark your calendars! Our first podcast for Season 2 will cover what our view as Christians should be on homosexuality.  Check out our podcast archive from Season 1 if you would like to circle back and listen to any episodes you missed.

*Updated and adapted from a post originally published November 8, 2014.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How Shutting Down My Negative Self-Talk Helped Me Accept Myself

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Sometimes the simplest things make the biggest difference.

Take for instance when I was teaching: My student standardized test scores at the end of my first year were low, and I knew I needed to improve those. After attending a workshop on teaching strategies, I did some serious praying and realized that I was doing too much of the work for my students. I was reading the text and explaining and analyzing — apparently to an audience of air — because while all of my brilliant discussion was going on most of my students were daydreaming about what they were going to eat for lunch.

So, I replaced some of my teacher-centered activities with more student-centered ones. Rather than only have students listen to a story and fill out teacher-generated questions, I had them read portions of the story on their own and record their observations and notes in dialogue journals, two-column notes, and story maps. The change was really a simple one for me: I didn’t have to come up with all of the questions for the stories and could use fabricated graphic organizer templates, merely changing up the categories depending on the assignment.

That small adjustment paid off for me in a big way in my test scores the next few years.

Replacing Negative Thoughts With God’s Truth

I’ve found a similar principle to be true in my spiritual life as well: Sometimes minute tweaks can have a big impact. One small but big change that has begun to transform my thought life is simply taking God at His word and believing and speaking His truth over myself.

I didn’t even realize until recently that I was allowing my mind to be infiltrated by lies from the enemy. The area that I was allowing Him to infiltrate the most was in the area of my self-worth.

Somewhere around the time I was 11 or 12, I began to speak negative words over myself. The tape that I had playing in my head sounded like this: There is something wrong with you. No one likes you. You’re not pretty. You’re not enough. You aren’t smart like other people. Obviously, most adolescents do have negative thoughts running through their minds as their bodies change; however, I clung onto these words as absolute truth and let them stay with me into adulthood.

What I didn’t know at the time is that I always had a choice and didn’t know it. I chose to get into agreement with the devil about my self-worth, and by allowing degrading words to invade my thoughts throughout the day, I began to feel really badly about myself. I felt shame and imagined rejection in all of my relationships.

The words began to affect my health and my sense of well-being. All the time that I was letting this internal tape play, I was literally speaking curses over myself and impairing my ability to have successful relationships because I was so insecure and needy.

The simple truth I came across at the age of 34 was this: To change how I felt about myself, I had to start accepting what God said about me and begin to speak those truths over myself. As Joyce Meyer advocates in Approval Addiction, the only way Satan’s lies can destroy me is if I get into agreement with the lies and out of agreement with God’s truth. As Meyer says:

According to Paul’s letter to the Romans, God is for us. We also know that Satan is against us. The question we must ask is are we going to get into agreement with God or with the devil? You know the answer. Stop being against yourself just because Satan is against you!

The truth that I started to speak over myself is this: I am loved. I am forgiven. I am beautiful. God created works for me to do in advance. He has a plan for me and my life.

You might be reading this, thinking: That’s it? That’s how you revolutionized the way you thought about yourself? Yep! It’s hard to believe that such a simple change could truly make me love myself after years of rejecting the creation God had made.

There are still times the ugly lies present themselves and my confidence is shaken — when I fail or make a mistake and the harsh words of others remind me of my past or my downfalls. Yet, when I hear those old familiar phrases coming back to wreak havoc, I know to resist them.

As a result, I feel happier and more refreshed. I have the confidence to put myself out there in new relationships because I don’t have to fear the risk of rejection.

Meyer comments on the self-assuredness we can have in Christ if we refuse to allow Satan to attack us:

Satan works through people as well as independently. He attacks our confidence through the things people say or don’t say … If people’s opinions, judgments and attitudes toward us are sometimes inspired by the devil, instead of agreeing with what they think and say, we must resist it. If we know God is for us, then it shouldn’t matter how we feel, or what people think of us.

Refusing to Believe Lies About Your Self-Worth

I encourage you to be honest with yourself right now: What are the lies you are speaking over yourself? What have people said about you that might be crippling your confidence and ability to step out into a fulfilling life? How might you be different if you begin to take God at His word and believe that you are a special and precious creation with a unique purpose for your life?

The antidote to the crippling deception of the enemy is to stand firm against those lies and instead dwell on God’s truth. And, as Meyer concludes in her chapter, “Once we understand how God sees us through Christ, we can refrain from caring about what people think about us, and feeling bad about ourselves. ”

Truths to Help You Feel Better About Yourself

When you feel reminded of your bad choices: Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

When you feel bad about your appearance: Psalm 139:3: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

When you feel like your life has no purpose: Jeremiah 29:11: ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ”

When others come against you: Romans 8:31: “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

When you feel unloved: Romans 8:37: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither present nor the future … will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Related Resources:

Charles Stanley, a pastor and author, suffered rejection as a child and has written extensively about the damaging effects of rejection and self-rejection. Click here for his devotional on self-rejection featured on Crosswalk online magazine.

Have you experienced rejection and, as a result, find yourself trying to perform to avoid rejection from those around you? Do you have a hard time standing up for yourself or saying no because you fear others’ reactions? Joyce Meyer talks about how to not let the desire for others’ approval dominate your life in Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone.

*Updated and adapted from a post originally published December 13, 2014.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Reacting to Rejection in a Healthy Way

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“Why is she sitting here?”

The question came hurling across the table like a comet at full-force from a boy with Ken Barbie-like blond locks. He had been in my fifth grade class, and we had exchanged notes during math lessons. But suddenly, just two years later, he pretended like he didn’t know me.

He was asking the question about me.

Our middle school had a strict eight-person-to-a-table rule, and he made it clear that I was taking up valuable space.

My best friend shrugged off his question while I sat frozen in shame. She had risen to the top of the junior high social stratosphere in the first few weeks of school, while I remained somewhere near the bottom. I munched my sandwich in silence the rest of the period, and when lunch mercifully came to a close, I never returned back to that table.

Obviously, that was middle school, but as I mention in a previous article, the reality is that rejection is not isolated to the middle school setting. And those rejections that happen to us — even from a long time ago — can have real and lasting impacts on our sense of worth.

