As believers we can trust that God is at work in these disappointments for his glory and our growth in holiness. He may be testing our faith to see if we are willing to trust him even when circumstances make no sense or are terribly unjust and evil, and this kind of faith is a great testimony to the world of what is most important—our relationship with God that will last for all eternity. The pain we face as sinful human beings in the rejections of life cannot compare with all the rejection that Christ, who was without sin, willingly suffered because of his great love for us. The rejections we experience should also make us even more determined to treat others with love and respect.
Someone once said, “Don’t let the opinion of one or two people decide what you think about yourself.” Here are eight good things to remember after experiencing rejection:
1. People say and do unkind things because of their selfish desires.
We are all prone to think our motives are purer than they actually are. The people from whom we have experienced rejection likely feel they are justified in their actions for a variety of reasons. Of course, these are not necessarily good reasons, but the likelihood of such people recognizing their selfish motivations is slim to none most of the time:
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart. (Prov. 21:2)
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9)
As much as we wish other people would acknowledge the pain they have caused in our lives and ask for our forgiveness, this doesn’t often occur. Even when it does, it can be years before they understand and are sorry for their actions. It’s best not to expect an apology and instead forgive the person as Christ has forgiven us.
2. There is good in reflecting on possible factors leading to the rejection.
If we reflect on the rejection we have experienced, we may find some patterns. Perhaps we have a tendency to make friends with people who already have a well-established social network, and they don’t have the time or feel the need to commit to a relationship with another person. Or it may be that we have unreasonable expectations for the relationship and the person feels excessively burdened by them. We may have sinned against the person in some way either knowingly or unknowingly that made them unwilling to continue the relationship.
While we may have thought that our job performance was stellar at an organization from which we were fired, others may have seen our work differently for a variety of reasons. Taking time to assess our patterns of behavior and responsibility in the rejection can help us make changes in future interactions with others. We may even need to ask someone’s forgiveness, but we shouldn’t expect a full restoration of the relationship. Earning someone’s trust again or being able to trust someone who has hurt you takes time and doesn’t always occur.
3. People don’t always want our help.
Perhaps we reached out to a friend or someone at work or church, or in our family, in an attempt to be a good influence in their lives in some way. Yet, the person saw our “counsel” as criticism. While it can be frustrating to say or do nothing when we want to help a person, it is good to remember the words of George Washington from his Rules of Civility:
Give not Advice with[out] being Ask’d & when desired [d]o it briefly. (Rule 68)
Knowing when to give counsel and when to be silent requires the wisdom that comes from much prayer, Bible reading, and life experience. The process of acquiring such wisdom cannot be rushed. Sometimes a relationship can go on for years before enough trust is established for advice to be solicited—and received.
4. There are positive steps we can take to produce a different outcome in the future.
Take some time to think about people you know at church and work and in your community who are kind, yet somewhat shy. Perhaps they have experienced rejection as well and are hesitant to try to build new relationships. In many cases, they would love to have a friend who would enjoy their company. Be sure to pay attention to appropriate boundaries if you or the other person are married or in a dating relationship with someone else.
Maybe you can plan a walk or hike together, go to a matinee, or meet for coffee.