“I Get To!”® – Rejection: A Gift Wrapped In Struggle Paper 

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By Joan Endicott 

In grade school, recess was a favorite part of each day—except when we were playing something that required the picking of teams, like dodgeball, kickball, or softball. Do you recall holding your breath and the gut-churning feeling awaiting your name being called? Ah, the relief you felt when you finally heard that beautiful sound of your name, or, when it wasn’t, there was that kick-in-the-gut-why-didn’t-I-stay-home-today feeling?! Nothing felt more humiliating in those life-altering monumental moments than if you were close to last—or worse yet, the very last and heard one team captain say to the other, “You can have him/her.” UGH! Worst. Day. Ever! 

Maybe you’re one of the fortunate ones who was taught at an early age that rejection is just part of life, like my dear friend Kim Julian, who taught this truth to her girls as they were growing up. This empowered her wonderful daughter Megan to respond in the healthiest of ways when someone told her, “I don’t like you!” Megan’s confident response? “That’s okay, I like me!” What a difference that could have made for me had I been taught early on that rejection is inevitable, but my response is optional! 

The fear of rejection is listed as a top fear, right under the fear of public speaking. So, for those of us who speak professionally, we get a double dose of growth opportunity. 

Reject: to refuse to acknowledge, decline to accept, refuse; to cast or throw away as useless or unsatisfactory; to discard 

No matter how or when, rejection can be deeply painful. It was beneficial for me to learn that I’m not alone. We all long to be loved and belong, and the opposite of that, is rejection. So if you’re feeling the pain of rejection, my friend, you are not alone. It is painful for every single one of us, especially when it’s from someone we love and care about. 

It’s one thing to feel rejection from those we aren’t close to—clearly it’s hurtful no matter what—but to receive it from those we love, care about and want a relationship with, the heartache and grief can be indescribable, can’t it? 

Remember when I shared about the brain trauma I had on July 28, 2018, and ended up in the emergency room? The doctor asked me if I’d had much stress lately. The one and only thing that instantly came to mind was the full-on rejection by someone I deeply loved. Though I thought we had a good relationship, due to misinformation and false assumptions, this person was unwilling to talk to me. I literally felt like the grief I carried for the nine months prior was worse than if that person had died. If someone dies, the separation is not their choice. Rejection is. Daily, whenever I thought about it, I felt physical pain in my head and heart. 

It was helpful and comforting when I found out why that pain wasn’t imagined, but very real. In a contribution by Guy Winch, PhD, in Psychology Today, he states, “Rejection piggybacks on physical pain pathways in the brain. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies show that the same areas of the brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain. This is why rejection hurts so much (neurologically speaking). In fact, our brains respond so similarly to rejection and physical pain that Tylenol reduces the emotional pain rejection elicits. In a study testing the hypothesis that rejection mimics physical pain, researchers gave some participants acetaminophen (Tylenol) before asking them to recall a painful rejection experience. The people who received Tylenol reported significantly less emotional pain than subjects who took a sugar pill.” 

Isn’t that incredible to know that the same areas in your brain are affected when feeling rejected, as when you have physical injury? Furthermore, the studies show that when you recall a time of rejection, you actually feel that pain again, whereas thinking of a physical injury you don’t.   

Many researchers believe that the need for acceptance was a lifesaving coping mechanism as our ancestors were more reliant on being part of a community for survival. As society progressed, it’s not as much of a life-or-death issue, so it’s incredibly important we learn how to manage it in a healthy way. 

It was a life-changing moment of clarity for me as I was lying in the emergency room bed that day, looking at my dear husband. I knew I needed to change something immediately regarding how I handled rejection. (You may recall that was when I started learning and practicing self-compassion—which has been a game-changer for me and, subsequently, those I’ve taught it to.) Though called to love and care about others, when we care too much about what they think or do, that’s the costly tipping point.     

Over the years as I’ve gone deep and done the hard work spiritually, mentally, and emotionally of reviewing the various times I’ve either felt or actually been rejected (and given myself the compassion I craved), it’s been incredibly revealing to me. Guess where I turned in those moments of heartbreak? To the only One who can heal and restore. 

At one point while pouring my heart out, I prayed and pleaded with God to remove the heartbreaking rejection and to “please quickly bring healthy restoration to this relationship.” He affirmed His love and compassion while showing me very clearly that I had been overly dependent upon other hurting, broken human beings for what only He could give. (Thus, my awareness of being a recovering approval addict.) He reminded me to look at the whole picture instead of just looking at the pain. When I looked at what happened afterward, every single time rejection came, it dropped me to my knees before the throne, seeking comfort at the cross. 

In this life, there’s a danger in relying upon anyone or anything (people we know, positions we hold, possessions we have, places we go) other than our Lord and Savior to give us unconditional love, approval, acceptance, purpose and meaning: when any of that falls or fails and the acceptance and approval topple, our value and worth goes down with it. In those moments, we have a choice: to be completely derailed, or to be redirected to the only One able to give us all we need all the time! 

When I began to reframe the rejection I’d experienced in life thus far as spiritual boot camp preparation for whatever God has next, I realized it was strengthening my care less muscles—not caring less for people but caring less about their opinions. When we look only into the face of our Creator and see what His Word says about us, we are empowered to go forth in this life without fear, boldly and confidently, just as David did when he ran to the battlefront to defeat Goliath. And by the way, had David allowed his brothers’ bullying to derail him, he may have never known what God could do through him. 

Besides David there are numerous examples in Scripture of those who were rejected: Joseph, Hagar, Leah, Jeremiah and most of the other prophets, and the Disciples, just to name a few.   

Jesus felt the sting of rejection from Peter denying Him three times and from many followers turning away. Ultimately, those who reject Him as Lord and Savior—He is, after all, the very heart of the Gospel—break His heart because He loves us so deeply. 

I learned this chorus many years ago and it’s been a wonderful comfort: 

 

You are my strength, O God 

You are my help, O God 

You are the One on Whom I call 

You are my shield, O God 

My life I yield, O God 

For You will ever be my all in all 

 

If we are seeking to grow closer to Christ—to know Him more, love Him and serve Him more—might this thing called rejection be actually viewed as a gift…wrapped in struggle paper?    

 

Grab your FREE copy of Joan Endicott’s “I Get To!”® book and videos at www.JoanEndicott.com. Joan is an Award-Winning Keynote Speaker, Author and Coach who’s coaching has reached over 30 countries. Meet her and enjoy her encouraging messages on Facebook and Instagram. 

 

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