So, knowing that rejection can damage us greatly if we don’t work through it in a healthy manner, how should we react when we are rejected? I’ve listed three truths to keep in mind when processing through a painful rejection:

1. What we believe about ourselves makes all the difference.

Here at Beulah Girl, we preach that what we believe about ourselves is important because our actions flow out of our beliefs. Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV) tells us that as a man thinks in his heart so is he. If we are being told in a situation that we are [fill-in-the-blank], we may believe it and act accordingly. Has the rejection you experienced or are experiencing making you believe that you have no value? A mistake? Someone who always ruins relationships?

Particularly, when we are rejected, we might take a person’s negative words spoken over us and adopt those as truth. Or, we may take our anger we feel when others are unkind to us and funnel it inward with negative thoughts such as, “I always mess up relationships. I knew I shouldn’t have said that comment. If I was just [fill-in-the-blank], this wouldn’t have happened. No one could ever love me.”

Instead of reacting in unhealthy ways in our anger when we experience rejection, we need to refuse to embrace lies about our identity. We need to replace the wrong statements others have said with truth from God’s Word: He loves us. He has plans for us. He wants to use our unique gifts and abilities to minister to others. He chose us to be His sons and daughters! Rejection from others doesn’t have to cause us to reject ourselves. But we have to be more aware when we are rejected about the thoughts we are allowing to play in our heads — as the enemy would like to use our pain to turn us against ourselves and God.

2. Know that sometimes our actions are contributing to rejection.

Clearly, as I mentioned, when we are rejected, we shouldn’t adopt the malicious words spoken over us or channel anger inward when situations don’t go our way. Many times, rejection just comes out of the blue — and we did nothing wrong. A person or group just doesn’t like us or simply chooses another person for a position or promotion.

However, there are situations when the fault isn’t entirely the other person’s and we contributed to the fallout or loss of opportunity. Often, if we have been rejected multiple times, we may be trapped in a cycle of rejection and not even know it! We may be so angry and hurt by the rejections and abuses that have happened to us that we have developed unhealthy coping behaviors to protect us — and these may be causing us to experience more rejection.

While we shouldn’t walk around in self-condemnation every time we are rejected assuming perceived deficiencies about ourselves that don’t exist (or blame ourselves for situations that were not within our control), we need to allow God to give us His perspective on what happened. If we receive an accusation or are rejected in a relationship, is there truth to what the other person is saying about us? Is there a way that we behaved that caused the other person to lose confidence in us?

If we truly want to come to a place of healing in a place of hurt left by rejection or break out of an unhealthy cycle of rejection, we must be willing to surrender our anger and offense over to Jesus. We need to approach the circumstance not just by looking at what the other person did to hurt us, but by asking: “Lord, is there an offensive way in me?”(Psalm 139:4).

God will help us to clearly see if we acted in a way that needs to change and how we should proceed forward in a relationship. We can know that God doesn’t point out our failure to condemn us. Our wrong choices come out of our sin nature and are not who we are in Christ. He points our wrong so that we can confess our wrong to Him (and others in some cases) and get the closure and healing we need (James 5:16; 1 John 1:9; Acts 3:19).

3. Know that some relationships and opportunities are not meant to be.

Rejection is painful and is that which has negative connotations for all of us. When we are left out or aren’t chosen for an opportunity, we obsess about how we could have acted differently, what we could done to make events go the way we wanted — but the truth is that some situations and relationships are not meant to be. The Bible tells us that we make our plans, but it is the Lord who directs our steps (Prov. 16:9).

In the case of my middle school table incident I described earlier, I desperately wanted acceptance from this group. But in looking back at that situation from an adult perspective, I am glad that I wasn’t welcomed by these kids. They were a popular group that wasn’t always nice to others and were not kids that would challenge me in my walk with God. The rejection that felt so painful at the time was God’s protective hand steering me away from influences that weren’t good for me.

Similarly, in your place of rejection, is it possible that God is not allowing an opportunity or friendship to work out because it won’t be good for you in the long run? While it’s not always easy to make those assessments in the moment, we need to trust in those painful relationship fallouts and opportunity losses that God is sovereign and may not be allowing what we want because He’s got something better for us down the road.

Conclusion:

No matter how many times we’ve been rejected, we don’t have to become crippled by our pain. Even if we have been horribly treated in multiple situations, God can use even those situations where we were mistreated for good in our lives.

By processing through our rejections with the Lord and opening ourselves up to His honest assessment of our actions, we can receive the healing we need to move on from our rejections, as well as embrace new relationships and opportunities as they come.

While we won’t always be welcomed to the table by others, we can know that there is One who always invites us in.

Related Resources:

This is the final article in a 3-part series on rejection. Check out the first two articles in the series on how we get trapped in a cycle of rejection and getting out of a cycle of rejection.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Why Do I Keep Getting Rejected? Learning to Break Out of a Cycle of Rejection

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Some time ago, a story of a girl who helped her boyfriend commit suicide via text shocked the nation. In this sad case, the girl was aware of the boy’s intentions to end his life, and texted and talked with him on the phone when he was in the process of poisoning himself with carbon monoxide.

In the trial, the prosecutor noted that a motive she had when she persuaded him to commit suicide was attention. According to an article from US News and World Report, she thought by having a boyfriend who had committed suicide she could garner attention and sympathy as the “grieving girlfriend.”

Clearly, this girl’s need to have social acceptance was great enough that she was willing to encourage another human being to kill himself.

As her actions show us, social acceptance is a need that we all have. Often, though, we don’t feel accepted or loved, and in that place of rejection we can make terrible decisions that only make us experience more rejection. For this young woman, her decision brought more rejection by the community and her boyfriend’s family — and also a 15-month jail sentence.

While most of us won’t go to these lengths for acceptance, we may make poor choices in our desire for acceptance. However, even when we make bad decisions because of our desire for acceptance or attempt to hurt others who have rejected us, we can break out of those bad decisions and not be caught in a cycle of rejection. To look a little closer at how we do this, we can look at a story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10.

Zacchaeus: A Man Caught in a Cycle of Rejection?

Zacchaeus was a guy no one liked. He was a tax collector and collected beyond what was due. People hated him because he stole from them. Yet, Jesus had a different reaction to him. Jesus sought him out. In fact, Jesus knew exactly where to find him — in a sycamore-fig tree — and called him down from the tree and invited himself over for dinner.

Jesus didn’t act disgusted by Zacchaeus or give him a religious speech about how he needed to clean himself up. Jesus just loved Zacchaeus. He was willing to get close and personal in this man’s life. Though Zacchaeus was guilty of sin, he was searching. He was lonely. He was in need. Jesus knew that. Jesus knew what Zacchaeus needed to break out of his rut.

