How to Deal with the Pain of Rejection and Find Healing

how-to-deal-with-the-pain-of-rejection-and-find-healing

As a middle school student, I remember sitting at a lunch table with my much cooler best friend, hearing a boy ask, “Why is she sitting here?”

He, of course, was talking about me. As his words washed over me, I sat frozen in shame. The boy’s inquiry was especially horrifying to me as he had been in my fifth grade class, but here he sat pretending like he didn’t know me. My best friend stumbled around with a defense. But as a few more incidents like that happened, and she skyrocketed to the top of our junior high social infrastructure, our friendship began to dissolve. By the time we reached high school, the only time I ever went over to her house was when her mom asked me to babysit her younger brother.

Obviously, that was middle school, but 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.

As Kristin Weir notes in “The Pain of Social Rejection,” acceptance is a deep primal need. She cites the following research finding from C. Nathan DeWall, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky: “Humans have a fundamental need to belong. Just as we have needs for food and water, we also have needs for positive and lasting relationships.”

However, the truth is that at times we will get the boot in a relationship or a pink slip at a job. There will be times that we don’t measure up to the standards of others or fail in our execution of duties. Yet, if we let our hurt and anger turn to bitterness in the course of the rejection, we will find ourselves enslaved to out-of-control emotions that destroy our future relationships and opportunities.

So, knowing that rejection can damage us greatly if we don’t work through it in a healthy manner, here are three things to keep in mind when dealing with a painful rejection:

1. View rejection as protection.

In a recent article, Lysa Terkeurst writes that there is “usually some element of protection wrapped in every rejection.” I never thought about it like that until I read her statement, but her words are true. While most of us do everything we can to be in a certain group, there are times when God may lead us away from a particular relationship or opportunity because He is protecting us.

In the case of the middle school scenario I described, the rejection felt unbearable at the time because I wanted to be liked by his group of kids. They were popular — and my best friend from my neighborhood, the one whom I had invited to attend public school with me (she was a former private school attendee), was someone I desperately wanted to impress. I can’t tell you how humiliating it was for me to be shamed in front of her by kids I had grown up with. However, rejection from that particular group was actually a good thing for me. They were a fast group of kids who ended up doing a fair share of partying, bent on wordly pursuits.

Because I was blindly pursuing inclusion in this particular group, I could not see that God had given me friends that were more my pace. While I wasn’t as thrilled about the bookish girls at the table I usually sat at, I had much more in common with them. They liked to read books and involved themselves in activities like student government and yearbook. Instead of looking for a grander friend base (when it clearly wasn’t working out), I needed to recognize God’s protection steering me away from influences that weren’t good for me.

2. Everyone experiences rejection: what matters is how we deal with it.

For those of us who have experienced a lot of rejection, we may think we are the only ones. Perhaps we have developed an unhealthy dialogue in our head that goes something like this: This always happens to me. I am always the one who gets left out.

However, the truth is that everyone, at some point, experiences rejection. Whether that be by a spouse, a friend, a parent, a boss, a co-worker, or a sibling. What matters is how we react — what thoughts we allow in our heads as a result of our rejections.

In his article “How to Cope With Rejection,” Dr. Frederic Neuman notes as a psychiatrist he had one self-confident patient who didn’t have much going for him in the looks department, yet he managed to never have a shortage of girlfriends. Conversely, he had a fellow psychiatrist who by all appearances had everything going for him, yet had terrible anxiety (after the breakup of his marriage) about dating women.

What was the difference? When meeting women in a social setting, the patient usually was rejected by several prospective women in a night before he would meet one who would talk to him. He just shrugged off the rejections and kept moving. The psychiatrist, on the other hand, was paralyzed and defeated after his divorce to the point that he was afraid to put himself out there.

If we have numerous rejections or a traumatic experience that rocks our sense of worth, we may be more susceptible to rejection. While our more stable peers may brush off the slights and jeers they receive — we may internalize them and believe everything negative we hear about ourselves. The key is to know what God says about us and, as the pastor at the new church I have been attending says, preach the truth to ourselves every day.

What does God say? We are loved. We are treasured. He delights in us. He formed us in our mother’s womb. He knew us before we were born. His version of us needs to be the filter we use to accept or not accept the words and actions that come our way.

3. Past rejection shouldn’t define our relationships in the present.

Beth Moore makes an adept observation in a recent Proverbs 31 Ministries devotional that the biggest obstacle we have to our next relationship may well be a previous one.

Recently, I had a situation where I dreaded a certain conversation I needed to have with an individual. I had offered some candid comments, and because my honesty had at times in the past caused people to cut off relationships with me, I was sweating this person’s response to me.

However, the person surprised me by not reacting in anger but rather thanking me for my honesty. We were able to have a good conversation after that, and I appreciated the person’s ability not to take offense at my words. My fear over the reaction I anticipated was unfounded. I assumed that the reaction would be one that others had to me, but I found that not to be the case.

As Moore stresses, just because we have been rejected in a past instance does not mean that we will be rejected in a future one. In fact, according to Moore, the very next person we meet may be the most key person to us on our journey. Therefore, we can’t let what has happened in a few relationships ruin or define the new relationships God wants to send our way.

We Need to Work Through Rejection

Rejection is not easy. No one wants to have a middle school type moment and be the one no one talks to or invites to the party. But we should know that rejection is something that we will all experience.

