Rejection hurts. There is no way around it. No matter how much mental “Christianese” post-rejection pep talk you may give yourself, at the end of the day, if you’re honest, it still hurts. In a way, rejection in life is to be expected. No matter how hard you try, you will not be offered every position for which you apply, be picked first in every game, liked by every person you meet, nor will you be noticed by every person you find attractive. We experience rejection daily at different degrees. I expect these daily rejections. I can handle them. However, I’ve realized that, at least for me, the most difficult rejections to face are the rejections that come at the hands and lips of other Christians.
For this post, “Christian rejection” occurs when you feel rejected by Christians or by your own Christian faith community. What constitutes rejection will look different for every individual; perhaps it’s not being invited to the Bible study or prayer breakfast, not asked to say the benediction, or your child wasn’t invited to the after church play group. Either way, you know the kind of rejection I’m talking about. It hurts. In my own life, I have found this rejection more hurtful than other rejections because 1) The rejection is usually (not always) intentional. You were left out on purpose, for some reason unbeknownst to you. 2) Christians are supposed to be the most welcoming people, period. So, to not be welcomed by these welcoming people leaves you wondering “What’s wrong with ME?”
My first day of Sunday School c. 1997
Let me share a little about me, and my experiences with this kind of rejection, first:
Although I am from what those “in” Christian circles deem a “broken family” (I was born to teen parents and raised by my grandparents) I grew up in church. I grew up going to a King James Version (KJV) only church. But, it was full of good people: people who worked hard, tried their best to do good, and were always, always there for you when you needed someone. I attend a Christian summer camp every summer. Fox news was the ONLY news allowed in our house. So, to most, I fit the “conservative Christian” mold. However, I also went to a very, very liberal public school, dated, and had no form of media censorship…behaviors some would call heathen.
I followed my high school boyfriend to a Christian college in the south. I was presented with different forms of Christianity, slammed with some tough trials, and confronted with questions about faith and God I could not answer.Here, I walked away from my faith (secretly) for a year, only to come back to my faith after attending a conservative home church group with a friend. A church more conservative than my Vermont church. Once again, I fell in love with the good people there, people who genuinely tried to do good and who I felt truly love me.
Although I was in a conservative church circle once again, I couldn’t shake off the liberal leanings I had picked up, ironically, at my southern Christian college. Through classes on gender studies, race, and poverty, I became politically moderate.
All of this to say, I became an “outsider” in many ways. I was from a broken home, yet attended a KJV only church, support welfare policies, and voted strait ticket Republican. I didn’t “fit” anywhere. As a child, I wasn’t invited to some play groups because I may be “a bad influence,” and in Arkansas I stopped being invited to some things after my liberal friends found out I went to a KJV only church (I was labeled a “fundie”), and some of my more conservative friends labeled me a “liberal”. I was rejected from things. (DISCLAIMER: These rejections were far and few between. And if I haven’t talked to you personally about this, you’re not involved). All of these thoughts came to light because I was deleted off of the Facebook and Photostream of some of my friends today. I do not believe I was deleted due to any of my posts or political leanings, but for some reason, it brought up the memories of Christian rejection. I realized, if you’ve been in church long enough, you’ve probably experienced it, and I wanted to share my thoughts.
First Things First
Before I go any further, I must address these three, SUPER IMPORTANT things:
- You are not supposed to get along with everyone.
- You are NEVER responsible for the actions of others.
- Is is a relationship you actually want to save?
As point numero uno said, you’re not supposed to get along with everyone. Respect everyone? Yes. Love everyone? Yes. Want to invite everyone to your sleepovers? Nope. Nada. I think of people like colors. Take a look at the models in the picture above. Those colors are great, just not together. Why? They have different “personalities.” Could they work together to make a big art piece look fantastic? Sure. Should they hang out together in those outfits? Nope. I’m an ENFJ. There are other people, just due to our dislikes and likes and mannerisms, that I don’t spend more time with than I have to. That’s okay.