Zacchaeus was caught up in a sin cycle of stealing from others, but we also might say that it was possible that Zacchaeus was caught up in a cycle of rejection. What does that look like exactly?

I am basing this “cycle of rejection” definition on what Pastor Mike Riches defines as an offense cycle in Living Free. Basically, people who have been rejected have been sinned against. People have laughed at them or have been unkind to them or have mistreated them. In response, the person has acted in sinful ways in their anger.

Unfortunately, this sin response has plunged them into further rejection because their actions/sin gave a foothold, or place of access, to the enemy. Because they’ve given access to the enemy, behaviors that are undesirable have resulted: uncontrollable anger, bitterness, etc. This, in turn, has made the person experience more rejection because of their undesirable behaviors — and the cycle continues.

Could it be that Zacchaeus was caught in a cycle of rejection? We don’t know for sure, but it’s possible, according to one study, that as he cheated people out of money and became hated, he fought back by taking more money. Or maybe he was laughed at for his small stature. Maybe he had “short man syndrome,” and he attained an important job to show everyone how important he really was — only to find himself isolated in a big house, shunned by everyone in town.

Whether he was cheating others because of their rejection of him or just to get rich, Jesus’ love for him helped Zacchaeus break out of his sinful pattern of stealing. Zacchaeus broke out of his sin cycle by repenting and seeking restitution, choosing to do right to the people he had wronged. And, if indeed Zacchaeus was caught up in a cycle or rejection, Jesus helped Zacchaeus not only with his habit of stealing, but with the roots of his rejection as well.

We Can Choose How We React to Rejection

So what does this have to do with you? While we most of the time don’t have any control over the mistreatment or rejection that comes our way, we can choose how we respond. Chances are if we have been rejected, we may have turned to a sinful behavior as a way to cope or lashed out at the people who have hurt us.

However, doing so only gets us caught up in sinful cycle that puts us in bondage. With God’s help, we can break free. Like Zacchaeus, by utilizing forgiveness and taking steps of restitution, we can make right areas that we have wronged others. The following are steps based on those outlined in Riches’ book:

What We Should Do If We’ve Been Rejected or Are Caught in a Cycle of Rejection

1. Ask God to help you identify your wounds of rejection.

We may be able to point to an event or situation that caused our feelings of rejection. However, in some cases, we may have no idea how our wounds entered in or what the root cause of our pain is. Ask God to reveal to you what your wounds are so you can find healing.

I once had a series of dreams where God showed me people from my life that had wounded me. Though the people and wounds were real, the scenarios in my dream were not. They were fictitious, but each one illustrated the wound I was hurt by in each relationship.

After God revealed my wounds to me, I prayed that God would help me forgive each of the people who had hurt me. And, after that experience, I began to see the people and situations differently. In fact, the illustrations in my dreams were sort of funny. After processing through the pain with God, I began to laugh at some of the situations. What had been so hurtful ceased to hurt me any longer.

2. Forgive the people who hurt you.

Once you’ve pressed through the wounding events and are able to identify the wounds, ask God to help you forgive the people. Be specific: “God, so-and-so hurt me when they [fill-in-the-blank]. Help me forgive them for [fill-in-the-blank].” Give it over to God. If the memory pops up at a later time, refuse to give place to the thoughts. Shut reoccurring thoughts of anger down immediately so the wounds cannot take a hold of you once more.

3. Ask God to reveal your own sinful reactions to others’ sin.

This is a hard step. I am not going to minimize that, but ask God to reveal to you ways that you have wrongly reacted to the rejections and injustices done to you. Ask God to reveal to you steps of restitution that need to take place with other people. In your place of hurt, were there ways that you lashed out at others? Were there ways that you retaliated?

It may be awkward to approach the other person and apologize. The person may have difficulty accepting your apology. However, know that you are not responsible for their response — only yours. Give the other person time to come to terms with your wrongdoing and understand that the person may not wish to forgive you or have anything to do with you. However, know that when you apologize, you’re free because you took the right steps despite the other person’s reaction.

4. Stay close to God in the process.

Keep connected with God during and after this process of forgiveness. Satan will attempt to re-insert thoughts and memories about ways this person has hurt you if you let him. Even after you are healed from a wound, there will be the temptation at a later time to hold unforgiveness against a person. Continually make the choice to live free of emotional wounds and forgive others so that you don’t get caught up in a cycle of rejection.

If you are angry at a person in a current situation, remember that the devil is looking for a foothold (Ephesians 4:26, 27). Ephesians warns us not to sin in our anger for good cause! Any time you feel mad, take time to vent to God (not others!) and process through your pain. Every time thoughts of your offense surface, as Riches advocates, work vigilantly to ward off those thoughts rather than nurture them. Pray about ways you can actively bless the people acting as enemies in your life (Luke 6:27, 28).

Conclusion:

Like Zacchaeus, you have the chance to break free from a cycle of rejection. Jesus’ love is enough to heal you of any and all wounds. As Riches outlines, you can adopt a new pattern of reacting to rejection in your life.

Rather than exist in a cycle of rejection or unforgiveness, you can adopt a new forgiveness cycle, as he says, that includes identifying and naming the hurt, confessing thoughts of anger, repenting and resisting sin responses and coping mechanisms, and blessing and releasing your offender.

Related Resources:

This is an article in a 3-part series on rejection. Check out the first article in the series to find out more about dealing with rejection in a healthy manner. Also, check out the related links below the author bio.

To learn more about what restitution looks like, check out my journey to emotional healing that involved going back to several people from my past.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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As a Mom, Why You Don’t Have to Have all the Answers

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As a blogger, I love to dive deep into the why’s of human nature: Why do I act in a certain way in a scenario? Why do I feel this particular emotion in a situation? I read many articles from psychology and health sites to help inform me when I write articles. And yet, there are times when my research has not been able to provide me the answers I needed at crucial moments in my life, particularly in motherhood. At times, I have no idea why I act the way I do or what to do in a particular situation with my kids.

Some time ago, I was plagued by a nagging question that I couldn’t answer: Why do I get so angry with my oldest daughter? She is such an easy-going, smart kid. She is always eager to please and a great helper around the house. When I correct her, she immediately attempts to remedy what I point out. And she is super responsible with her own homework and schoolwork. And yet, I often fuss at her over miniscule things like leaving her wet towels on the floor or not putting the vacuum cleaner away. I feel irritation when she comes downstairs in a mismatched outfit or says a comment that might raise an eyebrow. Then I overreact, feel bad, and do it all over again.

