Years ago, I got a new boss at the job I was working. It was clear, from the outset, that he and I shared a common vision. We hit it off, professionally, right away. I liked the initiatives he brought to the table and I appreciated the things upon which he wanted the organization to focus. Likewise, he seemed to like and appreciate what I brought to the table. I became a standard-bearer for the change he sought. One day, he asked if I could stay for a few minutes after a meeting and said he had something he wanted to bounce off me. What he presented to me both flattered and inspired me. He told me he was seeking to create a new position of leadership in the organization and wanted to know if I had any interest in changing my role to fill this new position. He said that he had me specifically in mind when he was envisioning what this new position would be. He even told me that he was waiting to feel me out and gauge my interest in it before he pursued it further. Needless to say, I was excited and honored. The new position would require me to get new training, which would require graduate class work. Almost immediately, I invested in that path, both monetarily and emotionally, and began taking new courses I had never planned on pursuing before. I was all in.
Making a long story shorter, the new position was, indeed, created and the process of filling it began. There was a prerequisite interview process. Given the fact that I had been led to believe that the position was all but created for me, I let overconfidence consume me. I assumed that the interview process was just perfunctory–I was wrong…very wrong.
As it turned out, I wasn’t even one of the finalists for that position which was “created for me.”
I was devastated–utterly broken.
I think I went through most of the stages of grief–all but the acceptance stage–in about 10 seconds when I got the call from my boss telling me I wasn’t getting the job–the very job that he had made me feel was created for me. I felt I’d been trapped–betrayed–stabbed in the back.
I didn’t handle it well—at all.
I was filled with more resentment than I had ever experienced in my life. For months, I went out of my way to avoid even being in the same vicinity as my boss. In meetings or other times I was forced to be in his presence, I would avoid eye contact and would clam up–refusing to contribute even one iota to discussions.
I went into the most prolonged and severe state of depression I’d ever experienced, before or since. I questioned everything about myself–and, frankly, I pouted and wallowed in self-pity.
It was not a good time and it went on like that for months.
Eventually, it got better. I shared my situation with a couple people I felt I could trust–that helped.
What eventually brought me through the crisis was the realization–I believe divinely inspired–that the job just wasn’t a good fit for me. A series of events showed me that I probably wouldn’t have been happy in that job. In fact, the very way I reacted to the rejection was a pretty sure sign that the job wasn’t for me. It gradually became clear, most importantly, that the job was not God’s plan for me.Once I was able to arrive at that conclusion, I was able to forgive my boss. I forgave but I’m sure I will never forget the hurt.
That unpleasant experience came back fresh to my memory this week as I was preparing for our small group study at church. We are reading a book called Goliath Must Fall, by Louie Giglio. The book is about slaying the giants in our lives that threaten to drag us down. This week’s chapter focused on rejection. I sure would have liked to have read that chapter years ago when I was going through the trials of the biggest rejection I have ever had to deal with. Perhaps I would have come to some peace with it much sooner than I did.
I was struck by the book’s message that, as Christians, we can heal the scars of rejection by focusing on the fact that God made us the way we are–and God doesn’t make mistakes. When we can keep that thought in the forefront of our mind, it should take much of the sting out of rejection. But it is so hard to do in modern society. Those feelings that I’m good enough in God’s eyes are inward and faith-based–unfortunately, they aren’t easy to recall when we are living in a society that seemingly runs so counter to them. God made me to be this way doesn’t seem to be a very valuable commodity in a society that judges us for how high we can manage to climb on the socioeconomic ladder. Society doesn’t have a place where we can cash in on the fact that God made me the way I am and God doesn’t make junk.
Social media has become a place for us to post our unofficial spit-shined resumes–to showcase a life scrubbed clean. There is no room for rejection on our social media profiles. So, when rejection comes, we try to swallow it and force it down–then we let it eat away at our spirit like a cancer. Sometimes–like I finally did–we eventually find a way to get past it. Other times, tragically, people are never able to overcome it–they may become bitter and abusive, taking out their long pent up poison on others–sometimes even their own children–as the bitterness of rejection that has festered for decades becomes a vicious cycle. Or, perhaps they search for healing by self-medicating and fall into a cycle of addiction. In the most extreme cases, they feel they can only find peace through the taking of their own life.
Rejection can be fatal.
As a Christian, if I allow rejection to erode my self-worth, I am making it about me. I am losing sight of the fact that God made me perfectly and has a plan for me. I wish I would have had more of that mindset years ago when I felt the sting of rejection and let it drag me into the pit of despair during one of the darkest seasons of my life.
As Christians, we are called to follow after Jesus and look to him as an example. Jesus wasn’t immune to rejection–in fact, his society rejected him to the point of putting him to death on the cross. If we truly live out our faith, we’ll find peace in the assurance that Christ took our rejection to the cross with him. That faith should be our shield against the sting of rejection.
It’s easier said than done, but rejection should be viewed merely as a change of direction. It’s a detour sign on the road of our lives to let us know that God’s plan is often different from our own.