Part of me is reluctant to write this article because it means admitting to being rejected. It happens to all of us – I do know that. But, on some level, rejection feels like a personal indictment: others are good enough, but I haven’t met the mark.
Recently, the context has been work-related – in my efforts as a creative writer – but rejection can crop up in many guises. It’s the risk we run every time we dare to reach out for something or someone beyond ourselves.
Here are the things I’m thinking about as I move past this latest put-down.
1. Keep perspective
There’s a specific brutality that I think we experience in rejection: it’s a wound to how we see ourselves. We think we are talented, only to be told otherwise. We think we are relationally acceptable; we find out we are not. Rejection is a blow to our ego. If we’re not careful, it can undermine the crux of our worth, leaving us lost in self-pity or self-loathing.
But our worth was never meant to be built on our ego or perception of ourselves. As disciples of Jesus, we are people who put ‘self’ to death. Our worth comes from God’s perspective, and the things He declares to be true about us. Rejection might leave us temporarily flailing as we recover from the very human hurt of being passed over, but we shouldn’t allow it to derail us from the joy of being chosen by Jesus. We are acceptable to Him and because of Him: “We know and rely on the love God has for us.” (1 John 4:16 NIV).
2. Learn the lessons
I’d love to stop there, comforted by the fact that rejection doesn’t mean I’m worthless. Unfortunately, it’s a little more complicated. Sometimes rejection is entirely warranted. It’s possible that we genuinely have stuff we need to work on to attain the goal we’ve fallen short of. Maybe our relationships will continue to breakdown until we really get a handle on a particular habit or trait. Maybe that career goal will always elude us until we knuckle down and refine our skills.
I so desperately want to ‘arrive’ – to achieve and be finished and perfect – but the Bible is not shy in calling out our status as work in progress. God is working on us. “Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket. To the one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring.” (Proverbs 25:11-12 NLT). We would do well to pay attention.
To my mind, the worst thing about rejection is not how bad it can make us feel about ourselves. It’s not the uncomfortable truths we may have to face. For me, the worst thing about rejection is the almighty hole in punctures right at the heart of my energy and motivation. It makes me want to give up.
Rejection can make us stop striving for the better reality we were hoping for. It can make us live small, fearful lives of self-preservation and despair. And that’s a tragedy.
It’s a tragedy because sometimes rejection doesn’t mean we’ve failed or done something wrong. Sometimes the aloneness is just part of our calling, part of the cost – particularly if we’re trying to birth a vision: a new business venture; a different way of being Church; shaping a young life or creating an artistic work.
To be a voice in the wilderness calling for a new season is to be misunderstood and ignored, as well as heard and revolutionary. If we want to see God do transformative things in and through us, we have to push past the pain of being odd and being side-lined.
We don’t need to let rejection thwart our pursuit of the goals God has given us. We don’t need to withdraw. After all, Jesus is the ultimate reject: “He came to his own, and His own people did not receive Him.” (John 1:11 ESV). Rejection is an opportunity to share a little of the sufferings of a God intimately acquainted with being turned away.
When we’re rejected, we can take heart. We’re in good company. Let’s learn from it and move on. Let’s live brave, generous lives in the strength of the God who – despite our indifference and rejection of Him – still holds nothing back.
Editor: We spotted this on Twitter last week. What an inspiring response to rejection!
Yesterday, my daughter learned that she hadn’t got into Oxford. By the time I got in from work, she’d made this from her rejection letter pic.twitter.com/KCInrTA1OO
— Louisa Saunders (@louisa_saunders) January 12, 2017