Updated: Dec 11, 2021
Rejection stings. It can be embarrassing and can lead to self-doubt. To be rejected is to be spurned, dismissed, turned down, rebuffed, or marginalized. Nobody likes to be rejected, but it happens to all of us from time to time. Not surprisingly, rejection often contributes to depression. A marriage proposal is turned down, your opinion is dismissed as unworthy, your attempt at an apology is rebuffed, your desire to join a certain group is turned down, or dismissive treatment by a supposed friend leaves you feeling marginalized.
These are the kinds of rejection people sometimes face. Rejection can take a toll on you emotionally because it conveys the message you don’t matter. Think of times when you felt rejected. No matter how well adjusted you are emotionally, the rejection you experienced still hurt. Let’s look at some examples of rejection.
As a youngster in middle school, Mike looked forward to the annual school dance. It would be his first big gala. Mike had taken dancing lessons just so he could ask a girl he liked to take a spin around the dance floor with him. When the big night finally came, Mike was filled with anticipation, but he was also nervous. What if she turned him down? Mike’s natural shyness battled with his determination to ask the girl of his dreams to dance. Unfortunately, his shyness was winning. Mike couldn’t bring himself to approach the girl, much less ask her to dance.
For almost two hours he sat in a corner trying to muster the courage to ask this girl to dance. Finally, with time running out and the dance almost over Mike decided it was now or never. Summoning up all the courage he could muster, Mike walked across the floor to where the object of his affection was talking with several other girls. With a manufactured confidence, he put out his hand and said, “May I have this dance?” The girl turned to Mike and in a dismissive tone said, “no thanks.”
Without another word, she turned her back on Mike and rejoined her friends. As Mike walked away, crestfallen, he could hear the girl of his dreams and her friends laughing. When he noticed others smirking, Mike felt embarrassed and humiliated. He strode out the school gym as fast as he could without running and walked home in tears.
Cindy wanted to marry Jacob and was convinced he wanted to marry her. Consequently, when he called and said he had something important to talk about, Cindy knew this was it. He was finally going to pop the question. Cindy suggested they talk over dinner at their favorite restaurant, but Jacob asked if they could meet somewhere more private. His desire for privacy just reinforced Cindy’s intuitive presumption and increased her anticipation. Jacob was definitely going to propose. Cindy agreed to meet Jacob at a park where they often sat on a favorite bench and talked.
Jacob was uncharacteristically late in arriving. By the time he showed up, Cindy was bubbling over with anticipation. She could not wait for the proposal. When Jacob said, “Cindy, we need to talk,” rather than prolong the big moment she blurted out, “Yes Jacob! I will marry you!” She threw her arms around him and hugged him with all her might. That’s when she noticed Jacob wasn’t responding. In fact, his whole body had gone suddenly rigid. Something was wrong.
Without preliminaries, Jacob said, “Cindy, it’s over between you and me. I don’t want to see you anymore. I’ve met someone else.” Having said his piece, Jacob got up from the bench and walked away without even looking back, leaving a shocked and distraught Cindy sobbing. For months afterward, Cindy could barely function. She fell into a state of depression and had to take a medical leave of absence from her job. Cindy was still deeply scarred by the rejection she felt that terrible day.
Andy’s father and both of his uncles had been football stars at Bethune High School. He admired his father and uncles more than anyone and loved to listen to them tell stories about their glory years at BHS. Andy loved football. Consequently, he could hardly wait to follow in the footsteps of his father and uncles. He longed to be able to share stories of his own with them. Ever since he had first played the game in the pee-wee league, Andy had dreamed of playing football for BHS.
BHS was a powerhouse in high school football at the time with a record of several regional and two state championships. The school’s best players were actively recruited by college and university coaches. BHS held the state record year after year for the highest percentage of players who received college football scholarships. Several BHS alumni had played or were still playing professional football. The competition to make the team at BHS was fierce. Only the best of the best made the final roster.
