“He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
My father died on my sixth birthday. Leukemia. I soon found that I had lost my mom as well. Her need to work and her own emotional pain crowded nurturing and time together out of my life. Then, two moves in the next three years made me the new kid in town that got picked on by everyone else.
By seventh grade, things had changed. I was well-liked and accepted. But I had no friends — no one to whom I revealed my true self. Why? I had experienced enough rejection by then that I was unwilling to risk being rejected again.
There are three different types of rejection we can struggle with. The simplest is performance rejection. This occurs when we experience criticism for our actions that is not given in love. While such rejection stings, it is not devastating. A poor job evaluation is an example of performance rejection.
The second type of rejection is very painful. Personhood rejection occurs when people reject who we are. Our identity is called deficient, not our conduct. I remember a teacher in fifth grade calling me names when I did not attend his class. My inability to please him (performance rejection) resulted in a rejection of who I was (personhood rejection). A small incident? Yes. But I remember it 37 years later. Rejection, like abuse, is not measured by what happens, but by the impact it has.
The lack of affirmation is another part of personhood rejection. Just like flowers need water, we need affirmation. When affirmation is withheld, our sense of being acceptable withers and dies. Even though no one may say anything negative, the lack of anything positive is just as powerful a rejection.
We rejected ones may become people pleasers, keeping everyone else happy regardless of the personal cost. Or we may seek rejection. We don’t want it, but performance rejection is less painful than the personhood rejection we fear. In both cases, we end up living in emotional isolation.
From there, it is a short distance to third type of rejection – self-rejection. In this place, we despise and punish ourselves for who we are. By rejecting ourselves, we are finally able to join everyone else who has rejected us. It has cost us happiness, but we don’t think we deserve it anyway.
Once rejected by others, it is easy for us to believe that God also rejects us. In fact, the more rejection we experience, the more difficult it is to have a relationship with God. We have already learned to perform for others and hide our true self away. When we do that with God, we find our relationship with Him as empty as relationships are with everyone else.
Receiving healing from rejection brings us back to life emotionally. Intimacy is possible again and we feel more alive than ever. A significant part of this healing is found in allowing God access to our true selves. It is scary to do, but possible when we see that He is the ultimate recipient of rejection
Read this short meditation slowly and prayerfully. Allow God to meet you in those sentences that emotionally parallel your own rejection. As you do, it will create the internal space needed for the Lord to comfort and heal.
As the hammer descended onto the nails, the pain experienced by Jesus was intensely physical. Those blows and all the other abuse He experienced also carried with them the sting of rejection (Mark 9:12). Mankind had rejected its Maker.
It was on the cross that Jesus experienced the culmination of a life of rejection.
- Herod tried to kill Him before He could do anything to deserve it (Matthew 2:16).
- He was thrown out of the synagogue and the people of his hometown tried to kill him (Luke 4:28-29).
- His family thought He was crazy and attempted to stop Him from doing His ministry (Mark 3:21).
- One of His closest followers betrayed Him for his own selfish purposes (Matthew 27:3).
- Another follower refused to admit he knew Him (Luke 22:57).
Jesus experienced performance rejection when He did not do what everyone thought He should do. He experienced personhood rejection because He was not who everyone thought He should be.
Yet, through it all, Jesus experienced the affirmation of the Father (Matthew 3:17). That is, until He hung on the cross. There in the midst of His deepest, loneliest and most agonizing hours, even the Father rejected Him (Mark 15:34).
That rejection by the Father allowed God on the cross, who is as equally God as the Father (Colossians 1:19), to enter into the fullest and most painful expression of all human rejection the rejection of one’s self.
There is no road of rejection that we can walk where we will not find the footprints of the Savior. And in each step He has taken, we will see His blood, bringing forgiveness and healing to all who will receive it.
Ask the Lord each day to help you identify areas of rejection in your life. As things come to mind, forgive those who rejected you and forgive yourself for believing the rejection. Ask the Lord to heal the hurt and replace the rejection with His love.
“Father, thank you that You experienced rejection, too. Thank you that I have a friend who sticks closer than a brother, even in times when I feel like no one is on my side. Lord, I want to have as close a relationship with You as possible. Please heal my rejection so that I can enter into that deeper place with You. Amen.”