Many of us have known rejection in our lives. It is a rare person indeed who goes through life never having experienced it.

We live in a society where people seem to feel rejected more and more. Part of the reason is the increased scrutiny of our lives as a result of social media. And if you are part of a minority, if your sexual orientation is not the norm, if you have an addiction, if you have done things which have hurt people, or if you had a painful childhood and still feel that in adulthood, you are all too familiar with what rejection is.

Man looking out window

PICTURE: Sasha Freemind/Unsplash

Recently we commemorated World Suicide Prevention Day. According to Lifeline, for every Australian who succeeds in taking their own life, another 30 will attempt it.

For the survivors, the rejection often continues afterwards. While the survivor is recovering, his or her friends are often nowhere to be seen, too busy with the daily tasks of life or too fearful about knowing what to say. So they don’t call to check in, or they don’t even send a text to ask how the person is. It’s easier just to stay quiet and move on. Out of sight, out of mind. Meanwhile the survivor feels the aloneness and rejection all over again.

"My dear old dad said to me a few times over the years that 'we’re living all wrong'. What he meant was that we’re all too busy to notice each other. We’re too busy paying our mortgages, getting the kids off to their sporting and music events, and just trying to make ends meet. Too busy to care about others."

Then there is the person who sends a courageous email to their small group, opening up about how difficult life has been lately and reaching out for help, admitting they are struggling mentally. They get one response, and that is from a person who emails the others suggesting that we do something special for the person struggling. But that email doesn’t receive any responses.

My dear old dad said to me a few times over the years that “we’re living all wrong”. What he meant was that we’re all too busy to notice each other. We’re too busy paying our mortgages, getting the kids off to their sporting and music events, and just trying to make ends meet. Too busy to care about others.

No wonder eight people in Australia kill themselves every day. No wonder, as researcher Johann Hari has found, that the rates of anxiety and depression in Australia are literally off the charts. No wonder, when we are offered the idol of individuality, shows like Married at First Sight, The Bachelor, or Gogglebox, desperately looking for something we lack in our voyeurism, something to fill the void inside us.

As a Christian I feel this deeply. I am convinced that life is about relationship, about connection and community. There is something in us that is wired for it. It’s literally in our DNA. We simply cannot live and function on our own. We are social creatures, yet, as Hari has pointed out in his brilliant book, Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope, we are the first society in human history to actively dismantle our tribes.

Author, Larry Crabb, refers to God as the 'Eternal Community: Parent, Son and Holy Spirit'. Yet when the Son joined us and made His home in the neighbourhood, as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message, even He was rejected. 

There is consolation in the fact that the Son of God Himself knew rejection. He knew it intensely. He knows what we go through when we feel the deep pain of rejection because He has been there. Because He has been there, He can comfort us with the words, “I hear you”.

There is a very real sense in which the Son of Man was born to be rejected. He was hunted from birth, forced to flee as a refugee to a foreign land. Then, as an adult, He was rejected by his own, even His family doubting his mental sanity; and at the hour of his greatest anguish, His best and closest friends all ran away, bar none.

How do we deal with deep rejection, when more and more of us actually believe the world would be better without us in it?

It’s so easy to react in bitterness. I still struggle with the rejection I have felt at certain times in my life. But when there is no one else around in our me-first society, I am sustained by Jesus and the example of some of His followers over the years. The One who sweated drops of blood in Gethsemane while His best friends slept, still went to Calvary out of love for them.

"I still struggle with the rejection I have felt at certain times in my life. But when there is no one else around in our me-first society, I am sustained by Jesus and the example of some of His followers over the years. The One who sweated drops of blood in Gethsemane while His best friends slept, still went to Calvary out of love for them."

I am sustained, too, by the example of Christ-followers like Martin Luther King, who just happened to be born with a particular skin colour that subjected him and people like him to the most brutal racism. Responding in love, he proclaimed, “I've seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up against our most bitter opponents and say: We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering.” 

When we choose to love those who have hurt and rejected us, it is in no way an endorsement of what they did. It is a statement that you will not choose to do the same thing to them, because you want life to flourish, both theirs and your own. It is a statement to the universe that you are about transformation. It is showing that you agree with Richard Rohr when he says, ‘hurt people hurt people, but transformed people transform people’.

If our love is rejected, we just have to take it. Mother Theresa knew that, even feeling rejected by God. Still she had the fortitude to say that when people reject us and are unreasonable and unkind, to forgive them anyway, to be kind anyway, to do good anyway. In other words, to love anyway.


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Jesus told us to love our enemies because He knew that we would have them. And He knew that loving them was the only way to live. He knew a higher way; He wasn’t going to be trapped in the prison of hatred and envy, of either others or Himself. So it makes sense that He would say from the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

It’s a lonely path, the path of life. Love, by its nature, is vulnerable and open to rejection and abuse. To love is to suffer, but to love is to live. That’s why Jesus, the very personification of love, is also called the Man of Sorrows, familiar with grief.

Rejection is sometimes unbearably painful, and it is made worse by the lie that our society feeds us in the 5,000 ads that we are subjected to every day. That is the lie that your life is your own, that you don’t need anyone else and that you are the most important person in the world. It is a lie that breeds anxiety and depression that is off the charts in Australia. And it is a lie that is understood by the very One who made you and who holds you close while you weep when you are rejected.

People in Australia looking for help or information can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467