Rejection, it’s a difficult pill to swallow. Most of us have experienced it in some shape or form, whether it's that guy or girl you wanted to pursue, that desired job or maybe you have been rejected by your family. Some people respond to rejection as if nothing happened but deep down they are wounded, some people laugh it off, some people cry behind closed doors, others can’t contain their emotions – how do you deal with rejection?
Prior to my final year of secondary school, I don’t recall experiencing any heart piercing rejection: I am one who plays it safe, if I have a slight hint that I will be rejected, I don’t pursue. Rejection for me is a hard pill to swallow and I'm not one to take it lightly. As a result, I have lived most of my life in relative safety, straying away from any dangers of rejection – but this changed in secondary school. Life in secondary school was touch and go, I had a solidish friendship circle that I always used to hang around with. At meal breaks we had our claimed table, in classes we had our marked seats, on school buses we hogged the back – we were a tight ‘crew’... so I thought.
As a teen, I had two ‘the worst thing that could happen to me’ scenarios in my head, maybe you can relate. I was an overly paranoid teen in all honesty, I am still not quite sure why. Every school holiday we had I used to think that school wasn’t actually closed because I believed that no one liked me. I thought that school would lie to me so that I would stay at home and everyone would have respite from me. This never came to floracion but it was constantly on my mind: every school holiday I would always scout my friends' social pages to investigate what they were doing just to make ensure school weren't lying to me – crazy right? I told you I was paranoid. The second dreaded scenario that haunted me was that my friends would make plans but then 'apparently' cancel just so I wouldn't be there – not as crazy as the first, but still paranoid.
Although me and my secondary school friends were ‘close’, our closeness mostly revolved around school activities and after school clubs. But as we manoeuvred into the final phase of secondary school, the guys became more acquainted with each other outside of school. At that time, I was the friend that was only seen in school or at the commercial barbershop; at that time my life solely consisted of playing video games and watching movies. This was also due to the fact that none of my school friends invited me to outside of school motives. Some people like to force their way into plans, but that was not the way I operated; I didn't like to bother people, if my friends were making plans I wouldn’t ask to be part of it unless they actually asked me. My rationale was, if they want me to be there or be part of what they were doing they would ask me. For months the guys always made plans, in front of me too, but I would never be invited, but as my custom was, I wouldn’t intrude in any plans unless requested. As a result the guys became closer, and since the subject of their jokes were the outside school motives I couldn’t really join in. Things became awkward and I felt very much left out but what could I do, it was a bit too late to join a new friendship group.
During school, there was an infamous line which the guys always used to say to me – “Doug no one likes you”. This would be said by most of my ‘friends’ and it became a customary saying, some would utter it and I could grasp their genuineness, others would say it just because it became the new norm. Although it was a custom, it was a low blow which always pierced my heart because I genuinely believed it was true but I didn’t want to believe it because I had no real tangible evidence to pin its validity, so as a result I always brushed it off. Sometimes our feeling vocalise how we genuinely feel, but often we find it hard to accept the reality of things and brush it off until a more convenient time – lack of emotional intelligence.
During the month of December however things changed, the guys planned to go to the German Market which customarily took place between November and January, adjacent to the Bull Ring in Birmingham. This was going to be a proper bonding session for them. But again I was not invited. However, this time I found the courage to uncharacteristically intrude and creep my way into their plans. After creeping in successfully, I was in. For the first time, I was going to be out with the guys outside of school. Like a rarely seen endangered animal, I was seldom spotted outside of school, so all my friends saw was me in my uniform or in a football kit. But now I was finally going to be integrated into the squad, I was longing for genuine friendship – for the desire for love and sympathy is implanted in the heart by God Himself.
I was buzzing, finally the chance to have genuine friends: since I moved to America and came back to the UK I struggled making friends but I was optimistic of finally being properly integrated into a friendship group "this is the start of something good" I thought, I had many aspirations hinged on this first outing. Not long after the date was set, it would be a midweek link up in town – I was calm and collected on the outside but internally I was like a child on Christmas morning. The plan was to meet in town for around six in the evening, a few hours after school.
