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“Why can’t he just see the truth?” My mom and I were pondering this on the telephone this week as we thought about my stroke-ridden uncle’s health crisis. He wasn’t really getting better, and he seemed to think that ordering expensive health products online—instead of working hard in therapy—would help him to regain his pre-stroke “fitness”—which wasn’t that great to begin with. He had already been kicked out of one therapy for not doing the work; now there was a chance he would be kicked out of another. It just seemed like he didn’t want to accept anything about the situation—including his limitations.
One of the biggest keys to emotional health is acceptance. It’s not about others accepting you—that is a path that leads to death. Instead, it’s about walking in emotional health and with the joy that comes through Christ. And if there’s anything I have learned about life in Christ, it is that you must practice acceptance in the following three areas to create emotionally healthy habits:
Accept yourself. Sometimes, accepting ourselves means accepting where we are right at this moment. It means taking a hard look at ourselves from a Biblical point of view and recognizing our current sins and struggles. It means swallowing our pride and understanding that we are beautifully broken people. We may not be physically broken, but we are all spiritually and emotionally broken and weak because we live in a broken world. As I watch my uncle resist accepting himself and his condition right now, I am forced to ask myself, where am I being prideful and not accepting my weaknesses? Proverbs 19:8 says, “Whoever gets sense loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good.” Do you have sense? Are you trying to keep understanding yourself so that you can discover good?
Accept others. This is my biggest struggle. For most people, accepting themselves is the hard part, but for me, it is accepting that other people are exactly the way God made them. Why can’t my coworker learn things as quickly as I do? Why can’t my uncle see the truth about his condition? I tend to bring these complaints to God instead of accepting and seeing others as His creations as well. After all, I need to accept that God didn’t just make ME, He formed others uniquely as well (Psalm 139). And I need to accept others, flaws and all. I need to accept my family’s flaws—including my uncle’s—and realize that as I am growing in Christlikeness, I need to show no partiality as God does. How can you accept others as they are?
Accept circumstances. My uncle had a stroke that incapacitated him. He is no longer independent, but is dependent on my family even to use the bathroom. He can no longer drive an 18-wheeler, he can no longer live a bachelor’s life of doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants to. Those are his circumstances. Maybe your circumstances aren’t as grim; maybe you simply don’t like where you are living. Maybe you don’t like your job. Maybe you aren’t married and you want to be. Can you change your circumstances? Of course. But the better question is…can you accept your circumstances and wait patiently on the Lord to use them to mature you? As James 1 notes, our circumstances—trials and testing especially—lead to perseverance, which makes us mature. So are you willing to accept your circumstances so that the Lord can produce in you His fruit? Am I?
Acceptance can be difficult, but it is a great step towards practicing emotionally healthy habits. When you begin to accept yourself, others, and your circumstances, you begin to change your thinking, your actions, and eventually your outcomes. And that is the beginning of total health—mind, soul, and body!
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.
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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?
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The earliest memory I have is one that I have relived many times. I am standing at the front door—no more than five years old—where my dad has come to get my sister to spend time with her. The problem: I am his daughter, too, but he doesn’t acknowledge that and leaves me behind. It was not the first time, nor was it the last time, that I felt rejection. That one moment, seemingly stuck forever in my mind, flavored the way I looked at the world and how accepted I felt—by others and by myself. I learned far too early to reject others before they could reject me—and I have spent most of my life fighting a spirit of rejection.
Rejection is a regular occurrence in our lives today. It is easy to feel rejected by the myriad of social media actions that create false acceptance in our lives. Did someone “retweet” you? How many “likes” did your status update receive? Did that person “love” your picture? Did someone “pin” your story on their board? If not, does that affect how you feel about yourself? Do you then try even harder to get acceptance through these false mediums?
Surely God shakes His head over humanity and our deep misunderstanding of what acceptance truly is. He has told us in “eternal ink” where our acceptance should come from and how we can get it. To change our mindset and feelings about being rejected, we must know what His Word says about it:
God will never reject you. Psalm 27:10 says “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.” It does not matter how many humans have rejected you and in what way they have done it. God will take you in and He will not forsake you, reject you, or throw you away—no matter what you have done.
God chose you. It is more than just NOT being rejected—the truth is that you are accepted and chosen by God (John 15:16; 1 Peter 2:9). Though there are different theologies behind the term “chosen,” this simply means that God has always wanted you. From the beginning of time, He chose you and desired you and wanted a relationship with you. Think about that for a moment: the God and Creator of the entire universe chose you personally to be His beloved. And God does not make mistakes. Shouldn’t walking in that reality change how you view the rejection or acceptance of others? (Yes, it should!)
God appointed you. He did not just choose us and leave us. He then appointed us, calling us out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). He appointed us to be His spokesmen to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5). He appointed us to bear fruit that would last so that whatever we ask in His name, we will receive (John 15:16). These amazing truths tell us that God wants us so much, He has special assignments for us. No human acceptance could ever compete with this glorious truth.
Even today, I struggle with remembering that other people’s rejection of me is not what matters; what matters is how God feels about me. And though I sometimes struggle, I remind myself–and that little girl–that God loves me and is constantly pursuing me, and that He is the only One who will never reject me and always accepts me—just as I am.
What are some Bible verses that help you overcome feelings of rejection?