Andy was a good football player. In middle school he made the varsity squad in the seventh and eighth grades. But there were a lot of other good players trying to make the team at BHS too. Andy was aware he was up against some stiff competition. Consequently, he worked harder in try-outs than he had ever worked at anything. When the big day for the final cut arrived, Andy was nervous but confident he had squeaked by. He would probably have to spend a year on the junior varsity squad, but Andy was prepared to sacrifice. He just wanted to be able to walk in the door of his home proudly wearing his new BHS football jersey.
When the final roster was announced, Andy was shocked at not hearing his name called. Thinking there must be a mistake, he asked the coach to read the roster again. When the coach said, “I’m sorry son, you didn’t make it,” Andy was so overcome by rejection he almost fell out of his chair. He couldn’t believe it. Andy had been rejected by the team he had loved since childhood, the team that had retired his father’s jersey number. Andy was so distraught he couldn’t go home and so scarred by the rejection he never returned to BHS. Instead, he transferred to another high school across town. When Andy’s father died, the principal at BHS asked Andy to participate in a special memorial service in the school’s stadium. Andy refused. He kept his vow to never again step foot on the BHS campus.
When Vicki’s parents announced they were divorcing, she wondered—as children of divorce often do—if the breakup was her fault. She was close to both of her parents, and they were close to her. Consequently, she could not conceive of them divorcing. It just didn’t make sense. As her dad was packing his bags to move out, Vicki approached him and in desperation said, “If you love me you won’t leave.”
When he left anyway, she took his decision as rejection. Then when her father later remarried, his visits with her became less and less frequent. With this, Vicki felt doubly rejected. The rejection Vicki felt as a child stayed with her into adulthood and colored her attitude toward personal relationships. To Vicki, entering into relationships meant risking rejection. Consequently, she refused to let anyone get close to her. As a result, Vicki was a lonely, unhappy person. She wanted to break out of what she called her rejection syndrome, but could not bring herself to take the first step. She feared rejection more than she feared being lonely.
Mariel had struggled with rejection all of her life. Beginning in elementary school and on through high school she never seemed to fit in. When clubs were formed, she wasn’t invited to join. When teams were picked, she was left sitting on the sidelines. When parties were held, she wasn’t invited. In middle school she didn’t even make the first cut in cheerleader tryouts. In high school, nobody invited her to the junior-senior prom.
In college, Mariel—who wanted to be a journalist—was denied a spot on the university’s student newspaper. By the time she completed college, rejection was so much a part of Mariel’s life she expected to be rejected. Up to that point, the only person who had not rejected her, or so it seemed to Mariel, was her fiancé. They met in their junior year at college and had seen each other steadily since.
Consequently, when he backed out of their engagement just two weeks before they were scheduled to get married, Mariel went into a tail spin. To make matters worse, Mariel’s parents blamed her for the breakup. In a fit of anger and frustration, her mother shouted, “What’s wrong with you?” The rejection of her parents was the final straw. Mariel withdrew inside herself and simply stopped functioning.
When Mariel secluded herself for weeks at a time, her parents finally admitted she needed help. After much discussion, they convinced Mariel to seek counseling. Her parent’s church had a counseling center. A female counselor, Malia, agreed to work with Mariel. When Mariel walked into the counselor’s office, she was struggling with a negative self-image deeply embedded in her psyche. Her life was on hold because she feared more rejection. Mariel longed for normality—a job, friends, and even marriage—but going down that path meant risking rejection again, and Mariel had experienced all the rejection she could take.
Malia listened as Mariel told her life story, a story characterized by rejection. It was clear to her that Mariel saw herself as a lone victim of rejection. How could a counselor or anyone else understand her struggles with rejection when they hadn’t experienced what she had? Malia began by gently but firmly dispelling that misguided notion. She said, “Mariel, everyone you have ever known has experienced rejection. We all experience it from time to time. I wasn’t accepted by the college I had my heart set on attending. In high school, my brother had to take me to the junior-senior prom because nobody asked me. Five churches turned me down for a counseling position before I finally caught on here. Worst of all, no man—not even one—has ever asked me to marry him.
