Favoritism can be extremely painful.
Children catch on quickly when there is a “favorite” in the family. The favored child often comes late in life—late like young Joseph in the Bible, the beloved son of Jacob. In his heart, the father not only favors Joseph over his ten brothers, but also flaunts his favoritism by giving Joseph the infamous “coat of many colors”—a coat Jacob himself has made! Meanwhile, the older brothers seethe with anger at the sight of this richly ornamented robe, which has now become a symbol of their father’s painful rejection. Little did Jacob know that his own favoritism would be the breeding ground for jealousy—the spark that would create a climate of hurt, hostility, and lasting hatred.
“Now Israel [Jacob] loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” (Genesis 37:3–4)
WHAT IS Rejection?
Have you ever wondered, What was the very first rejection on earth? The first rejection is recorded in the first book of the Bible. God gives Adam and Eve everything they will ever need. He also gives one warning, “Don’t eat from that one tree.” And what do they do? They eat from that one tree! Their direct defiance means that they reject not just God’s Word, but also God Himself (Genesis 2:15–17; 3:6).
• Rejection is the act of refusing to accept or consider a person or thing that is not wanted or not approved.1
▆ When you experience rejection, you feel unloved, unwanted, unacceptable.
▆ The Greek verb apodokimazo means “to reject as the result of examination and disapproval.”2 (apo = away from, dokimazo = to approve)
▆ Jesus felt the pain of rejection. The Bible refers to Christ as the “Cornerstone”—the vital, the most essential stone of a major structure—yet He was the cornerstone (or capstone) the builders rejected.
“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.” (Matthew 21:42)
• To be rejected is to be cast aside, cast off, cast away—to be thrown away as having no value.3
▆ When you are rejected, you can feel useless, abandoned, worthless.
▆ The Greek verb atheteo means “to do away with, to set aside, to cast or throw away as useless or unsatisfactory.”4
▆ Jesus challenged the Pharisees and teachers of the law because they were rejecting the laws of God.
“You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (Mark 7:9)
• To reject someone means to despise, refuse, shun, turn away from.5
▆ If you reject others, you use your attitudes and actions to reveal the condition of your heart.
▆ The Hebrew word maas means “to reject, refuse, despise.”6
▆ Because God has given each of us free will, we may choose to reject the Word of God and even God Himself.
“The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have?” (Jeremiah 8:9)
QUESTION: “My father died six years ago, but I’m still having trouble dealing with the anger I’ve had toward him. He was partial to my brother, but treated my sister, my mother, and me like second-class citizens. I tried to please him with my achievements, but we never communicated and he never recognized my accomplishments. How can I stop being so controlled by my anger?”
ANSWER: Anger has four sources: hurt, fear, frustration, and injustice. The anger you describe comes from at least three of the four. The rejection you experienced is very hurtful. Seeking to please him and never achieving recognition is extremely frustrating, and being treated in a negative way simply because you are a female is most unjust. The truth is that his treatment of you had nothing to do with you, but everything to do with him. He was the one in the wrong. His inadequacies let you down. Recognize this truth and turn loose of your expectations regarding him. Admit that your father was unable to be loving and accept him simply for being your father. Choose to forgive and release him to God so that your anger does not produce bitterness in your own heart.
“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15).
WHAT IS Acceptance?
Joseph understood rejection. Although he was his father’s favorite son, Joseph was betrayed by his brothers. Imagine Joseph as a teenager—he suddenly finds himself jerked out of his comfortable home, only to be carted off to a foreign country to live as a stranger, to live as a slave! The grief of losing his family must have been frightening.
Still, Joseph accepted the will of God in his life, which enabled him to accept the sovereignty of God over his life. In spite of one betrayal after another, Joseph refused to become bitter. Instead, he accepted his circumstances by humbly entrusting himself to God.
As years passed, Joseph rose to a position of highest respect and power. When his brothers journeyed to Egypt in search of grain, they found themselves at the mercy of Joseph. Immediately, he knew who they were—but they didn’t know who he was!
Did he take revenge and refuse to give them grain? Did he send them off with grain, but not acknowledge them as brothers? Did he extend his hand of help, but insist they bow before him?
No. Joseph refused resentment—he accepted his brothers despite their past betrayal. By inviting them to become part of his life once again, they knew his acceptance was not merely conditional, but rather unconditional. And, in truth, his acceptance was possible only because of the condition of his heart—his heart of true forgiveness, which allowed him to focus on the future, and his heart of true commitment, which enabled him to let the past stay in the past. (Read Genesis 37:12–29 and chapters 41–45.)
• To accept someone means to approve or to receive that one favorably or willingly.7 We should receive and value others because of their God-given worth.
▆ Your acceptance of others is based on the disposition of your heart, which, in turn, is expressed through your attitude and actions.
▆ The Greek word proslambano means “to accept, receive, welcome.”8
▆ Jesus Christ provides the supreme example of acceptance. The Bible says we are to accept others the same way Christ accepts us.
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7)
WHAT ARE Three Levels of Acceptance?
