By Jennifer Slattery, Crosswalk.com
Rejection, whatever the cause, can hurt deeply. Job terminations can make us feel incompetent. When denied opportunities, we may determine we’re insufficient. But perhaps most painful of all, relational rejection can cause us to feel unvalued and worthless or less than.
This is especially true when rejection comes from someone we’ve been dating or care greatly for. Though we may understand, and even agree with, the reasons given for the breakup, the event can trigger our insecurities and inner lies—the false things we’ve come to believe about ourselves.
Those painful experiences, if not filtered through can cause us to expect and even assume rejection in the future. Worse, they can make us bitter and lead us to behave in self-protective, defensive ways that in turn push others away.
We can guard against this self-sabotaging tendency by filtering our rejections through truth and grace.
Here are ten suggestions for processing these painful occurrences in a healthy manner:
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1. Give yourself permission to feel.
Our achievement-oriented, independent culture often elevates strength and “overcomers” and discourages weakness. Added to this the fact that many of us are often over-tasked and simply trying to make it from one responsibility to the next. As a result, we may not know how to feel.
But those hurts don’t go away simply because we’ve suppressed them or have distracted ourselves from them. Instead, they fester deep within our hearts, coming out as anxiety, insecurities, irritability, and false perceptions.
Allowing ourselves to feel the pain with Jesus, asking Him to help us interpret the event through His love and grace, helps prevent this from occurring.
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2. Remind yourself of God’s transforming power within.
When hurt, many of us slip into one of two self-sabotaging mindsets: self-condemnation or victimization. Self-condemnation says, “I always push people away” or act a certain way, or, “I’ll never change.”
Victimization says, “My ex-husband/mother/father made me the way I am. I don’t have the power to change.”
Both of these mentalities deny the power of grace that says, “I have resurrection power living within me.
Therefore, Jesus is working in and through me and will use all situations, this rejection included, to mold me into His radiant image bearer.”
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3. Guard your heart.
Have you ever spent time with a bitter person? Someone who was holding on to, and perhaps even stoking, the pain of an old hurt? The more they focus on the “injustice” they experienced, the darker their world becomes.
Bitterness and hostility invades their heart and begins to choke their joy and peace. Worse, because love and hate can’t coexist, their anger begins to distance them from God and others.
God gave us Proverbs 4:23 to keep us from landing in that bleak, dangerous place. “Above all else guard your heart,” God says, “for everything you do flows from it.”
In other words, our clarity, joy, ability to stand strong when life hits hard, and our relationship with God and others depends on the condition of our hearts. Therefore, when bitterness begins to rise up, we need to prayerfully counter it with grace and love.
We do this, in part, by reminding ourselves of when we have treated God in a similar way and how He responded.
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4. Recognize what is and isn’t yours.
Many of us have become adept at owning behavior that isn’t ours while failing to take ownership for what is.
For example, a boyfriend betrays us and becomes involved with another woman. Instead of recognizing that he is a sinner living enslaved to lust, we entertain self-condemning thoughts like, “If only I were prettier/thinner/hadn’t said or done such-and-such …”
When we do this, we are owning our ex’s poor behavior.
When we recognize we aren’t responsible for his behavior, we’re able to say, “Wow, that hurt,” feel the hurt, shake off the “rejection” and move on.
That said, we also need to be continually analyzing ourselves—not with a self-condemning attitude but with an eye on intentional growth. Using the same example, though we recognize we’re not to blame for our cheating boyfriend’s poor choices, we can evaluate ways our behavior created cracks in the relationship. Then, we can take this a step further and ask Jesus to show us the root cause of our actions and perceptions.
In arguments, did fear of rejection cause us to lash out? Did past hurts make us defensive or withdrawn? Were we looking to that individual to meet a need only God can meet and therefore coming off as clingy?
Once we’ve honestly assessed the relationship, while blanketed in grace, we’re better able to learn and grow from it. That’s how, in part, God uses a painful experience for our good.
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5. Resist the urge to awfulize or extrapolate.
Many times, rejection hits our deepest insecurities, fears, and appears to validate lies we’ve come to believe about ourselves.
For example, after years of suffering from endometriosis, Emily learned her fallopian tubes were blocked and she was no longer able to have children. Having grown up in the church, she sensed an unspoken expectation of motherhood.
Later, through various conversations, she discovered, many of her male friends would not marry a woman who chose to remain childless. Over time, a fear developed—that no man would want her.
