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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