When we reject someone, if we look closely, we may find that we are repeating the same rejection that we ourselves have received. The same is true of those who have learned to be accepting of others. Typically, we give what has been given to us. However, your past rejection need not determine your future. You can grow in your ability to become more and more accepting—even when you yourself have been rejected. The Bible says …
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (Isaiah 43:18)
The Three Levels of Acceptance9
1 Zero Acceptance
• “No matter what I do, I’ll never be accepted.”
The person who totally rejects you harbors deep hurt and bitterness and extends no grace and mercy. But the Bible says …
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31–32)
2 Performance-based Acceptance
• “I feel accepted only when I perform perfectly.”
The person who accepts you based only on how you act demands, “You must meet my requirements,” and rarely offers grace and mercy. But the Bible says …
“Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13)
3 Unconditional Acceptance
• “No matter what I do, even when I fail, I always feel accepted.”
The person who accepts you—especially when you fail—lives with a heart of grace and mercy and reflects the heart of God. The Bible says …
“Show mercy and compassion to one another.” (Zechariah 7:9)
QUESTION: “Can an authentic Christian be rejected by God?”
ANSWER: No. Based on various verses in the Bible, an authentic Christian who has truly trusted in Christ will still sin but will never be rejected by God. If you find yourself fearful of being forsaken by God, claim the following truth from God’s unchanging Word:
“For the LORD will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance.” (Psalm 94:14)
CHARACTERISTICS OF THOSE FEELING REJECTED10
The teenage years can be replete with life’s most painful rejections. Because of severe insecurity, young people crave acceptance from others and often overreact to any rejection.
By age seventeen, Joseph felt the sting of rejection from his older brothers. But, in truth, Joseph played a part in causing his brothers’ jealousy. Although God had given Joseph a special ability to interpret dreams, Joseph unwisely disclosed a certain dream to his older brothers which implied that one day they would all bow down to him. Speaking these words was not smart on Joseph’s part!
“Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, ‘Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.’” (Genesis 37:5–7)
How insulting! How impertinent! How arrogant! Resenting the implication that Joseph would “lord” over them, his brothers continued to be filled with an animosity that eventually reached a boiling point. These brothers, who felt such intense rejection, in turn took revenge and made sure that Joseph would pay dearly. Joseph’s brothers did not realize that although some say, “Revenge is sweet,” it can also leave a bitter aftertaste. That is why the Bible says …
“See to it that … no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15)
ARE YOU Controlled by the Fear of Rejection?
If your sense of self-worth is based on the approval of others, you are on a runaway roller coaster with no ability to control when you are up or down. Your feeling of value is at the mercy of what others think about you. Your sense of identity is determined by how others respond to you. To get off this uncontrollable roller coaster and conquer your fear of rejection, allow the Lord to control your life. He created you and established your worth when He made you in His image. As you put your trust in Him, He will turn your fear into faith because …
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)
Messages of One Who Is Addicted to the Approval of Others
If you think you may be living for the approval of others, honestly evaluate the following statements to see if they reflect your self-talk.
• “I am not good enough.”
• “I have to try harder.”
• “I have to earn your love.”
• “I have to be perfect.”
• “I can never please you.”
• “I always feel stupid.”
• “I am always the one at fault.”
• “I am not acceptable in the eyes of others.”
• “I know that what I think isn’t important.”
• “I know there is nothing likeable about me.”
• “I don’t deserve to be loved.”
• “I don’t feel anyone could really love me.”
• “I don’t feel that God could ever love me.”
Even though you may think these thoughts are true about yourself, they don’t reflect God’s truth. The Bible says …
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
The Fear of Rejection Test11
If we feel controlled by the fear of rejection, then our focus will be on being “people pleasers.” However, we need to say what the apostle Paul said:
“We are not trying to please men but God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4)
If you are uncertain whether or not you are living for the approval of others, answer the following questions honestly to see if you live with the fear of rejection.
• Do you avoid certain people out of fear that they will reject you?
• Do you become anxious when you think someone might not accept you?
• Do you feel awkward around others who are different from you?
• Do you feel disturbed when someone is not friendly toward you?
• Do you work hard at trying to determine what people think of you?
• Do you become depressed when others are critical of you?
• Do you consider yourself basically shy and unsociable around others?
• Do you try to see the negative in others?
• Do you find yourself trying to impress others?
• Do you repeat negative messages about yourself to yourself?
• Do you look for clues as to how others are responding to you in order to avoid the pain of rejection?
• Do you say “Yes” when you should say “No” to others?
• Do you expect others to respond to situations and conversations in the same way you would?
• Do you hear people saying that you are a “codependent person”?
• Do you experience hypersensitivity to the opinions of others but insensitivity to your own emotions?
• Do you often feel overly controlled by others?
• Do you struggle with anger and resentment toward others?
• Do you seem to be easily manipulated by others?