However, she met and fell in love with a man who, after a series of difficult conversations, determined that, though he’d initially stated otherwise, he couldn’t marry an infertile woman.
As a result, Emily’s hurt regarding the breakup was compounded by feelings of shame and worthlessness. She falsely determined her initial fear was correct.
But this negates God’s sovereignty and desire and ability to meet her needs for relational intimacy.
One—or ten—failed relationships doesn’t mean every relationship will fail or that you will forever remain lonely.
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6. Center yourself in truth.
We all have inner lies—those things we believe about ourselves that are utterly false but affect everything we do. These erroneous thoughts are often revealed through our actions and reactions.
Whenever we find ourselves responding more strongly than a situation warrants, chances are an inner lie was triggered. Once we recognize this, we can hit pause, prayerfully discern the root of our emotions and counter that lie with truth.
If we feel discarded, we can remind ourselves we’re chosen (Eph. 1:4).
When we struggle with guilt, we can remember, in Christ, we’re blameless (Eph. 1:4).
If we feel less than, we can remember we’re lavished with grace upon grace (John 1:16).
If we feel worthless, we can focus on the cross and the price Christ paid for us.
And if we feel hopeless or stuck, we can remind ourselves that God will carry to completion the good work He began in us (Phil. 1:6).
When fighting negative, self-defeating thoughts, take time to prayerfully read through Ephesians chapter one. Make a list of everything God says about you and ask Him to help you believe those statements are true.
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7. Spend time in God’s presence.
Scripture tells us we receive joy not through our circumstances or achievements or even lack of pain but instead through our relationship with Christ.
Psalm 16:11 says, speaking of God, “You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence.” And in John chapter 15, Jesus tells us He gives us His joy and peace—gifts that are not dependent on our circumstances but instead, His presence within us.
He spoke this promise to His disciples, and thus to us, on the night before His crucifixion, knowing they were about to face incredible fear and sorrow. But, in the midst of their sorrow, they’d experience joy and peace. They would do so to the extent that they remained in Him and His love (John 15:5, John 15:9).
The same is true for us. In the middle of our deepest pain, God invites us to draw close and to experience the comfort and healing only He can provide.
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8. Do something fun.
Sorrow, unfortunately, can be progressive and can cause us to pull away from others and further into ourselves.
Though this is fine for a time as we prayerfully process the rejection we experienced, evaluating what is and isn’t ours to own, eventually we need to “shake off the dust” as Jesus put it, in Mark 10:14.
We need to get up, get out, and seek out and grab hold of moments of joy.
According to neuropsychologists, laughter activates the reward centers in our brain and triggers the release of dopamine, a neurochemical that produces a euphoric-type natural high. Dopamine also helps reduce stress and anxiety, which in turn helps us cope with the difficulties and hurts we encounter.
Therefore, intentional fun can be therapeutic.
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9. Surround yourself with those who speak truth.
The wound of rejection rarely exists alone.
Instead, it triggers all our latent insecurities and causes long-held lies to arise. Because of this, if we’re not careful, we can find ourselves bombarded with powerful, negative, and self-defeating thoughts.
In our weak and wounded state, we may allow falsehoods to overpower truth.
When doubts and insecurities hit, we need friends to remind us of truth—that we are loved, seen, heard, and pursued by a God who knows us intimately and loves us deeply.
We need to be reminded that His opinion carries more weight than a thousand contrary voices. With prayer and the help of loving friends, we can plant our feet and our hearts deeply in those truths.
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10. Remember God’s grace.
We are all broken, sinful, selfish, wounded people, and as the saying goes, hurt people hurt people. This reality encourages us in two ways: first, to guard our hearts so that, when wounded, we don’t wound.
But it also provides context for our “offender’s” behavior. When we remember all of our actions and perceptions are tainted by sin—sin Christ paid for when He died on the cross, we’re more apt to offer God’s grace to others.
Grace heals, strengthens, restores, and protects. Most importantly, it empowers us to love others as Jesus loves us. When we do that, we demonstrate a light that darkness can’t extinguish and a hope that extends far beyond human commitments and failings.
Every time we choose to respond to others as Jesus, the One who was wounded and betrayed, responded to us, we reveal the power and beauty of grace.
Jennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of eight contemporary novels with her ninth releasing this spring. She also helped write Wholly Loved Ministries Bible study titled Becoming His Princess, based on the life of Sarah from the Old Testament, and maintains a devotional blog found at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter here to stay up to date with her future appearances, projects, and releases. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.
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