God Answers My Question

After her younger brother was born, my daughter went through a phase where she asked me repeatedly if I loved her as much as her brother. I couldn’t understand why she would even ask me this question until I watched a video of myself around her and her then infant brother. In the video, I sat on the floor holding my son. My daughter, a 3-year-old at the time, hopped around me trying to get my attention. But each time I looked at her, I had a scowl on my face. The way I looked at my son and the way I looked at her was different and evident to me even in the video.

I know I love her, so why the difference in how I treat them? I prayed about the situation and discussed it with friends at my mom group. Some time went by and I didn’t get an answer to my question. And then, as I was reading an article on worth, God’s answer came to me and hit me like a tidal wave: You are deeply afraid your daughter will be unwanted.

Say what? My fear for her was causing me to get angry? I sat in that moment, reeling from the truth of that statement. I read once that anger is a secondary emotion. Often, anger can mask another emotion such as fear. As clinical psychologist Leon F. Seltzer, PhD, explains, we may get angry when another person cuts us off in traffic, but that anger is actually masking an underlying fear we have that we will be hurt in a car accident.

As only God could, He revealed with unnerving accuracy what my irritability was concealing all along. I feared my daughter wouldn’t grow up knowing how much she was worth or feel like she was wanted. Expecting perfect behavior from her and becoming angry when her “performance” faltered was me attempting to mold her into someone who wouldn’t be rejected. But as I have done many times before, I was attempting to “help” and control a situation that I needed to put in God’s hands. I needed to trust God that He had designed her to be the way He wanted her to be and that there would be friends for her in His provision.

God Confides His Secrets to Us When We Walk With Him

Certainly, my daughter needs my guidance and correction, but the kind I was giving her was beyond what was needed. God giving me that nugget of information helped me understand my own emotions and make a change in becoming more patient with her. A verse that has become a life verse for me is Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and He will make your paths straight.”

The verse cautions us to lean on God rather than our own wisdom. However, this default to our flesh — this drift to fix and handle every situation according to our own wisdom, when it comes to our kids or otherwise, is a constant temptation. I can’t control all the circumstances of my daughter’s life so she won’t face rejection or receive challenges to her worth, although I have certainly tried. I can be a support to her, teach her the lessons I have learned, and guide her using biblical principles and God’s wisdom — but I can’t ensure by being a vigilant mom that she will avoid every heartbreak or only have only good things happen to her.

But I needed God’s wisdom to know how to improve our interactions. How awesome that God used an ordinary experience of reading an article to reveal the deep places of my heart to me. Psalm 25:14 tells us, “The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” The King James words it like this: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.”

While many of us view God as distant and stern, the psalm tells us of a God who wants to be our friend. As the NIV puts it, He “confides” in those who walk with Him. Or, as the KJV says, His “secrets” are with those who fear Him. Both words are translated from a word in Hebrew that means “couch.” If you can believe it, God converses with us much like a friend with another friend on a couch! Each revelation of His is like a specially wrapped gift He presents to us. And He counsels us so that we might know how to better know Him and ourselves — and adjust our behavior so that we can allow our paths to be aligned with His.

We Don’t Have to Know Everything as Moms

A few years ago when we moved, I discovered a surprise behind our new house. One day when I was out in the yard, I caught a glimpse of blue between the trees. As I peered to look closer, I noticed a lake — or in actuality, a small pond. Though such a discovery might not be a big deal to someone else, I grew up on the Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. One of the hardest things for me as a young wife in moving to Georgia was leaving behind the soothing blue of water that I saw daily in my hometown. This little pond was like a hidden treasure!

I couldn’t help but think when I came upon it how the treasures God reveals to us in our walk with Him are like that sparkle of blue I saw behind my house. His secrets are those we don’t always expect to find but are those that delight us as they give us knowledge that make our way clear — and help us to make sense of the problems and dilemmas we have no answer for in motherhood and otherwise.

Often as moms we sometimes forget that we’re not alone. Though we may feel overwhelmed at times, God is not far off and is waiting to tell His secrets to those who will choose to trust Him in the journey. We don’t have to know all the answers as mothers; we just need to stay connected to Him as we move through our days. Though He won’t always answer a question we have or immediately respond, He will guide us in the way we should go when we make it our aim to fully know Him and rely on Him.

Related Resources:

As a parent, do you find it difficult to trust when it comes to your kids? Former blog member Jamie Wills shares a hilarious story about her daughter’s antics one day before church — and how what started as a really bad day turned into a really good one.

Sometimes, we struggle to help our kids with their own self-image because ours is so poor. The following resources offer help for boosting feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth: “Healing Your Low Self-Worth and Wounds of Rejection,” “Self-Worth: How to Start Accepting Yourself,” “Self-Worth: How to Feel Better About Yourself.”

*Updated May 15, 2018.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How We Get Trapped in a Cycle of Rejection

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Rejection is perhaps the deepest pain we can feel as humans. Years ago, before there were limitations on the kind of studies you do, they tested babies and the importance of human contact. In the study, one group of babies was fed and their basic needs attended to, but also held and nurtured. Another group of babies was fed and their basic needs attended to, but not held or nurtured with human touch. As the study continued, the group of babies that had the benefit of human touch thrived, whereas the babies that were deprived of human contact died.

Clearly, you can see why these types of studies are not allowed any longer! But the results of the study show us how our Creator intended for us to be loved and be in community with other people. When we feel rejected or unwanted by others, such rejection can have a serious impact on our physical and emotional health — and these impacts reach beyond the infant years.

In fact, if you take a look at the details of many of the high school shooters who have turned against their own classmates, you see a common theme: rejection. These individuals sought retaliation against others who had laughed at them or belittled them. So great was the sting of others’ rejection, they sought revenge with gunfire. The bizarre and violent retaliatory tactics utilized by those who have been rejected or feel unwanted aren’t limited to the high school shooting category. If you choose to investigate other crimes, you will see that in many cases, horrific acts of murder or harm against another person started with a rejection of some kind.

Clearly, then, its important that we take a look at rejection and how to react when we are rejected — because otherwise, we can fall into a cycle of unhealthy behavior that can have negative impacts on our physical or emotional well-being.

Individuals in the Bible Who Suffered Rejection

There is no better place we can turn to than the Bible for vivid examples of individuals who experienced rejection. Leah was someone who wasn’t wanted by her husband. In fact, her husband, Jacob, was tricked into marrying her by Leah’s own father. Jacob actually desired her sister and had been promised her sister, Rachel. So, after the wedding night when Jacob discovered that he hadn’t been given Rachel, but rather Leah, he demanded the sister that he had worked for. He did get Rachel as his second wife, but he never loved both of his wives equally.

