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

girl alone

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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Avoiding Comparison That Leads to Depression

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Hey friend, have you ever looked at someone else and wanted her house, her looks, her promotion, her life? Comparison — looking at others and assessing what they have that we don’t — can lead to negative thoughts that spiral into depression. In this second podcast episode in our depression series, we discuss the common problem women have of looking at others and experiencing discontent. We explore three practical ways we can avoid falling into the trap of negatively comparing ourselves to others and instead celebrate the person God made us to be.

If you haven’t yet listened to episode 5 (our first episode in the depression series) and read the corresponding post, we encourage you to do so. In addition, you can tune in next week for our final episode on depression. We will wrap up our series by taking a candid look at the place depression sometimes leads — suicide — and why suicide is never the answer.

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!

If you’d like to take a look at the resources mentioned in the podcast, check out Sandra Stanley’s Comparison Trap: A 28-Day Devotional for Women and Bob George’s Victory Over Depression.

In addition, though not mentioned in the podcast, the following are a few more articles related to overcoming negative thinking and depression that may be an encouragement and help to you: A Christian Perspective: Overcoming DepressionHow Can I Overcome Negative Thinking Patterns and Depression?, and Why Medicine Won’t Cure Your Depression.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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The Art of Finding Self-Worth: Embracing Your Identity in Christ

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Because of an abusive past, so much of my identity was based in my sexuality. I thought if I was “hot” enough, I would meet my own needs by getting all the attention and affection I desired. I bit the apple of seduction hard by the time I was 15. All I had to do was get skinny enough, buy clothes cute enough, get my makeup right enough . . . and I had power, influence on others, something to offer the world. Power! I had never experienced it before, and it felt good. Here was my salvation, my panacea for the pain and powerlessness of my situation, my way out of a world that didn’t seem to open a lot of positive doors. I could do this thing and do it right!

As a young person, I used to wonder why old people’s faces were so downcast, why so many senior citizens seemed miserable. I’ll tell you why because now I know. Sin takes you farther and deeper than you ever thought possible or ever wanted to go. They may not know enough about God and the Bible to realize that’s what happened to them, but that’s what painted the frown on their face — whether the sin of unforgiveness or bitterness or anger or pride or addiction or whatever other sin they committed in reacting to life’s hard circumstances.

Building Identity on the Foundation of Christ

For me, the sin of seduction began to snake its way into my insecure teen years as my “salvation” until it eventually wove its way into every fabric of my life for decades to come. Even as a Christian, my relationships were marred by it because of the spirit of pride that hid behind it all; I thought I could, by my own means, “get” people to like me. The foundation of all my interactions was me striving, me getting people to like me, which God in His providence allowed to backfire — ultimately causing people to reject me! In many ways, I was a performer on a stage, and eventually, my life did not ring with the truth that causes others to trust; it rang with undertones of “old-man” sexuality and the serpent that had controlled my life for so long. My relationships and ability to be real with those I cared about collapsed around me, and because I chose not to identify completely with Christ, my foundation in Him was crumbling.

Every now and again, God can speak a word into one’s spirit that seems to set their course for a lifetime. As a new Christian at 18 and an artist, I remember one such encounter with God as if it were a visitation from God Himself. He said, “Are you willing to paint paintings in life and give them away?” It doesn’t sound like a visitation to you, but to me, it got right to the heart of who I was. I thought of what that would mean. Use my gift to give it away. Get no glory. Have no tangible proof of my worthiness. Have nothing to hang in my house to point to and say, “I am wanted; there is good in me; I am worthy.”

God’s presence was there in a solemn way waiting for my answer. I panicked. There was God asking a simple question, and I felt myself delaying, drifting away with each second passing until my answer, pitifully, was a bewildered, “No, sorry, God” — revealing the depth of inculcation this snake of seduction had wrapped into my soul. I said, “God, I want to, but I just don’t know how I could get people to like me — if I don’t have my art to show them.”

It’s the “little” decisions we make like this that part the seas wide open in our lives to live for God — or not. It’s not about going to church on Sunday and getting dressed up and saying all the right things when inside we are telling God no about emptying ourselves of that which would give us identity and purpose outside of Himself. The way we go about feeling worthy tells everything about us.

It goes right to the joint and marrow of who we are. Do we get a sense of dignity, purpose, and worth from the amazing presence of Christ within us? Do we break the bread and drink the wine imbibing all the sweetness of what Christ did for us, smelling the rose of Sharon in our lives? Do we sense the holy royalty of Christ emerging as we take pity on the least person in our lives — the janitor, the garbage-man, the homeless?

Or do we grab the American dream in some way, piling SUV’s, latte buzzes, the latest technology, the cliques, the “ministry” or designer clothes that we wear to “dress up for God” into our lives to point to our “art” and say to the world, “I am worthy; look at what I have created”?

