Surviving the Sting of Rejection [updated]

No one likes rejection. It’s sting is so painful because it’s personal.

Get a black eye from an injustice and it’s because the world isn’t fair….rage against the world!
Get knocked down from a rejection and it’s because I’m not good enough….you can try to rage against the world, but you always end up attacking yourself.

How do you respond when you experience rejection? These waters aren’t fun to swim in, but the reflection is worth the effort. Here’s how I typically respond to rejection. Fair warning, this isn’t a delightful list:

Retreat—I engage my friends, but withdraw from my enemies (or “non-friends”). When I’m rejected, I retreat. I won’t even argue when I’m rejected because I feel like disagreement is a gift for my friends. (I’m so opinionated, I’ve got plenty to give! HA.). Isolation feels like the best way to minimize the painful and poisonous effects of rejection. And while this may be a common response, it’s counter productive. We are deceiving ourselves if we think life is better spent alone. For me, maturity refuses to retreat and I choose to engage.

Rage—I rage at the (apparent) injustice of not being accepted. In the universe named “Matt,” there’s no logical reason why I wouldn’t be chosen. I mean, I’d choose me, so everyone else should do the same? For me, maturity rejects ego and chooses humility.

Devalued—I create a list of all the reasons I must not be good enough to be accepted. For me, maturity shifts the focus, to seeking approval from God rather than others.

Comparison—I begin to think, “If only I was different, like someone else who was accepted, then I could have avoided the rejection.” The feelings and thoughts left in the wake of rejection are paradoxical. On one hand, nothing about me needs to be changed, on the other hand, if I was different, the rejection wouldn’t have happened. For me, maturity means learning how God is changing me rather than becoming a duplicate copy of someone else.

Flee to the familiar—This response isn’t negative. Rejection in one area of my life pushes me to the comfort of other relationships, ones that are trusted and true. This response is different from retreating because it’s a reminder of the good relationships that already exist in my life. We are called to carry one another’s burdens, and it’s ok to let the trusted carry our burdens.

Demonize—I can attack the rejector, listing out their countless flaws and innumerable foolishnesses. Some of  are real, but many are imagined. Truth is that nothing clouds judgment and creates bias like rejection. For me, maturity means withholding judgement; and when this is not possible, it means withholding ACTION based on on that judgement.

Self-Praise—When I’m rejected, I’ll counteract the “not good enough” feelings (devalued, above) with all of my achievements and success—some of which are real, but many are imagined. Nothing inflates the ego like a rejection. For me, maturity means submission to God according to Romans 12:3, seeking a sober self assessment.

Re-define—Near the end of my response to rejection, I work to burry it. I re-write history by reinterpreting the rejection as ignorance. I haven’t been rejected, just misunderstood. I land on thinking, “They weren’t worth the effort of explaining myself anyhow.” For me, maturity means avoiding the pity party, and trying to understand what happened by making up stuff that isn’t true.

What an Ugly List!

Maybe you are thinking, “That’s more nasty than the scorpion at the top of this post.” Yea, I agree.

There are tons of unhealthy ways to respond to rejection. Many people try to pretend it didn’t hurt (this is one response I don’t have). Without the self-insight that comes from reflection, our rationalizations will run rampant and the self-deceptions will quickly become self-destructive.

We can’t eliminate rejection—we live in an imperfect world.
However, we can mitigate the damage done to our souls and relationships.

Let’s take our rejection to the foot of the cross. Surrendering, confessing, resting in his perfect love–a love that is utterly rejectionless.




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