Leah spent much of her marriage trying to earn the affections of her disinterested husband. In fact, she didn’t have much leverage in the relationship, so she clung to the one thing that would get her some measure of attention: she bore children. She birthed son after son in an attempt to win her husband’s heart, saying things like, “Surely my husband will love me now” (Genesis 29:32), and, “At last my husband will become attached to me” (Genesis 29:34). But her husband just loved her sister, Rachel, despite Leah’s attempts to gain his attention. At last, we see a reprieve in Leah’s striving when she says after the birth of her fourth son, “This time I will praise the Lord” (Genesis 29:35). Here, she looks to God as her Source, rather than her husband. However, her rivalry with her sister didn’t end, and she did continue to have more children in an effort to “out-do” her sister.

Similarly, we see in the story of Zacchaeus a man who was rejected by his community. His rejection was due to the fact that he was a tax collector and cheated those he collected from, getting rich from the extra profits. However, although it doesn’t tell us this expressly in the story, maybe Zacchaeus’ rejection started long before he became a tax collector. Maybe Zacchaeus always felt like the odd man out because he was so short. Maybe he relished his power over others in his role as tax collector and liked being able to tax those who had rejected him in the past. Or maybe, as advocated in a study I read on rejection, each time Zacchaeus cheated someone, he was rejected — and with each rejection, he took money from the individuals who rejected him. Again, this is just speculation, but it is possible.

What both of these individuals show us is that rejection is painful, but people who are rejected aren’t without sin of their own. In the case of Leah, she got caught in a cycle of approval-seeking and people-pleasing, as each time she had a child she presented the child to her husband with hope that he would love her. She finally broke that cycle when she began looking to God for approval. Similarly, although we’re not expressly told this, Zacchaeus’ rejection by the community may have been that which contributed or even started his pattern of cheating others.

Getting Caught in a Cycle of Rejection

As I mentioned in my last post, in Mike Riches’ book Living Free, he talks about the idea that often in our rejection, we give the enemy access in our lives because in our anger over the rejection, we turn to ungodly reactions or fleshly coping mechanisms to deal with our pain. As the Bible tells us, we are not to anger in our sin and give a foothold [topos] to Satan (Ephesians 4:26, 27). As Riches explains, when we allow our anger to fester over a rejection and don’t resolve it, we may allow that anger to cause us to react in wrong ways to our rejection. In doing so, we give territory to the enemy.

In our wrong responses to others, which might include lashing out in anger, gossiping, talking maliciously about the person, etc., we may open our lives to the enemy and then continue to give him space to operate by developing patterns of thinking and behavior that become strongholds in our lives. These strongholds serve as obstacles in our Christian walk and must be demolished in order for us to walk in freedom (2 Corinthians 10:4). Not only that, but our ungodly responses can help us get caught in a cycle of rejection. I am basing this term on what Riches calls an offense cycle, but basically what the cycle looks like is this:

  1. We experience a rejection or hurt.
  2. In our anger, we react in ungodly ways in our thoughts and actions.
  3. By acting in wrong ways in our anger, we give topos to the enemy — a place of access for him to influence our thoughts and behavior.
  4. Our ungodly behavior — whether it be bitterness, anger, resentment, negative thoughts about ourselves, etc. — causes more rejection.
  5. When we are rejected again, we react again in ungodly ways in our thoughts and actions, and the cycle continues.

For those of us caught in such a cycle, we may wonder why we are constantly rejected and wonder what we can do to stop being rejected. However, as Riches says, most of us won’t be able to see the role we are playing in the rejection, and we’ll simply blame others for the rejections and take on a victim mentality. However, with the help of the Holy Spirit, if we are willing to come to Him and allow Him to pierce through our defense mechanisms and open ourselves up to His help and healing, we can break out of the cycle of rejection that we are caught in. That doesn’t mean we won’t ever be rejected again, but it does mean that we aren’t inviting those rejections with our own behavior, and we’ll be able to handle rejection in a healthy way when it comes around again.

I’ll be discussing the particulars of how to break out of a rejection cycle in my next post, but to touch on it briefly, we can begin to break out of the cycle when we forgive those who have hurt us in our past and ask forgiveness of those we’ve hurt. In addition, when new hurts and offenses come up, we refuse to retaliate or turn to fleshly coping mechanisms, but instead turn to God for healing and choose to forgive those who hurt us — and even bless and do good to our enemies. Luke 6:27 says: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

I’m not saying that there is never a time that we don’t confront someone or call someone out on their behavior. We need the counsel of the Holy Spirit for that, but we do so in a manner worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1), and we do so in love (Ephesians 4:15). Blessing others and seeking not to retaliate against our enemies will help us avoid falling into a cycle of rejection. And, if we have already been caught in a cycle of rejection, we can find an out by choosing to take part in the steps of forgiveness I outlined above.

Living Lives Free of Offense

God wants us to live lives that are free (John 10:10). He does not want us to succumb to heavy chains of unforgiveness. The Bible tells us that “Satan prowls like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We can resist his schemes by refusing to get trapped in a cycle of rejection and instead taking the biblical response to offense. Although harder initially, this refusal to retaliate against our enemies and insistence on blessing and forgiving them keeps our mind and bodies at peace, and out of torment and distress.

Related Resources:

Not only can we get caught in an unhealthy rejection cycle when rejected, we might also attempt to strive for others’ approval in an unhealthy way. Check out the following resources on giving over our relationships and stresses about our performance at work to God: “Learning to Depend on God” and “Spiritual Rest: Letting go of Trying so Hard in Our Work and Relationships.”

Want to hear more from co-host Suzy Lolley from the Beulah Girl Podcast? Check out her blog and Facebook page to read her work and connect with her.

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Healing Your Low Self-Worth and Wounds of Rejection

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My husband teaches high school health, and in looking at a textbook of his, I came across the statement that people who suffer from low self-esteem should focus on the things they are good at and things that they like about themselves in order to boost their self-worth. Obviously, such a practice is positive in that it helps students focus on what they like about themselves, when so many high school students are caught up in negative self-talk and self-hatred.

However, such an exercise is limited in that it encourages students to think about their worth in terms of what they look like and what they do. While both our appearance and abilities contribute to our overall make-up, we feel better about ourselves not when we merely focus on ourselves — our external qualities — or even by looking internally as an end to itself. We feel better about ourselves when we understand that our worth doesn’t come from ourselves but from God. And we can have a better self-image when we understand who God has made us to be and how much He loves us.

