REJECTION IS LIKE A LITTLEMOUSE THAT HIDES IN THE CREVICE OF YOUR MIND and then someone says a word or some event brings out the little creature. And the moment he comes out, he grows into an elephant of emotions. And the pain of those emotions is as if the elephant sat on your chest.
Why do we feel rejection? God built us with a fundamental need to belong. Being ignored or left out sends messages to the same part of our brain that feels physical pain. The result is anger, depression and loss of self-worth. Rejection is the most common emotional wound of daily life. We experience minor rejections when some-
one on social media rejects us. We are also vulnerable to serious and more devastating rejections, such as a spouse leaving, job loss, or being cut off from family or community.
In the past few months I’ve experienced rejection and the pain that accompanies it. As I’ve analyzed my situation, I discovered these factors as part of my downward spiral. It began with an annoying infection that lasted for several months before the doctors found a solution. So my body was tired and weak and vulnerable to attack.
In addition to my physical situation, I was overwhelmed with work and responsibilities — people counting on me, too much to do, too little time. Add financial strain to the mix and you can begin to follow my decent downhill. Then a friend wounded me. Her words made me feel duped and talked about and the loss of her loyalty stung. With all of those events, I multiplied my pain with harmful self-talk. No one cares about you; you missed your chance; you always fail.
Psychologist Guy Winch says, “The greatest damage rejection causes is usually self-inflicted. Just when our self-esteem is hurting most, we go and damage it even further.”
The world (internet, psychologists, self-help gurus) offers solutions to the pain of rejection. Their advice is always pull-yourself-up-by-yourbootstraps: 1. Acknowledge the pain. 2. Slow down. 3. Go easy on yourself. 4. Repeat the words “I will survive.” 5. Learn from the experience.
But when you are beating yourself up with negative self-talk, these solutions seem hollow.
As Christian leaders, we don’t rely on ourselves. We have the power and strength of God and the compassion of the Holy Spirit to pull us out of rejection’s deep pit. Here are three ways He will help you beat rejection.
1. Recognize that the feeling of rejection is a spiritual attack. No spiritual battle is won with human weapons. Pray. Ask Jesus to fight your battle. I attended a prayer meeting during the worst of my depression over rejection and all I could pray was the name “Jesus.” I prayed His name aloud and over and over. In what I can only describe as a miracle, He lifted the pain of rejection during that prayer. He is faithful and powerful that no attack can prevail in my mind or emotions. “You are entirely faithful … Powerful is your arm! Strong is your hand!” (Psalm 89:8,13, NLT).
2. Listen only to the advice of believers who love you. I listened to my husband’s protective advice. I spent time with a counselor who is a brilliant therapist and who knows my heart and my work. He helped me put it all in perspective and gave me some practical tips: (1) Take a multi-vitamin with B complex, and (2) pray the Lord’s Prayer with deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling each phrase. He also insisted that I set up boundaries that will give me protection from external pain — limiting time with the people who caused me pain and leaving my desk at six in the evening.
3. Consider God’s perspective. Mark Batterson said, “Quit talking to God about your problem and start talking to your problem about God.” Nothing is too big for him. I wrote prayers that I read every day, prayers that help me see from God’s eyes. Lord, help me honestly pray deep prayers for those who rejected me. Change my fear to loving unconditionally. Change my mind and heart attitudes from human to divine.
When rejection fills your heart like the elephant in the room, turn to Jesus. This loss or situation may lead to the best new ministry opportunities. He is able to rescue from the pit of rejection.