After school finished that day, I rushed home to get myself ready for the big event, I took a while to pick my outfit – I mean, can you blame me? I was rarely seen out of my school clothes so I had to look the part. After about an hour or so as I was ready, sitting down preparing for my departure, then I unexpectedly received a text – “Doug we're not going German market tonight”. Perplexed by the lateness of the decision, I responded asking why. I was given some flimsy response but I just accepted it. I was very disappointed to say the least and nothing was even said about rescheduling. I was really looking forward to hanging out with the guys for the first time. After some minutes however, my mind started to fashion out some reasoning behind the unforeseen cancellation, then the dreaded scenario crept into my thoughts – what if they actually went but they told me they cancelled just because they didn’t want me to come... this was lingering in my mind for a bit, but then I decided to fan it away.
The next day I went into school and everything was going as normal, but after class I was walking with my friend who was the bearer of the bad news the night before. Strolling together to the next class I was pestering him and out of nowhere, kind of, he suddenly burst out with “Doug go away, you’re so annoying…” chauffeured with the customary “that's why no one likes you”, but then it was signed, sealed and delivered with “that is why we went to the German market without you!” – my heart sank.
Then I tried to rationalise what he said, just to make sure I heard correctly “what do you mean, that’s why you went to the German market without me? You told me that we cancelled?” Then he relayed to me the plan that the boys conjured, how they manufactured a fake reason to cancel, because they didn’t want me there and my ‘friend’ was given the duty of bearing the bad news to me.
I am not sure whether you have had an experience where your most dreaded thought or scenario came to life, that day was one for me and one that I have never forgotten – why does no one like me? What is wrong with me? How can I change who I am? What about the previous friendships I have had, were they fake too? These were the questions that naturally sprouted in my mind. I wasn’t really concerned about them and what they did, but I looked to myself, questioning what was wrong with me, why I was so unlikable, maybe this was what I deserved. My experience, although years ago, deeply impacted me and changed the way I view relationships.
After that experience I tried to buy their friendship, but friendship cannot be bought. I bought them meals, treats, acts of benevolence, everything I could just to try and make them accept me. Deep down thought I knew that what they used to say “no one likes you” was the truth, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). What made things worse was that, I was in my final year of secondary school, I had no time to make new friends – well I had a choice but, I chose to stick to fake friends rather than be alone. This experience makes me question all of my relationships, in the back of my mind the thought is always do they really like me? Are they genuine? Do they actually care about me? I constantly have to war with the thought of being accepted or loved. Subconsciously I always try my best to impress others so that I can be accepted and this toxic view marinated itself into my relationship with Christ.
However after accepting Jesus into my life some years later, the gospel taught me, and still is teaching me that through Him I am “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). Contemplate this deep passage in the first chapter of Ephesians:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the beloved.” - Ephesians 1:4-6
This is not the confessions of a chronic legalist part four, but my experience of rejection by those close to me deeply coded my mind to believe that I have to earn favour, I can earn acceptance, I can earn my salvation, I can earn or win the love of God – that I, a mere being can do something to make myself acceptable to the Almighty God because that was my custom with people. But Ephesians 1:4-6 testifies along with many other scriptures (Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:16; Romans 8:29), that before I was even a being, before I was formed God knew me, I was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, in Christ I am accepted!
Even though God poured out all of heaven in one gift through His son Jesus Christ, even though God spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all – many will reject Christ – imagine the pain God suffers!
You may have experienced rejection in some shape or form, it may have impacted you like it has impacted me but remember the promise made by the Saviour: “him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37).
We do not serve a god that is way up in the clouds and unfamiliar with our experiences, but we serve a God that has experienced all that we have experienced – He was rejected so that you and I could be accepted.
You are loved, through Christ you are accepted in the beloved. Believe it. Claim it.