To Feel Better About Ourselves, We Have to Know Who We Are

A year ago, as I was writing a project on self-worth and looking up some passages in Genesis, I came across an idea in this same vein in the commentary I read: To know ourselves we must know God. This idea may seem illogical at first glance. But the truth is that we come to know and love ourselves more when we seek God. This happens because as we come to know Him — we, in turn, become more aware of who we are and how much value we have. This happens for the reason that as we grow to know Him, we better understand how loved we are. And believing we are loved or un-loved is at the heart of our worth issues.

Pastor Mike Riches says in Living Free that we are made to love and be loved by a God of love. As he says, people thrive in an environment of love and respect. Such experiences set in each person value, worth, significance, and security.

Conversely, according to Riches, those who do not live in such an environment will lack a sense of value and will live with feelings of insignificance and insecurity. Understandably, a person who has experienced “malicious rejection, injustices, or abuses” will be “severely damaged at the very core of his or her being.”

You may be reading this and be able to recall in your own life specific experiences that hurt you so badly that you questioned your worth as a result. And perhaps you have struggled with those feelings of unworthiness ever since. Or perhaps you are facing a painful rejection right now. Maybe an important relationship in your life has ended or there is a situation at work where you have being mistreated.

As Riches argues, these rejections or abuses can create in us wounds of “love-deprivation.” These are places that can become open doors for Satan to gain access into our lives, if we are not careful. From the time we are young, according to Riches, Satan attempts to get us to believe lies of rejection, abandonment, and fear. If he can do that, he can get a foothold, or territory, in our lives. If we believe we are unloved and unimportant, this absence of love creates the perfect environment for the enemy’s schemes.

You may wonder how it is that the enemy can gain territory in your life if you belong to Christ. While Satan cannot possess a believer who has been sealed by the Holy Spirit, he can certainly oppress a believer, if given access. Ephesians 4:26 says, “ ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Satan can gain a foothold in our lives through our wrong responses to the injustices and wounds that occur to us. If he can get us bogged down in wrong thinking and sinful responses to the injustices done to us, he can make us ineffective Christians tormented by wrong thoughts and sinful behavior patterns — and possibly even get us to turn our back on God.

What are some wrong thoughts and responses? They can vary, according to Riches, but they can include bitterness, resentment, and negative thoughts about ourselves and others. Perhaps if we experience rejection in a relationship, we begin to allow an unhealthy script to play in our head such as, “No one could ever love me. I am different than everyone else. I will just have to be alone for the rest of my life.” Or the script could read, “If God really loved me, He wouldn’t have allowed this to happen. He must hate me.” These are all lies that directly contradict what it says in the Bible about our worth and how much God loves us.

In addition, these feelings can lead to a desire for revenge or retaliation against the person who has hurt us. As Ephesians declares, we are not to sin in our anger. Anger in and of itself is not sinful, but anger that is left unchecked that we nurse and allow to grow can turn into not only wrong thinking, but wrong behavior toward a person. In our anger, we might gossip about a person that has hurt us or attempt to make the person look bad in front of others or lash out at the person. All of these are unbiblical responses that can give Satan a foothold in our lives — and may even, as I discuss further in my next section, be a place where we develop a stronghold in our thoughts or behavior.

Why It’s Important That We Understand How Much Worth We Have

Clearly, as Riches notes, it’s “a biblical and valid concern for us to address the need for human beings to realize their significance, worth, and value” so that we can understand how to react correctly to rejection and abuse and not allow the enemy to gain territory in our lives. However, even if we have reacted wrongly to injustices, we can recover what the enemy has stolen from us and embrace how much God loves us.

The truth is that many of us don’t understand how our wrong responses to the rejection in our lives have put us in bondage. As Riches says, we go through life thinking that we are victims without taking responsibility for how we have reacted wrongly to the rejections. In addition, not only do we, in many cases, respond the wrong way to the rejection and abuses we face, we may also look to replace our feelings of unworthiness with a substitution that can’t give what only God can. As Riches observes, most people don’t even know they have issues with love-deprivation and employ coping mechanisms to compensate. They might become workaholics. Or they might turn to relationships or a substance to attempt to feel better about themselves. Whatever the case, these continued wrong responses and fleshly coping mechanisms become strongholds in the life of a believer.

What are strongholds? Strongholds are patterns in our thinking or actions that become refuges for us apart from God. According to Beth Moore in Breaking Free, strongholds in ancient times were high places near a city that governors could flee to when a city was under attack. The stronghold was high and heavily fortified so that it would be difficult for an enemy to penetrate. In a similar way, strongholds in our spiritual life are fortresses we erect, particularly in times of insecurity, to help us feel protected and safe. However, these strongholds that provide us so much comfort initially cannot save us and will become obstacles in our spiritual life.

As the Bible warns, the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63). When we rely on something else to feel better or base our worth on — whether that be a job, relationship, or talent, we will be disappointed when that thing crumbles. And we will crumble, too. Unfortunately, at times we will fail despite our best efforts. We might get fired. Other people will leave or disappoint us.

The Bible tells us that a wise man builds his house on a rock and the foolish man on sand (Matthew 7:24-27). A wise person builds his identity and sense of worth on that which can never be taken away: God and His love. Understanding that God loves us not because of anything we have done but because of who He is and understanding He chose us to be here and live out a special purpose gives us worth. As Riches emphasizes, when we understand God’s great love, we are made complete in our spiritual walk (Ephesians 3:18-20).

We can’t attain this love or God-given worth from a stellar education, high-paying job, prominent position, large social media following, attractive physical appearance, or romantic relationship. In addition, however ugly it sounds, fixing our attention on something other than God to be our refuge or salvation is idolatry. We begin looking to the job, relationship, material item, or hobby to fill us in a way only God can.

Former NFL player Tim Tebow had to learn this the hard way. For most of his life, he wanted to be a starting quarterback. He lived that dream all through college, but once he got in the NFL, his dreams shattered when he was told by his team that his services weren’t needed anymore. When his NFL team let him go, he struggled because so much of what he had considered part of his identity was gone.

He had to embrace the idea that his worth wasn’t found in a quarterback position or in his athletic ability — his worth was found in Jesus Christ alone. Note what he says in a devotional he wrote about the experience:

When life throws us curve balls or shatters into tiny bits before our eyes, it’s easy to doubt ourselves, God’s plan, even God Himself. But when we’re hurt, disappointed or frustrated by the negative side of thwarted plans, crushed dreams and painful losses, we can still hold on to God’s truth.

