We all experience rejection. Sometimes it strikes in subtle ways, and other times in a blatant way. I look back over my life and remember the pain of it. When I was a small child, I stood in the doorway of my mother’s room as she told me, from her bed, to stay out of the room and away from her. I retreated, crushed and convinced that my mother didn’t love me. Other mothers hugged and kissed their children. Mine didn’t. The only person I saw my mother kiss was my father. That early rejection was the first and most severe, but others followed:
• I felt like an outcast because all the popular students lived in town and I lived a couple miles away.
• I was bullied and called names.
• I heard people refer to the rural road on which I lived as “chicken alley.”
• Girls sneered at my homemade dresses and hand-me-downs from cousins.
• I strove to win an end-of-summer swim contest, only to have the blue ribbon go to my visiting cousin.
• I had a giant crush on a boy who liked girls who were prettier and smarter than me.
• I didn’t have the necessary test score or grades to make it into the college that was my first choice.
When I was a little girl, I cried over being rejected. By fourth grade, I learned to pretend it didn’t hurt. I became better at swallowing rejection as I grew up. Don’t most of us try to walk through the pain until it dissipates?
Rejection is a wound. Sometimes it heals quickly. Sometimes it takes years. In either case, it doesn’t take much to reopen the wound, to feel afresh the lacerating pain and trickling blood. Sometimes rejection becomes an infection that sickens and weakens a life.
Yet sometimes there is another side to the rejection we experience, a side we would never guess until light shines on it and we seek the love and acceptance we have longed for since the womb.
Longing for Approval
Alex Stafford stared down at Sarah. His mouth was pressed tight, and he studied her silently. Sarah stood as still as she could. She’d stared at herself in the mirror so long this morning, she knew what he would see. She had her father’s chin and nose, and her mother’s blonde hair and fair skin. Her eyes were like her mother’s, too, although they were even more blue. Sarah wanted Papa to think she was pretty, and she gazed up at him hopefully. But the look in his eyes was not a nice one. . . .
The parlor window was open, and she could hear voices. Sarah wanted to sit and listen to her parents. That way she would know just when Papa wanted her to come back again. If she was very quiet, she wouldn’t disturb them, and all Mama would have to do was lean out and call her name.
“What was I to do, Alex?” her mother said. “You’ve never spent so much as a minute with her. What was I to tell her? That her father doesn’t care? That he wishes she had never even been born?”
Sarah’s lips parted. Deny it, Papa! Deny it!
We long for approval from those we admire. But what happens when we don’t get it?
Sarah had idolized the idea of her father for years. She hoped he would love her the way she had always dreamed he would. That he would be proud of her, would pay attention to her, would even delight in her. The truth she overheard—that her father wished she had never been born—crushed her. And Alex’s rejection had far-reaching shadows. His words seeped into Sarah’s heart and formed the deepest truths she believed about herself: she was worthless and unloved, and it would have been better if she had never existed.
Rejection is a heavy burden for any person—child or adult—to bear. Yet we all carry it. Whether this burden came from a parent or a friend, a teacher or a peer, we have all experienced moments when others have weighed us in the balance and let us know, by their demeaning words, scornful looks, or excluding actions, that they have found us insufficient.
What words of rejection have sunk deep into your heart?
• “I don’t love you anymore.”
• “You’re not pretty enough or smart enough.”
• “You’re boring.”
• “No one likes you.”
When we don’t care about the speaker, these words can roll off our backs. We shrug or roll our eyes, and the cruel words are gone. Forgotten. But more often these words linger in our minds and become part of us. We pull them back out and examine them again and again, and each time we do, we believe them a little more.
Over time, our brains can turn “I don’t love you” into “No one will ever love you.” “You’re not good at this” can become “You’re just not good enough” and then “You’re worthless.” The messages become broader, encompassing more of us and eroding our sense of worth. We wonder if our lives are mistakes.
How do we move forward if we let others’ rejection of us define us? The psalm of David speaks truth over these lies:
You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them. (Psalm 139:13–16)
These words speak powerfully of how God created us, fashioning us deliberately. Do you wonder if it’s a mistake that you’re alive? God formed your inmost being and has ordained your days. Do you question your own worth? You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Do you feel you are hopelessly flawed? God wove you together. Do you feel unknown and alone? God sees you.
Sarah’s father considered her a mistake, an annoyance, a burden he wished to be rid of. Her mother loved her imperfectly, viewing her as an obstacle to Alex’s affection. But the way her parents saw her didn’t line up with who she really was.
The deepest truth about us is that we are created by God. We are loved. We are known and seen. Even beyond that, God delights in us!
The way Zephaniah 3:17 portrays God is almost startling:
The Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.
If the One who created us delights and rejoices in us, we can know that we’re never unwanted or worthless, no matter what anyone else says. If you’re struggling with feeling rejected, let others’ harsh words turn you toward the only One whose acceptance matters. Let the truth of His words sink deep into your heart and permeate all aspects of who you are. You are valuable. You are wanted. You are loved.
Copyright © 2020 by Francine Rivers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.