Last week I got the news that I had been rejected: I had poured my all into one and only one application to a top-tier doctoral program only to learn that I hadn’t made the cut. Worse yet was the explanation that there was nothing I could have done to make my application any stronger, which apparently was, in terms of qualifications, indistinguishable from the two candidates in the program who will be admitted this fall; I was rejected on the basis of circumstances beyond my control, I was told. The rejection stung…a lot…hence these tips, in hopes that they will help you, too, rebound from rejection in whatever form:
1. Let yourself grieve. Allow yourself to feel the emotions that come with rejection. Anger. Hurt. Sadness. These emotions belong to the grieving process and will help you discern next steps, so don’t be afraid to experience these feelings and identify and express them. If you’re not sure how to express your feelings constructively or get in touch with them, take a short tour of the Psalms. You might even try doing what the Psalmist did: write down your feelings, or put them into a song that cries out to God. The Bible is no stranger to melodrama.
2. Go to God in prayer. Vent. Seek to listen. Ask God to guide you in next steps. Make a space for prayerful solitude and intentional listening and meditation; and, once you’ve grieved, be expectant for how God will be your friend, companion and helper in your present circumstances.
3. Put your rejection in bigger perspective. A great place to start is with the vastness of the universe and a God who created and sustains it. We may not ever understand the reasons for why we were rejected, but this same God who made the world and directs our path has reasons that thankfully are far better than any human ones—reasons that ultimately will work for our own good in the scope of God’s perfect will for our lives.
4. Ask yourself what you want and entrust it to God. This rejection, despite the painfulness of it, is helping you clarify what you really, ultimately want to do, be and value. It’s possible that in the process of coming to terms with your feelings, you’ll develop a stronger sense of purpose. In some cases, this may mean a confirmation that the path which you were on when you were rejected is still in fact the right path for you, and that you need not give up because of one or more setbacks. In other cases, this may mean revising your game plan, by taking an inventory of your gifts and desires and asking God to lead you to that sweet spot or relationship where you’ll find true fulfillment.
5. Expect setbacks. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what your pedigree is or what your life looks like…we all face setbacks; in fact the Bible says we should just expect them and even, to a certain extent, welcome them. One setback needn’t detour us from what we want to do; but a setback can be a good teacher. Seek to learn from your setbacks, not to be hamstrung by them.
6. Thank God and give God the glory. In everything, the apostle Paul instructs, “rejoice.” Give thanks, in other words. Praise God. Let God know that even while you don’t understand the rejection, and are angry, hurt or depressed, you are grateful that God is closing the wrong doors and opening the right ones on your behalf. Or, if you don’t really believe that truth, ask God to help you believe it. Ask God for a faith that can entrust your life into the hands of One who loves you better than you love yourself. It may sound painfully glib to say that a closed door means that God has something else in store for you, at least for the time being—or, that the timing of this rejection fits into a divinely orchestrated plan that is in the end better. The truth can sometimes be painful and sound trite, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the truth. (Truth, like grace, can sometimes hurt.)