[This is part 2 of the Overcoming Rejection series.]
This was from a journal entry I wrote in 1980 and actually happened. I was 10 years old, the smallest child in my class (always was), the daughter of a preacher, and very unpopular. This moment is seared deep in my soul. It was not the first time I was bullied but it definitely was the worst. I remember it very clearly and how I felt inside. It wasn’t just a few of my classmates who participated in this cruelty – it was the ENTIRE class, including the grade above ours. I wasn’t just hurt, I was humiliated. That day the teacher forced everyone to sit in a circle, apologize, and say something nice to me, but it didn’t make it better. I had never been liked and, even though I stayed with most of those same classmates all the way through high school graduation, they never were my friends. Oh, I can think of two or three of us that are connected through social media, but they were never the kind of friends that I would play with or have slumber parties with. It was a very lonely childhood. Often being pushed aside and told that I wasn’t wanted around and made fun of.
Fast forward about 3-4 years later.
My father was a pastor at a fairly large church and our family spent just as much time at the church as we did at home. I always thought having friends would be easier at church, but it wasn’t. There was a small core group of kids who seemed to be at the church all the time because our parents were involved in the same activities. As a result, a friendship was thrust upon us as we entertained ourselves while waiting for our parents. There were about 6-7 of us that were forming a core circle of friends which started in the 1st grade and, ironically, stayed together until we graduated from high school. We all had our ups and downs over the years, but I was steadfast. I did not want to be excluded from this group; these were the only friends I had. However, one summer evening I found out where I really stood in their mind. Somehow I found myself in an argument with the other girls, one of whom had been a close friend, but was now excluding me from her life (this would become a pattern with close friends well into adulthood). In no uncertain terms, they made it clear that I was not liked by any of them. I ran away, angry. That’s how I responded to rejection: either with anger or self-pity. As I was walking outside in our church courtyard this group of “friends” approached, formed a circle around me, and took turns kicking, shoving, and laughing at me. Eventually I was able to get away and hide myself in my father’s office. I sat there in his dark office, curled up in a ball, and cried. I was getting used to this.
Either I was a slow learner, delusional, or desperate for their friendship because all was forgiven in a very short amount of time. Forward another few years with this same group of friends. We are now all driving and have jobs and still hanging out at church. I decide to make plans for us to get together outside of church. Everyone was called and plans were made to meet after work and go see a movie. I was beside myself with excitement! It was RARE for me to go out with friends. R-A-R-E. (in fact I am fairly certain I had never gone out with friends until then so this was a very special evening for me). We were to meet in the parking lot of my work place and carpool from there. After work I hurried out to my car and no one was in sight. Confused, I approached my car and noticed a note on the windshield(this is before cell phones and texting): They had decided to go without me. Crushed is the only word to describe what I was feeling. I sat in my car and wept, again.
My high school years passed quietly and alone from that point, never attending a dance or prom or a sports game. Instead, I worked as much as possible to keep busy and distracted from the loneliness. It was at this point that I started learning directly from God how valuable I was. Every time I was rejected by a person I would dig even deeper to the Word. I processed much of what I was experiencing in journals and letters to God.
I’d like to say that the bullying, rejection, and feeling like I was unseen stopped when I became an adult, however it only increased. What makes people reject others? Why do kids bully? I have no idea. As someone who has been on the receiving end of rejection and bullying I never asked those questions. Instead, I asked, “What did I do?” or “What is it about me that people don’t like?”. Valid questions that can take a lifetime to find an answer.
But therein lies the power from which we allow rejection to control our life…staying focused on ourselves.
We can analyze and evaluate every instance of rejection and wonder what it is about us that causes being rejected over and over. Is it possible that we reject and dislike ourselves thus, subconsciously, others are picking that up? What makes us not like ourselves? These are good questions to ask, but at some time we must become content and happy with the way we are. The spirit of rejection holds its power when we can camp out at self-pity and not believe we can be likable. To break that power we must first acknowledge how much we are loved and liked by God, and then learn to love ourselves, like who we are, and realize that we have a precious gift – the ability to see other lonely people. The power to keep us defeated can now be turned around and used to lift others up. It is easier for those of us familiar with rejection to notice the unloved and the unseen. With a knowing and compassionate heart, we can reach out and offer the very thing we are looking for. In the process, we find that true acceptance and love comes only from the Lord and is magnified when we offer our love and acceptance to others.
How have you experienced rejection? How has it made you a better person? Do you find you have a tender heart to those who are – or have in the past – feeling rejected? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Remember! You are loved and valuable and the only power rejection has over you is the power you give it.
[There is more to this story and I will share it as I am ready. The older I was the more painful the rejection. It’s a process of overcoming that I am still working on myself! Stay tuned!]