Let’s face it, who wants to be told “NO!” Not me. I have a hard enough time asking people for things to begin with. So much so that if I ask someone at work to do something for me and they can’t for whatever reason, I have a tendency to go weeks without asking them again, and even then, I’ll only ask when I’m sure they’ll say yes. Likewise, when someone calls me repeatedly to join them for something, I almost hate answering the phone because I usually can’t join them and feel badly saying “no” because I know how frustrating that can be.
But ya know…one of the issues that easily arises with rejection is resentment. This resentment can begin to fester if not dealt with properly. We could feel like rejecting that person altogether, as I admitted to doing from time to time at my workplace. We could come to hate the other person as they destroy our “egos” and “self-esteems.” We could begin to wonder what is wrong with us. Is the rejecting person too good for us? Will I ever be good enough? Resentment will also cause us to consider giving up to spite those who rejected us.
Resentment is borne out of the great pain of rejection. You work hard and your talents, expertise, and capabilities go unnoticed or unappreciated by a boss or potential employer and you get overlooked for a job…ouch! There comes a temptation to say, “Why bother!” It’s this tendency to give up and stunt the growth of any future talents that has caused many in the realm of child psychology to adopt the philosophy of boosting and protecting children’s self-esteem by shielding and guarding them from rejection and resentment.
Here’s a classic example. When I was 10 and I tried out for Little League baseball in the city where I grew up, I showed up with very little experience fielding or hitting a baseball. It was an awfully cold day and there I stood with my glove in hand being asked to play positions in the infield, outfield, and pitcher. Then, I had to try to hit a ball with a bat I could hardly swing properly. If that wasn’t bad enough, this was all done amongst the other kids who, I perceived, were better than me. OK! I finally finished and went home and awaited an assignment. I didn’t make any of the teams at the levels I wanted to play. Instead I was assigned to the Instructional League…for the next TWO YEARS. I wound up playing two more years in the division just above instructional league. To this day I’m not very good at baseball and have no desire to try again anytime soon because I have learned to accept that I am not gifted in that area.
Now, today, in most places, everybody makes the team and the coaches nowadays are encouraged to try to give equal playing time to everyone on the team regardless of whether or not they’re good enough. That’s not good. Letting kids go through a rejection process is so healthy. When I realized I wasn’t up to par with most of the kids playing baseball, I went out and found something I was good at…tennis. As I mentioned in another article, I played high school, college, and amateur tennis and won many tournaments and regional awards. I was forced, through the realization that I couldn’t play baseball, to go out and find what I was good at and then excel in it.
But today, because everyone makes the team, we have created another problem…a sense of entitlement. You have these younger kids, who were never told they weren’t good enough, trying to get into college or applying for jobs and now they see the world does not believe in the “everyone makes the team” philosophy. Even moms and dads can experience feelings of resentment when things don’t go the way they feel they should. Because of the likelihood of rejection breeding resentment, we need to learn how to handle rejection properly and teach our children the same lessons.
Jesus was rejected by the very people He came to save; “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, AND YE WOULD NOT” (Luke 13:34). There is tenderness in His voice and a concern for those who rejected Him. Isaiah 53:3 reads, “He is despised and rejected of men; man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him: he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” During Christ’s crucifixion ordeal, not only did Peter reject him through his denials, but most of the other disciples and followers deserted Him as well. But on the cross, what did He say to His Father about the very people who were killing Him? “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus didn’t exercise a sense of entitlement and laud it over those who were rejecting Him. He didn’t say, “Hmmm, they’ll be sorry one day!” No, He understood and accepted that not everyone would see things the way He did. He was the Savior and they didn’t see it that way. But He continued over the course of His life to try to reach the nation of Israel. His rejection garnered no resentment. He tried and tried, and ultimately will try one last time in the end times. Remember, He was so compassionate toward those who rejected Him that He was weeping upon His entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:41).
But here’s a big lesson to heed when trying to learn how Christ handled rejection. As He was being rejected and mistreated and put to death (remember he was an innocent man condemned to death in a make believe trial) the Bible says, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Jesus was the ultimate example of His teachings on the subject.
So how does this all play out in the home? When I was in college, before I had a family, I applied to many, many medical schools and didn’t get accepted to any of them. Up until maybe five or so years ago, I was extremely bitter toward the admission boards of each of those schools for not giving me a chance. I always hoped that someday I would get accepted under some circumstance and I could rub it in the faces of those who didn’t believe in me. Thank God I didn’t have children then.