Rather than avoid new relationships or people altogether, we need to work through our rejection, forgive those who have hurt us, ask God to forgive us where we have held any grudges — and keep walking with open hearts knowing that rejection in one’s past doesn’t have to ruin the good God has for us in our future.

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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When We See Ourselves Through His Eyes

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“To be known and accepted are two of the fundamental needs a human has.” — Jennie Allen

My six-year-old daughter and four-year-old son usually play in the backyard as I prepare dinner after school.

I like to keep an eye on them through my cracked kitchen window. But on those days when the temperature is just right and we’re choosing between leftovers or easy dinners, we’ll head out to the front yard for some bike riding. Most of the time, it’s just my kids riding their big wheels up and down the street together. Sometimes my neighbor’s boys come outside and play as well. My son is immediately drawn into playing with them because like most boys, he prefers playing with other kids of his own gender.

Recently, we went outside for our playtime in the front yard. As I watched my kids start to play, I unfolded a chair, placed it on my driveway, and sat down in it to relax. My neighbor’s boys, both six, not too soon after ran outside. They quickly “huddled up” in their front yard to talk about how to play a game. One of the boys started shaking his arm very quickly, making gestures as to give instructions to the other. As the other boy tried to listen attentively, he couldn’t help but laugh at how silly his brother was. They both stopped and had a good laugh as they were about to begin their venture.

My son observed this.

He jumped off his bike that he was riding and ran over to try and “fit in” with joy and expectancy.

They didn’t notice him.

But I did.

He was so sad and disappointed. My heart broke for him.

It broke not only because he was excluded, but because he didn’t see all the love and adoration beaming from MY heart in his direction.

Not only did my heart break for him in that moment, but I was painfully reminded of my younger self. I could see my younger self, as I watched my son, also craving to be seen and acknowledged, wanting to belong.

At the age of 16, I was very involved with our church choir. I looked forward to choir practice activities because I lived in a less-than-two-fun-things-to-do-per-month small, country town. When we all got together for choir practice, we had fun. I thought we were really good friends.

One day on my way into Walmart, I spotted some of the girls from our choir, laughing and playing beside the store’s sliding doors. I anticipated our cheerful reunion because I just knew they would welcome me with a hug, like always. I assumed they would ask how I was and what I was up to like we did at our choir rehearsals.

I happily skipped towards them. “Hey guys, how are you?!” I asked.

They stopped laughing, looked at me, and then turned back and kept talking, like I wasn’t even there. I quickly spoke again, “Hey!” This time they didn’t even stop to look at me. They just ignored me.

I felt invisible.

I thought I was crazy for a moment.

How could they just ignore me? How could they be a friend in one moment and in another not see me? No hug or conversation? I was hurt and confused. I quickly ran in the store to try and escape those feelings, hoping they would go undetected.

Now here I was watching my son feeling invisible.  

As I sat there in my lawn chair watching from the garage door, I felt the need to run to him. To get up and go rescue him the way I would’ve wanted to be rescued standing outside of the Walmart in my teenage years.

I wanted to pick him up, put my arms around him, and pour into him reminders of my love and affection towards him. To reassure him. To protect him. To restore him.

God noticed me watching my son and desiring to reaffirm my love for him that day, and He said to me in a gentle voice, “See? Now do you see how I feel about you? Now do you see how much I love you?”

I jumped up and paced back and forth. How could I have missed this? How could I not know this fact that my Father, my Creator, loved me unconditionally?

As I stood there, I apologized to God for forgetting this reality. I’ve read this truth in His Word, even if I forgot about it in my daily walk:

‘That’s how much you mean to me!

That’s how much I love you!

I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,

trade the creation just for you.

So don’t be afraid. I’m with you.

I’ll round up all your scattered children, pull them in from east and west.’ ”

(Isaiah 43:4-7 — MSG)

Once upon a time, I knew how important I was to God. I don’t have to perform or try and fit in with Him or with anyone. He made me just the way I am. I am His child, and I am loved and accepted just for being me. His approval is all I really need.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t remember this when I encountered my choir friends all those years ago, and I cannot shelter my son from the rejection of his peers like he experienced during our outside playtime. The one thing I can do to is to teach him about God’s love and that God will always see him when others don’t. I hope that he will eventually understand that seeing himself through God’s eyes is most important. However, I know that my son might still try to be visible to others even after my best efforts to guide him.

If this is ever the case, I pray that the Lord will remind my son — just like He reminded me — that He is always there watching over him and loving him unconditionally.

Deidre Dezelle

Deidre Dezelle

With training in culinary arts, business and nursing, Deidre Dezelle is a nurturer at heart. She enjoys catering family and friend functions and hopes to branch out some day and own her own event planning company. Currently a wife and stay-at-home mom, Deidre never thought she would choose the path of domestic engineer, but God placed it on her heart after she started having children. Having a front row seat to watching each one of her children's developmental gains makes Deidre proud. In addition to her roles of wife and mom, Deidre enjoys gardening and couponing, as well as large family gatherings during the holidays. As a child, Deidre had a difficult time finding peace – as she suffered rejection at a young age and often had a hard time controlling her emotions. She found peace when she stopped looking around her and looked above at her Creator. She now strives to keep a home that is Christ-centered, tranquil, and full of love. Writing is relatively new for Deidre. She recently felt a tug to share what God has been speaking to her --- and has begun to write about her God experiences here on Beulah Girl.

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