Whether we were turned down for a date, didn’t get the job, or just feel overlooked, rejection affects most of us more than we’d like to admit. According to author and Proverbs 31 Ministries president Lysa TerKeurst, “We are all either trying to get healing from past rejection, dealing with present rejection, or fearing that an unexpected rejection is just around the corner.”
In her new book, Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely, TerKeurst addresses the topic of rejection in depth and offers practical strategies for coping with it. In sharing her own personal experiences with rejection, she gives an honest look into its roots, shows how it can poison our relationship with ourselves and others, and provides faith-based insights into where true belonging is found.
Tell us about the inspiration behind the book.
Well, I write about what I struggle with. So when I’m thinking about the next book I want to write, I think about what I want God to help me dive into and focus on. At the same time, I also pay attention to the people I intersect with on social media because I always want to know if the topic I’m considering is unique to me or if it’s a common struggle among the women I’m reaching on a daily basis.
I definitely saw that the topic of rejection fit all of those, but I didn’t just want to write a whole exposé on rejection. I didn’t want to unpack the past rejections and get knee-deep in the fact that we’ve all been hurt in the past. Instead, I wanted to figure out how to help people deal with rejection today and not fear it so much for tomorrow. That’s where the subtitle comes in:living loved when I feel left out, less than, and lonely, because that’s what the book is really about.
What does “living loved” look like to you?
The easiest way I can explain it is that when I interact with people, I’m faced with a choice; I can either let the first thing they encounter be my insecurities and the damage done from past rejections, or I can let it be the love of God. Rejection is an unfortunate part of life. We are all in a constant state of healing from past rejections, dealing with present rejections, and fearing unexpected rejections.
Yet, I can stand in the middle of rejection and acknowledge the pain of that, but refuse to let it steal one more minute, one more hour, one more day from me. I can confidently say that rejection from man does not equal rejection from God. He has already given me the ability to carry with me the full love of God and to make that what people encounter when they interact with me. God’s love isn’t based on me. It’s simply placed on me, and it’s the place from which I should live. Now, that message is very easy to preach and I acknowledge it’s hard to live, but that’s why I wrote Uninvited.
You discuss something called “assigned rejections” in the book. How do these differ from other forms of rejection?
One of my favorite chapters in the book is called “There’s a Woman at the Gym Who Hates Me,” and it describes these assigned rejections. I was at the gym working out on the elliptical one day when the woman beside me hopped off her elliptical and walked off in a seemingly aggravated manner. I felt like I had somehow irritated her, and so I started coming up with a dialogue to explain the situation. Then I would see her in the gym other days and I would add more dialogue. For example, she wouldn’t look at me and I would think, “Man, she hates me so much she can’t even stand the very sight of me.” Or she would be standing in line behind me for a piece of equipment and I would dump on myself the judgements I thought she was making about me, like, “That girl struggles with 10 pounds, but I can lift 50 without even breaking a sweat.”
Then one day, this woman was walking out of the gym bathroom when I was walking in and she smiled at me. It wasn’t a smile like, “I’m about to whip your tail on the gym floor.” It was like, “Hey, I think I’ve seen you before.” After that brief interaction I thought, “Wow. I think I have assigned a rejection she never put on me. I have added dialogue and assigned statements of judgment from her towards me that she’s never spoken about me.” That’s how assigned rejection often happens, so my hope is that we can learn to recognize our propensity to do this so we can experience a lot more truth in our life and stop perceiving rejections that people never gave us.
What advice would you offer those who compare themselves to others and feel rejected when their lives don’t look like their “successful” friends?
I’m 47 years old and I’ve dealt with the comparison game for much of my life, but the benefit of being 47 as opposed to being 27 is that I’ve had 20 years of experiencing the truth. And here’s the truth; there is more than enough opportunity for us all.
Let’s say there’s a conference I want to speak at, but they only choose two keynote speakers – and I’m not one of them. I could feel rejected by their choice, or I could look at it from the perspective that perhaps I’m not prepared for that assignment yet, while the chosen speakers are. Seeing situations in that light has gotten me from that place of comparing and feeling threatened by other people to a place of peace.
What Scripture passages encourage you most in seasons of loneliness and rejection?
One of my favorites is Mark 3:14. It describes Jesus calling the disciples to himself and appointing them to do two things. The first thing is one we’re familiar with: go out, preach the good news, heal the sick, and cast out demons in order to pave the path for new life in Christ. But if you look at the text, you’ll notice that it also says Jesus called his disciples to be with him before he tells them to go out for him. That “be with him” part is crucial. How can we let the fullness of God’s love be the first thing people interact with if we haven’t taken time to be with Him? I believe God appoints each of us every day to be with Him before we set our hearts and our hands to go work for Him.
You write, “There is something wonderfully sacred that happens when a girl chooses to realize that being set aside is actually God’s call for her to be set apart.” Explain how understanding the difference between those two can help us process rejection in a healthier way.
Think about the assignment that God gave David in the Bible. David was anointed to be the future king, and yet, he was not immediately ushered to the throne. Rather, after he was anointed he went back into the fields and back into his everyday life as a shepherd. I have to wonder if David walked back to his sheep with the oil of anointment still dripping down his head and thought, “God, are you sure? You just anointed me to be the leader of your people, but now I’m just back in the middle of my sheep and my everyday life… Have you really called me to do something significant?”
But you see, David was not set aside in that moment. He might have felt set aside, but God was actually setting him apart to develop in him a character to match his calling. The fields of his everyday life became a preparation for him to become the king. It’s much the same with us. When we are overlooked by other people, when we are not chosen, when we’re rejected, we feel very much in our flesh like we’re set aside. In those moments, we need to tell ourselves that this is actually a time when we’re set apart and that there’s a preparation happening within us today for the season when God will “promote” us, when He’ll put us up front to do what He’s wanting us to do. If we don’t allow the preparation time to take place, then we won’t have the character to carry out the plans God has for us. So it comes down to choice. We can look at it as being set aside, which does feel like rejection, or we can look at it as being set apart in preparation.
This article was originally posted on Huffington Post