We can set the Lord continually before us. We can choose over and over to trust God and believe He’s still got a plan for our lives, even when we don’t have a clue what that is. We may feel shaken by emotions and circumstances, but we’ll always have Someone to hold on to. Someone who will never let us go.

Basing Our Identity on Christ Helps Us Get Through Life’s Injustices

As Christians we need to know that identity and worth come from God. We can find healing for our feelings of low-self-worth and wounds of rejection when we choose to believe what it says in Scripture about who we are in Christ and how much God loves us.

We are told in Genesis that we are made in the image of God and that He made us as the climax of His creation (Genesis 1:27, 28). No mistake on our part can take away the worth that has been bestowed on us by our Creator (Romans 8:38, 39). As followers of Jesus, we are adopted sons and daughters in the family of God (Galatians 3:26-29), co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), seated in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6), considered saints (1 Corinthians 1:2), forgiven and considered holy (Hebrews 10:10), and chosen to do God’s good works (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:12, 13).

Therefore, when bad things happen, we have truths we can speak over ourselves to remind us of our position as Christ followers. However, if we have allowed certain rejections or injustices to give Satan a foothold in our life and establish a stronghold, we have the power through Jesus Christ to break those areas of control we have given Him and find freedom. We can repent of the ways we’ve raised up strongholds in our lives to “fix” our feelings of unworthiness and demolish those fortified places by replacing the lies we are believing with truth. We can also forgive others for the ways they have hurt us and ask them to forgive us for our wrong responses to their rejections and abuses.

Throughout the month, I’ll be talking more about healing from past rejections and the steps to break from a cycle of rejection. To learn more about how to heal from feelings of low self-worth and past rejections, check out my next few articles, and I will explain more in detail about how to see yourself as God sees you and heal from your rejections and injustices.

*Updated May 4, 2018.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How I’m Overcoming My Panic Attacks With the Help of the Holy Spirit (Part 2)

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In this episode, we continue our 2-part series talking with Sheila Michael about her struggle with anxiety and panic attacks. (Check out Part 1 if you would like to hear the first part of Sheila’s testimony.) Sheila shares about what she has learned in her journey about tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome her panic attacks. We also discuss how many believers are afraid of the Holy Spirit or unaware of what the Holy Spirit does — and offer advice about how to live in the power of the Holy Spirit in our Christian walks to overcome not only anxiety, but any of life’s issues we encounter.

Related Resources:

Want to listen to co-hosts Carol Whitaker and Suzy Lolley talk through and explain the points in more of our latest posts? Subscribe on Soundcloud and receive all of our latest episodes!

Is anxiety a struggle for you? Check out the following resources: Overcoming Anxiety With One Simple Question and 2 Strategies for Fighting Against Anxiety.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How I’m Overcoming My Panic Attacks With the Help of the Holy Spirit

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Breathe, breathe, and breathe again! My heart raced like I was running a marathon, but I wasn’t. I was dying, gasping for air. Panic swallowed me in a deep dark cloud. There was no one to call out to! I was in a place of anxiousness and fear. My brain chemistry had set off a red alarm that put my body in panic mode.

The first panic attack I can remember occurred at the age of 10. My experience with panic attacks continued as I grew up. I would hyperventilate so much that once when driving on the interstate with my mother sitting in the passenger’s seat, I had to pull over and get a grip. And I was only 17. The old English origin of the word “worry” is wyrgan, which means “to strangle,” and anxiety was choking me with worry.

We all have our reasons to be anxious — family, job, health, and money are enough, but it does not stop there. We have threats of terrorists lurking to attack in both large and small communities. In fact, it appears we cannot hide our anxiety. According to WebMD,  75-90% of doctors’ visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.

I began to be a frequent flyer to the emergency room at the age of 18. I was certain each time that I was breathing my last breath. The medical staff quickly determined the cause of my problem as anxiety and would hand me a paper bag and say, “Breathe, honey, and relax.” My shaking hands took the bag and began to breathe in and out trying to slow down my breathing. Good grief, it was embarrassing! My doctor just told me I didn’t need to take life so seriously, especially since I was so young. I found myself alone with my problem. I was literally standing outside the hospital with bag in hand.

Experiencing Anxiety as an Adult

Anxiety is a silent killer, because it robbed me of many blessings and kept me from living life the way God wanted me to live. It continued into my adulthood and impacted my body physically. During my stressful, anxious moments, I over-ate and would consume large bags of chips. Anxiety not only impacted my body with weight gain, but with racing heartbeat and trembling hands. My husband and parents stood by with helpful advice but really couldn’t understand what I was experiencing.

I hit rock bottom when I lost my first child. She was born premature and lived three days. I did like most and blamed myself. Grief sucked me up into a tornado of worry and fear. When would my attacks stop robbing me of peace? How was I going to ever live my life when I walked in fear? I was desperate to find relief. I believed in God but was not a devoted follower at the time, and church was not a part of my life. I was relying on just a smidgen of faith from my early childhood. However, when I lost my heart to a little girl, I was directed by her short existence to turn toward my Heavenly Father. Some run away with a broken heart from God, but I didn’t. I chose to turn toward him for comfort. When I turned to Him, my panic attacks became less dramatic and frequent. I wish I could say that those nasty panic attacks left completely, but no, they continued.

In looking back at this season after I lost my child, I realize I wasn’t the only young woman who struggled with panic attacks. In Neil T. Anderson and Rich Miller’s book Freedom From Fearthey state that about 75% of panic disorder sufferers (those who suffer from frequent panic attacks) are women. Most attacks are not caused by physical issues, but to make sure there is no physical cause it is important to see a doctor. I had no physical cause, and I realized that my worries focused around either my thoughts of yesterday’s failures or tomorrow’s expectations.

Some people find that they get panicked about their “today” because their schedule is packed and they can’t do it all. Others worry about tomorrow because tomorrow has a presentation due or deadline for a project, etc. Looking closely into my panic attacks helped me discover what was going on in my head. I realized there was a battle going on and those evil panic attacks were winning.

When those fearful anxious thoughts tried to push my anxiety button, I learned to looked to Scripture. Psalm 34:4-7 (MSG) says:

God met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears. Look at him; give him your warmest smile. Never hide your feelings from him. When I was desperate, I called out, and God got me out of a tight spot. God’s angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray.