If you conclude that you have been controlled by the fear of rejection and you have lived for the approval of others, take this verse to heart:
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
WHAT ARE Inner Symptoms of Rejection?12
What are the ramifications of rejection? Perhaps you’ve been unaware of its subtle impact on your soul (your mind, will, and emotions). One obvious assault that rejection makes on your soul is an altering of your own self-perception and the inevitable insecurities that seem to arise out of nowhere when someone painfully turns away from you. That rejection can sear the deepest part of your soul and at the same time “mess with” your mind, taint your thoughts, and make you question your ability to function normally. But God, who knows every rejection you will ever encounter, never planned for you to be emotionally or spiritually disabled. Although you will be rejected, the Bible says …
“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)
The following are many of the classic symptoms of those who have been rejected in the past and as a result have a fear of future rejection.
• Ambivalence—“I have difficulty making decisions— if I make the wrong decision, I could be rejected.”
• Anxiety—“I have real apprehension when someone says, ‘Trust me.’”
• Bitterness—“I harbor bitterness toward those who rejected me and toward God, who allowed it to happen.”
• Depression—“My heart feels so heavy. The pain has pushed me down.”
• Distrust—“I can’t really trust others not to desert me.”
• Escapism—“Life hurts. I just need to numb the pain.”
• Fear—“I live in fear of being rejected again.”
• Flat emotions—“My heart is so deeply hurt that I can’t seem to feel excited about anything.”
• Guilt/false guilt—“I feel so bad about myself. No wonder I was rejected.”
• Inability to accept love—“Even if others say that they love me, I know it’s not true.”
• Inferiority—“I know I’ll never measure up!”
• Insensitivity—“I can’t feel for others who are in pain.”
• Introspective—“I’ve got to keep analyzing what’s wrong with me.”
• Low self-worth—“I know I’m not worthy of being accepted.”
• Resignation—“Whatever will be, will be, so why try?”
• Self-condemnation—“I feel terrible. I know I’m to blame whenever I’m rejected.”
• Self-pity—“I’m always ignored. No one reaches out to me.”
• Self-rejection—“I wish I’d never been born!”
• Withdrawal—“I’m not willing to be vulnerable again.”
• Worry—“I’m afraid I’ll be scarred for life.”
WHAT ARE Outer Signs of Rejection?13
The unseen pain of rejection can sabotage your soul and shatter your spirit; however, the outer signs of rejection are easily seen and even felt by others. When someone special walks out of your life, the joy of living is snuffed out like having a wet towel thrown on a lit candle. The darkness of desertion can discolor your perception of others and do untold damage to your relationships. The saddest part of it all is that rejection breeds rejection!
In truth, no one can avoid being rejected or treated unjustly at times. However, when you remember that your identity is in the Lord, because of your relationship with Him—not in your having been rejected by others—you will experience the truth that you, like Paul, can be …
“ … hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9)
Many of the outer signs of rejection are:
• Abuse—Mistreating others and even yourself
• Addiction—Seeking solace in addictive behavior in an effort to numb your pain.
• Anger—Feeling bitterness toward others and even toward God
• Apathy—Giving up on life—not caring about anything
• Arrogance—Acting superior to others
• Competitive—Assuming, I have to be the best
• Critical spirit—Being condescending toward others
• Defensive—Arguing with others for self-protection
• Dominant—Controlling others and situations to an excess
• Exaggeration—Bragging to impress others
• Hatred—Loathing (primarily directed toward yourself)
• Isolation—Becoming a loner as a means of self-protection
• Jealousy—Resenting suggestions and successes of others
• Legalism—Complying with rigid rules based on black-and-white thinking
• People pleasing—Trying too hard to please others
• Perfectionism—Feeling like a failure unless you do everything perfectly
• Performance-based acceptance—Believing your acceptance is based only on how well you perform
• Rebellion—Resisting the authority of others
• Subservient—Cowering in the presence of others
• Undisciplined—Lacking self-control and boundaries around others
• Vengeful—Getting even with others
WHAT ARE Thoughts, Feelings, and Vows?14
When you experienced painful rejection in the past, do you remember rehearsing repeated thoughts, feelings, and perhaps even “vows”? Unfortunately, these repetitious thoughts (I’m not accepted) and emotions (I feel unwanted) lead to an illogical conclusion (I vow that no one will hurt me again).
How we live our lives is based on what we believe. Therefore, if we believe we are rejected, we will live a life of rejection in our minds, our hearts, and our emotions, even when we are not outwardly rejected by others.
• Repeated Thoughts:
▆ “No one loves me.”
▆ “No one cares about me.”
▆ “I don’t really matter.”
▆ “I’m not good enough.”
▆ “I don’t fit in.”
▆ “I’m not accepted.”
• Repeated Feelings:
▆ “I feel empty inside.”
▆ “I feel all alone.”
▆ “I feel insignificant.”
▆ “I feel like I’m not worth anything.”
▆ “I feel unwanted.”
▆ “I feel excluded.”
• Repeated Vows:
▆ “I’m not going to get close to anyone again.”
▆ “I’m not going to let anyone be important to me again.”
▆ “No one will ever hurt me again.”
This progression demonstrates the importance of taking your thoughts captive, training your mind, telling yourself the truth. You are accepted by God; therefore, allow Him to heal your heart from the pain of the past. If you will cancel the vows that are contrary to God’s Word, you will experience perfect peace in your life.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Hunt, J. (2013). Rejection (june hunt hope for the heart). Torrance, CA: Aspire Press.