When a gunman opened fire and killed seven people and wounded three at a Christian college a week ago, the question was, “Why?” Why would anyone walk into a classroom and shoot people at point blank range? While we may never know exactly what triggered such an horrific event, we can guess that feelings of rejection and deep anger were rooted somewhere in the shooters psyche. And certainly his inability to deal with whatever upset him, tragically ended the lives of innocent people. Our prayers are with the families who suffered the loss of their loved ones.
Rejection, while never an excuse to hurt anyone, is a painful thing. It is about exclusion–social, relationship, peers, family, friends and romance. A group or an individual can be rejected. And while rejection is a subjective experience, it hurts because we are wired to be in relationship. Our basic need to be accepted and belong is tested when rejection is part of any relationship.
We all know how it feels to be rejected, but are there psychological consequences?
Rejection can bring on loneliness, low-self-esteem, aggression and depression. Feelings of insecurity are heightened and once rejected, a person can become more sensitive to future rejection. Anxiety can develop as well as anger and deep sadness. When social rejection is part of the picture, a person can learn to conform to peer pressure and comply to the demands of others even when that compliance could be dangerous or unhealthy. And in the worse cases, people who are rejected can lash out in violence, wanting revenge for the hurt.
So what is important in dealing with rejection?
1) Don’t allow rejection to define who you are or determine your actions. God never rejects you and sees your worth even when others do not. Other people do not determine your worth!
2) Ask yourself if the person’s opinion of you is really all that accurate. Rejection is about you not measuring up to someone’s subjective experience. Who says he or she is right? His or her opinion is only one opinion of many.
3) Forgive the person. Do not carry resentment and hurt inside or it will turn to bitterness and become explosive or depressing. Choose to forgive and let go with God’s help.
4) If you become angry, deal with your anger in a biblical way–don’t give vent to it, don’t get back at the person, don’t hurt those who hurt you. It is natural to feel like taking revenge, but the God part in you says don’t do it. Revenge doesn’t take away the hurt and only hurts others. Take the high road of emulating Christ. You will be a better person for it. (See my booklet, Breaking Free from Anger and Unforgiveness for guidelines on dealing with anger)
5) Confront the rejection but do it with love and gentleness. Sometimes people don’t know they have hurt you. Other times, rejection was intentional. It you would feel better confronting the person who rejected you, do it but practice your confrontation in a way that isn’t harsh, and tells the person the impact the rejection had on you. Understand that confronting rejection doesn’t mean the other person will be sorry or apologize. So you really have to decide and pray about what to do.
6) Take the pain of the rejection to God. Cry out to Him. He knows what it feels like to be rejected and encourages you to give your pain and burdens to Him. God is safe and will not hurt you or reject you. And He wants to heal that part of you that was deeply hurt.