Today, I do have children. I am in the final stages of trying to get a book published and that is an even more daunting task than applying to medical school. Plus, this book has been a labor of love for many years. But I’m ready, by the grace of God, to begin receiving the rejection letters from publishers and agents. The difference now will be…do I rant and rave and speak ill of agents and editors if they reject my book, or do I use it as an opportunity to teach my children that we don’t always get what we want, and that’s OK. I used to believe second place was the first loser and that winning was everything. Now, it’s trying your hardest that counts, and that’s what we need to teach our children so they don’t grow up entitled and are able to learn, at the same time that failing is a part of growing up and living life.
When Phil Mickelson (pro golfer) came off the bunny slope and went to the top of the mountain, he skied all the way down to his dad and shouted with glee, “I didn’t fall once the whole way down!” His father looked at him and told him that meant he didn’t learn anything. That it was only through pushing yourself to your limit and failing along the way when we really learn things about ourselves. There’s an old saying that says something to the effect that no one ever stumbled by remaining seated in one place.
Here’s a good way to sum up what I’m trying so hard to get across. A preacher said it best when he explained to his congregation: “Holding on to the emotional residue of rejection is a self-destructive enterprise and one that often hinders our relationships with others. When we hold on to the negative and take it personally, we either come to view ourselves as worthy of the rejection or come to view others as worthy of our wrath, or both. But if we can find a way to process the experience, wipe off the dust and let it go, we are free to move on and live toward our strengths out of a deep sense of purpose and calling.”
I didn’t get accepted to medical school, but I’ve moved on and discovered a passion for writing. Perhaps God protected me from making the wrong choice years ago to fulfill His will in my life today. In that light, I harbor no ill will toward the admission boards. Maybe you’ve been passed up for a promotion and you’re a bit miffed. Let it go and trust God that He may have reasons to which you are not privileged to at this time. Don’t stop trying to better yourself. Wipe off the dust and wait on God to reveal His true calling for your life. Maybe you keep calling a friend to join you for a particular activity and he keeps saying “no.” There may be reasons that you don’t know as to why he keeps saying no, but maybe there are other opportunities to fellowship, and from time to time you may get a “yes” out of him.
You can be hurt by rejection and in turn teach your kids to resent those that reject them. But that’s not how Christ handled rejection. Or, you could try to shelter your kids from rejection by going to the Little League administrator and asking them to explain why little Johnny isn’t good enough to play with the big boys until they give in to your rants. But is that going to help Johnny in the present and future? I think not. Tell Johnny that the people deciding his fate on the ball field didn’t think you were good enough at this time and they are very knowledgeable in their evaluations of players. Tell Johnny he either needs to practice more, or find something else he’s interested in and give it a go.
Rejection builds character and resolve if approached with the right attitude. And who knows, maybe it’s just not the right time and place for you yet. George Lucas was turned down, I believe, nineteen times before someone gave him a shot with Star Wars. Charles Dickens had numerous manuscripts rejected and has since gone on to sell a few books. Another author, John Creasy, who has gone on to sell over 60-million books received 743 consecutive rejection letters. The point here…persevere. If at first you don’t succeed (well, you know the rest).
But what about those times when it seems God has rejected us in the form of unanswered prayers? Look at the woman in Luke 18:1-8. God is teaching us men that we need to pray and faint not (don’t give up and don’t lose heart). The lady comes to this judge making a request of him (vs. 3) but the Bible says this judge would not grant this woman’s request “for a while” (vs. 4). Then, because of this lady’s perseverance and fearless attitude toward potentially endless rejection on the part of the judge, he grants her request “lest by her continual coming she weary me” (vs. 5).
So there you go…If you’re rejected…don’t be bitter…don’t give up…learn from it…teach your children…learn to trust God’s wisdom…maybe even have a little fun if you get rejected, like this guy!!!
Dear Manager, Thank you for your letter of April 25. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me a position in your company. This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field of candidates, it is impossible for me to accept all refusals. Despite your company’s outstanding qualifications and previous experience in rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at this time. Therefore, I will assume the position in your department this August. I look forward to seeing you then. Best of luck in rejecting future applicants. Sincerely…