So, first ask yourself: was I not invited to X simply because our personalities don’t match? And then, take a hard, honest look. If the answer is “yes,” no matter how much you want to be that person’s BFF, it’s okay. Rejection still hurts, though.
Now numero dos. Despite what you may have been told, you a never responsible for how another person acts. I think it’s a shame that we now place blame on other’s for our actions. You can annoy me all you want, but if I punch you, that is my choice. (This mentality leads directly into rape culture…but that’s a topic for another post). Therefore, no matter how liberal or conservative your Facebook post was, if someone deleted you, they chose to do that. Don’t begin the victim mentality of “what did I do wrong?” Hold that thought, though, as I transition into my main points.
Numero tres: do you actually care about this relationship. We have all had what Aristotle calls “relationships of utility.” That is, relationships we are in simply because they benefit us. The pretty girl you hang out with to get guys to notice you, the super smart kid you always invite over to get homework help, the popular kid you feel cool to be seen with. If you were rejected by the Christian version of one of these, ask yourself if confronting them about the rejection is worth it, because the relationship may not be worth saving.
Do You Need to Apologize?
If you have been rejected or not invited to an event, and you realize the people did not fit the above three categories, you must ask yourself what could have caused this rejection. It is okay, and healthy, to examine yourself and the context of the rejection/deleting ext. Did you say something hurtful? Did you do something to knowingly offend them? If they answer is yes, then you must apologize. As Paul said, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
“If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
This is super important. Just as the other person is responsible for their actions, so are you responsible for yours. Living at peace with one another means saying you’re sorry and admitting fault when you done messed up, even if that means swallowing your pride in the process.
Conflict Is Healthy
Conflict Can Be Healthy
When handled in an appropriate and mature way, conflict is a healthy part of a relationship. We are all different, and thus we should expect differences of opinions and beliefs. Having disagreements is okay. Becoming abusive or disrespectful is not.
Therefore, if you feel you were rejected and are hurt, and it is safe to do so, talk to the person who you felt rejected you. Make sure when you go into this conversation there is not a single ounce of pride or bitterness in you. Be respectful and polite. In private (if safe) say to the person:
Step 1: Identify the event so there is no confusion. Example: “I saw you deleted me on Facebook” or “I noticed I was the only person you didn’t invite to the prayer meeting”.
Step 2: Say how it made YOU feel (USE I STATEMENTS!). Example: “This made me feel left out” or “This made me feel embarrassed”.
Step 3: Name goal of conversation. Example: I wanted to talk to you about that, and hear your reasoning for doing that.
Step 4: Do not guilt trip and thank them. Example: Thank you so much for explaining that to me, I know sharing feelings can be uncomfortable sometimes, but I am now glad we’re on the same page.
Example: Hey Sally, I saw you deleted me off of Facebook last week. I was hurt by this because I perceived it as you not wanting to talk to me anymore. Could you explain why you did this?
Sally: It’s not that I don’t want to talk to you any more in person, I just was no longer interested in the things you were posting and I didn’t want them showing up on my Facbeook.
Thanks for explaining that, Sally. That helps me understand better. I know this could be an uncomfortable conversation, so I appreciate you talking with me.
*Okay, okay. Most conversations, if the person is honest, will be a tad more hurtful: “I don’t want you influencing my children with your conservative views” or “I feel embarrassed to be around someone from a broken home.” We live in a culture that likes to hide behind screens. Therefore, be thankful for any honesty you get! Therefore, you must also ask yourself before you begin these conversations if you really want to know the answer.
I hoped this post encouraged you, and let you know that we have all been rejected, and if you’re in church long enough, you will experience Christian rejection of some form. So, key points to remember:
- Everyone gets rejected sometimes.
- No matter what, you are never responsible for another’s actions.
- Although you are ALWAYS responsible for your own actions.
- Apologize quickly.
- Conflict can be healthy.
- If you feel rejected by someone that is a relationship you would like to maintain, you must talk to them about it.
Have you experienced rejection before? Christian rejection? How’d you handle it? I’d love to hear.
Much peace and many blessings,