Emptying Yourself to Be Filled With Christ

Exodus 20:4 (NLT) says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” But so often, we make ourselves an idol. Feeling the pangs of insecurity, we want to be admired, esteemed, and respected to excess. While Jesus validates our need for honor, the path to it is always to go lower. As we go lower and humble ourselves, we empty ourselves that God may fill us and be all-in-all.

And since God is a blessing God, He can’t “resist” an empty vessel.

In 2 Kings 4, a widow approaches Elijah. Her prophet-husband had died with creditors about to seize her sons. All she had was a little jar of oil, so Elijah instructed her to borrow all the vessels she possibly could and not “just a few” (v. 3). Then she was instructed to come inside and close the door. She began to pour oil and poured and poured until every vessel was filled; then she sold the oil to pay her debts. She had to get the empty vessels, and she had to shut the door. We don’t always want to borrow things, to be in need, to get the empty vessels or to be one, for that matter — and we don’t always shut the door. But we have to empty ourselves if we want God to fill us.

Unfortunately, sometimes instead of waiting for God to honor us, we carve out some worship for ourselves. We want people to see what we’re doing. John the Baptist set the example when he said, “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, ESV). However, so many of us are guilty of selfish ambition — the sin that drove Satan from heaven itself. Are we trying to go up — to ascend in a selfishly ambitious way? Or are we trying to come down? To descend and humble ourselves like Jesus did, empty ourselves, and ironically find the greatest fulfillment of worth in being empty for God?

Mercifully, God has a way of stripping us. I had a dream in which I perched on a stool in front of a huge makeup case. I said out loud, “The princess (i.e., myself) has almost this much makeup.” Suddenly, the stool fell over, the makeup case tumbled, hitting a man in our church who had a heart problem, and also toppling onto a friend whom I knew God had told to go without makeup. As I prayed for the interpretation, I asked God, “What is the stool?” He said, “Pride.” I knew this was not a “good” dream! God was after something. Mind you, my makeup was not too excessive, but my goal in those days was to be hot, not holy.

Then the Lord showed me the man with the heart problem had a spiritual “heart” problem, and my use of makeup was hurting him in the form of temptation as well as it was hurting the girl whom the Lord had told to quit wearing makeup. I was violating her conscience by the way I wore mine! Excessive makeup had to go, and God made very clear — a little foundation, a little concealer, a little blush, OK — but no mascara. No lipstick — my hallmark! — whatsoever. Not even Vaseline. The pangs of obedience shot through me. I counted the cost. Christ was worth it.

So, while losing my “face” was a difficult task at first, it eventually transformed the way I saw myself. I actually began to like my looks more! I seemed much more the “girl next door” than someone trying to be “hot.” I found out it feels a lot better to feel safe and wholesome than to feel hot! God may not be making the heavy request of you to remove your “face,” but each one of us must be willing to yield whatever God puts His finger on that we have used as an identity crutch.

Being Useful for God’s Purposes

The writer of Proverbs states, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30, ESV). God is a god who gives favor. It is not up to us to try to draw people to ourselves through our gifts, talents, looks, positions, titles, riches, personality, or anything else we can manipulate.

Only God knows the things we must yield to Him to get our foundation right, and our walks with Him are highly individualized. Whatever the Lord may impress upon you, determine today not to be “hot” for others but an empty vessel God can use for His purposes. We must abandon ourselves to the “audience of One” — to quit performing for the world and make our sole focus Christ, so that at the end of our lives, we stand on the great stage of the life we lived, and there is One person clapping in the audience — clapping and standing — and it is Christ. The years fly as swift as swallows, and blond hair turns gray. Are we anchored to the Lord to get praise from Him and the favor He provides, or are we still striving and struggling to do it all ourselves?

My house is full of paintings now. I have given some away, I have kept many, and the Lord knows if I had it to do all over again, I would say a huge yes to God’s query and give every painting away! Instead, God asked for the painting on my face, and this time, I said He could have it, and it has meant everything to me.

Stacey Crayton

Stacey Crayton

Stacey Crayton lives in Canton, Georgia, with her husband and feline despot, Gideon. Stacey's name means "resurrection," and it also is a story of her life -- many "deaths" in different areas that seem to keep returning as empowering events. She is a former contributing editor to "Living Water Journal" and enjoys hiking, biking, painting in oils, acrylics -- and recently, watercolors -- and loves nothing more than to wake up watching tree shadows flicker on the top of her tent. A teacher, Stacey holds a master's in Teaching English as a Second Language and is learning to praise God even in a current season of being in "God's waiting room." Her dream is to hold prophetic and deliverance conferences to see God's people get set free around the globe. Until then, she keeps practicing on herself, her family, and whoever will listen to her ministry in the "highways and byways." Stacey is a bold believer who specializes in witnessing for the kingdom of God.

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