A few years ago, I had a crush on a colleague of mine named Ed. (That’s his real name—he deserves credit for this one.) Ed and I were both student ministers serving at different churches, and I had no idea what to do about my crush. If you know any prophets, you know that prophets HAVE to tell people where they stand with them. So in true pushy prophet girl nature, I sent him a birthday card (it was NOT his birthday—humor) in which I let him know I had a crush on him.
Ed sent me an e-mail in return that was quite simply the sweetest rejection I had ever received. In it, he noted that he had been in my situation before, and he wanted to be as grace-filled as possible in letting me down. He also promised that there would be no weirdness between us as friends. I was disappointed, but I don’t even remember if I cried: what I remembered was that I felt accepted and I felt grace, even in the midst of being rejected.
Thinking about all the rejection that I’ve personally faced is tough, but that one grace-filled acceptance reminded me of three keys to handling rejection—whether you’re on the giving end or the receiving end:
- Remember that rejection is not always personal. In my story, Ed was in a new relationship that he wanted to see through. (FYI: that relationship became his marriage.) Sometimes, it’s not the circumstance for you. But remember my previous blog about God accepting you? Well, He also knows what’s best for you and has plans to prosper you and not to harm you (Jeremiah 29:11). And that job, that person, or that circumstance may not be what is best for you now, but God knows what is and He is saving you for that.
- Weave grace and acceptance into rejection. The way Ed handled me was filled with grace and acceptance. Why? Because he had been in the same situation before. We have all been rejected in our lives, and we know the pain it can cause. So if we want to be emotionally mature adults, we should strive not to cause that kind of pain but instead to deliver acceptance and compassion to others (Ephesians 4:31-32). So remember rejection feels like and aim to improve the experience by asking God for His compassion to help you—whether you’re giving or receiving it. Pay acceptance and compassion forward.
- Use both rejection and acceptance to grow and move forward. In my case, I was not ready for an Ed (a boyfriend). I looked at myself and began to see ways that I could improve my communication, my emotional health, and a number of things that God needed to work on in me. So is there something you could improve about yourself? There is a God who accepts you, just as you are, but He doesn’t want to leave you that way. Truly accepted people become truly accepting people (Cloud and Townsend), and we should keep growing in Christ to build up ourselves and His church (Ephesians 4:15-16).
Experiencing rejection can be a time for growth, but it can also be a time to experience grace and acceptance. In fact, choose to make acceptance the norm in the midst of rejection. You can say no and deny others when necessary, but the challenge is, can you do it with grace and compassion?