“Rejection is not unique to you or anyone else. We live in a fallen world and we live among sinful people, including you and me. Consequently, rejection on the basis of human criteria is just one more unfortunate fact of life we have to learn to deal with. Remember the message in Isaiah 53:3: Christ was ‘despised and rejected by men…’ Consequently, being rejected by your peers puts you in good company. But also remember that to Christ you are precious. He will never reject you. Coping with rejection begins with understanding that fact. When you are precious to Christ, as it says you are in 1 Peter 2:4, you no longer have to worry about being rejected by people. His acceptance makes worldly rejection irrelevant.”
Malia told Mariel that Psalm 27:10 makes clear she should expect to be rejected by the world; even people as close as her parents might reject her. This statement struck a nerve with Mariel because her parents had rejected her in the aftermath of the broken engagement. But then Malia reminded her that whenever she felt rejected by the world, the Lord would take her in. This, according to Malia, was further evidence of an important fact: when we are accepted by Christ—as we certainly are—we don’t need the acceptance of the world.
Finally, Malia told Mariel that when the world rejects her, she should read Psalm 139:13-14 over and over until the feelings of rejection passed. She said, “Mariel, this verse states you are wonderfully made and beautiful in God’s sight. That is all the assurance you need of your value. If God thinks you are wonderful and beautiful, does it really matter what the world thinks? When I was trying to come to grips with worldly rejection as you are now, I kept a copy of Psalm 139:13-14 in my purse at all times. Before long I didn’t need that copy because after reading it so often, I had the verse memorized. Now when confronted by worldly rejection, I am able to brush it off like lint on my blouse.”
At the conclusion of their counseling session, Malia and Mariel prayed together. By the time they said “Amen” Mariel was floating on air. It was as if a heavy burden had been lifted from her. She could not remember feeling so free and empowered. The first thing she planned to do was bookmark a copy of Psalm 139:14-14 so she could call it up quickly on her smart phone.
To overcome rejection and enhance your daily walk with the Lord, learn from Mariel’s experience and the advice she received from Malia. The first lesson is that we all suffer rejection from time to time. This was an important point for Mariel to grasp. When you are rejected by the world, find reassurance in 1 Peter 2:4: “…a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.” Occasionally we are the “living stone” that is rejected by the world, but this matters little when we are accepted by God and are “chosen and precious” to Him. As Malia told Mariel, when you are precious to God, human rejection is like lint you brush off your blouse.
The second lesson comes from Psalm 27:10 and it is a hard one. This Psalm makes clear that even our parents might reject us. It happens. Sometimes their rejection is unintended and happens as a result of an off-hand comment. But at other times the rejection can be intentional. Parents who set unrealistic expectations for their children and then condemn them for failing to measure up to those expectations can poison their souls with rejection.
For example, because they don’t know the reasons behind the decision, children whose birth mothers give them up for adoption sometimes struggle with feelings of rejection.
When you are intentionally rejected by people you love or who are important to you for other reasons, the pain can be overwhelming. But even in these unfortunate instances, you still have the acceptance and love of someone more important to you than your parents, spouse, siblings, friends, coworkers, fellow students, or peers. You have God and, as Psalm 27:10 makes clear, “…the Lord will take you in.” When others reject you, don’t despair. Instead, go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to take you in. He will do it and His acceptance is bigger than even the worst form of worldly rejection.
Ironically, the world’s rejection puts you in good company, the company of Jesus Christ. This is the message in Isaiah 53:3. In this verse, we learn that Christ was not just rejected by the world, He was despised. If the world rejected Christ, consider it a badge of honor when it rejects you; especially if the rejection comes as the result of your faith. If Christ had to endure the rejection of the world, you and I can follow His example; a challenge made easier by knowing the same Christ who was rejected and despised is the one who will take us in with loving acceptance. Having been rejected, He knows exactly how you feel.
The final lesson comes from Psalm 139:13-14. This verse assures us that we were made by God and, as a result, we are wonderfully made. This means it doesn’t matter how the world may view you, how you dress, what you look like, your athletic ability, popularity among your peers, or any other worldly criteria. In the eyes of God, you are wonderfully made. He accepts you fully just as He made you. The petty rejections of the world are mere gnats to be swatted away when you have the love, caring, and acceptance of Jesus Christ. Remember this the next time you feel snubbed, overlooked, marginalized, or left out.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com