Spirituality for Today – July 2010 – Volume 14, Issue 12

How to Handle Rejection

By Msgr. Frank C. Wissel, D.Min.

Rejection is one of the most difficult things to handle in life. Sometimes, someone will call me and say, "Monsignor, I'm sorry; I forget to send you an invitation to an event." Others will say, "Monsignor, I'm sorry, I forgot to return your call."

A photo of a man looking depressed

Jokingly, my response usually is "Don't worry; I'm not affected by rejection. When I was ten, my mother sent me to the movies and when I came home she had moved."

But I would find her, so you see, I am not offended by rejection. When I was twelve, my mother had me kidnapped, and when the kidnappers sent her a large lock of my hair she would say "I want more proof."

Naturally, none of the above was true. To offer yourself to someone else and have the offer turned down is a very painful experience. Jesus had understood this better than any other person who has ever lived. He came to his own people, and they would not accept him. His religion rejected him as a heretic. His country called him a traitor, and one of his closest friends sold him for thirty pieces of silver. Another denied ever knowing him. In the end, all abandoned him fearing for their own safety. Finally, he died on the cross amid a jeering mob.

Jesus knew the meaning of rejection. So when it came time to send his disciples out on their own, he tried to prepare them for it. He sent them out two by two, and told them to take no extra provisions because the things they needed would be provided in homes along the way. If they came to a place that would not accept them, he told them to shake the dust of that place off their feet and move on.

That may sound like a contradiction, to handle rejection by expecting to be accepted. It's almost like setting yourself up for a big letdown. Would it not be better to expect rejection in order to steel yourself against it?

Some people do that. They go out to meet life fully expecting to be turned away, with the result that they often are. Psychologist talk about a thing called "self-fulfilling prophesy." All that means is that we usually find what we are looking for. If we expect other people to reject us, that affects the way we relate to them.

We're frightened, uncomfortable, defensive, angry; and it turns out that our own behavior brings on the rejection that we fear. Jesus taught his disciples against that. He told them not to carry any extra money, food or clothing. The implication was that they would meet friendly people, who would provide for their needs. In other words, they went out anticipating acceptance. That's one way to handle rejection.

Another way is to accept rejection as a fact of life, when and if it comes. Sooner or later it happens to everyone. I have watched a group of children at play and seen a little fellow off to the side, wiping his eyes with his little hand.

My heart hurt for him, because he was feeling the pain of rejection. But children usually make up quickly, and soon that problem is resolved. But in later life, it can and does become more serious. I have talked to both men and women, whose mate of ten or twenty years have walked in and said, "I don't love you anymore," and walked out.

That kind of rejection cuts to the very depth of the soul, and no one gets over it easily. There are many other examples of rejection that are devastating.

It is import to hang on to your friends; I think that is why Jesus sent his disciples out two by two. That way, no matter how tough things got, they had one another to lean on.

The worse thing a person can do in time of rejection is to believe that no one can be trusted. Never allow that thought to stain the fabric of your soul, because it is simply not true. God can be trusted and he cares about us. What is more, there are some people with the love of God in their hearts, and they care about you.

Finally, there is a fundamental lesson of life; we all need to learn it. The most dangerous thing about rejection is that it can accumulate, become a habit, and eventually turn it into self-rejection. When that happens, the human spirit is in the most desperate straits.

God loves you. Christ died for you. That makes you very important. Accept yourself, and get on with the business of living.