“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.
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.