As a young woman, and even now as a seasoned woman, I have realized that when I use the Scriptures, God’s knowledge is revealed so I can find the solutions to my daily problems. The words “fear not” (which are significant as I discovered fear is the root of my anxiety) are used 365 times in the Bible. God knew we would need to be told over and over again not to fear because His Word is full of reassurance. When we are under attack, He is the solution! I found that I was allowing the enemy to control my thoughts and my body’s response to those thoughts.

Learning About the Holy Spirit to Help My Anxiety

I didn’t understand that I had the power and authority through Christ to overcome those negative thoughts. Sure, I knew that Christ died on the cross to save me, and I had made a transaction at salvation to repent and turn away from my sins. But when I left the cross promising to live a life for Christ, I didn’t fully understand the power and authority through the Holy Spirit that Christ had given to me. I thought the Holy Spirit existed to prompt my conscience to make good choices so I could live a less sinful life or give me a warm feeling in church. And yes, He does do those things, but He does more. I began to want to know more about the gift of the Holy Spirit, so I prayed and read my Bible to find answers to my questions.

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And He said, ‘Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of His name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: “There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.” You are witnesses of all these things. ‘And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.’ (Luke 24:45-49, NLT)

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit directed men such as Abraham, Moses, Noah, and many more, but the Spirit was not with them all the time because Christ had not died on the cross. The presence of God came in the wind, clouds, fire, and dreams.

After Jesus died to redeem and restore us back into a healed relationship with God, He ascended to heaven but left behind a resource that dwells within us upon conversion and helps us stay connected to God: the Holy Spirit. Think of it this way — the Holy Spirit is like a cell tower that is always on. He assists us in praying to God and receiving His guidance. You stay connected 24/7 to your friends, family, and the world by the use of a technology (cell phones) that most of us don’t fully understand but we use.

Some people excel in the use of it while others learn it at a slower pace. The understanding and the ministry of the Holy Spirit grows when we are willing to pursue God by spending time with Him and reading His Word. Doing these things and acting in obedience to Him produce a natural release of the Holy Spirit in our lives. My anxiety was getting to me even though I had asked God for help. I went back to the Scriptures and saw the same words which declared to me that once a believer I received the gift of the Holy Spirit. It truly takes some people longer to understand something, and I was one of those people. I came to comprehend that the Holy Spirit was a divine gift Christ gave to me in order to restore my life to the original design God created me for and help me live in the way Christ would want me to live.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB)

It was like the lightbulb of truth came on! I was not made for panic attacks and brown bag breathing. Finally I understood it was as the Scriptures declared for my mind was opened to understand His power and authority. In Mike Riches’ book Living Free, he states, “As believing followers of Jesus Christ, we will discover that to be whom we are meant to be, to live the way we are meant to live, and to do what we are meant to do require God’s supernatural power in our lives.”

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere — in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8, NLT)

And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. (Luke 9:1, NASB)

Controlling My Attacks With Holy Spirit Power

I discovered I could control my attacks. God didn’t create me to walk around with a paper bag in my hand and to have endless days of sleepless nights. My solution was so simple but complex at the same time. I had to believe it — really believe — that with the Holy Spirit I could win the war in my mind. I started by taking captive every thought (2 Corinthians 10:5). Each time an anxious thought would come, I asked myself, “Would this be a thought from my Heavenly Father or would Jesus say this?”

When I felt my heart racing, I would begin to sing the simple song, “Jesus Loves Me.” I turned my thoughts toward my Creator, and He would calm me down. Many of my attacks came at 3:00 a.m. while I was sleeping, causing me to wake up gasping for air. So I began to use the time to dial up my Heavenly Father in prayer and talk to Him. I would listen for his voice, and I would hear it reminding me how much He loved me. During the day when I would feel a wave of panic, I would sing a praise song or say the name of Jesus out loud, and peace would come. When I was tempted to check on my children after I had already looked in on them, I would pray and peace would come. When I stood before a crowd as a principal of a school, I would smile and pray as I moved forward to speak.

I allowed God to take control of my life instead of the enemy. Satan’s plan was simple — to keep me distracted by my thoughts of fear and worry. Ironically, when I look back to all those moments of anxiety, I cannot tell you the specifics of many of them, so the things in my mind that got my heartbeat and breathing racing were not important and they were aging me! Matthew 6:26-27 says this about worry, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

If you find yourself struggling with the demands of life’s distractions, don’t rush to grab the paper bag to breathe into but stop and breathe in the Holy Spirit that gives you the power and authority to overcome them.

What can you take away from my experience?

  1. First, believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior. He came to redeem and restore you to the life God created you for.
  2. Believe that Christ gave you a gift of the Holy Spirit — your lifeline to heaven, available 24/7.
  3. His Word is full of guidance and answers to all your life issues.
  4. He has given us the power and authority to stand against the enemy, who wants to make our life full of fear and anxiety.
  5. Taking captive every thought can set you free.

Related Resources:

Want to hear Sheila’s testimony? Tune in to the corresponding podcast on Soundcloud where we explore Sheila’s experience with panic attacks (in Part 1). You don’t want to miss next week where we continue with Sheila and talk about what she learned about tapping into the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome life’s challenges such as anxiety (in Part 2).

In Sheila’s article, she mentions Mike Riches’ book Living Free. Mike Riches is a pastor of a non-denominational church in Gig Harbor, Washington, and is head of the Sycamore Commission, a ministry committed to modeling Christian life and ministry after that of Jesus Christ. Living Free is one of several resources he has authored and is designed to help people know God’s original design when He created us, how Satan has attempted to thwart that design, and how to live “free” and healed — recovering areas of our lives (in terms of our emotions, health, relationships, etc.) that the enemy has stolen from us. If you are interested in learning more about how to live free of bondage and strongholds, click on the link to learn more!

Interested in salvation but want to read more? Check out our Know God page or contact us through the Contact page.

*Updated January 20, 2018.

 

Sheila Michael

Sheila Michael

Sheila is a retired elementary school principal and educator. She spent over thirty years in education and has a specialist degree in educational leadership. She is also a wife, mother of four grown children, and grandmother of 12 amazing kiddos. Sheila enjoys cooking and teaching her grandchildren how to cook. Family gatherings are essential to the Michael “herd,” as they gather to share life with each other. Residing in Georgia, Sheila calls herself a “Southern belle with a twist,” since her husband is from Iowa. Sheila’s personal journey with God has created in her a desire to write and share the “God moments” she has experienced in her life. She loves mentoring young women in their walk with Christ and encouraging families to serve and love the Lord and each other as they navigate through life’s challenges.

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