It’s taken me almost three years to get to the point where I can write about what happened with Ann, although that doesn’t mean I’m not still sad. Even as I pause to collect my thoughts, I notice that my throat feels constricted—perhaps holding back a sob that needs to come out—and my stomach feels a bit queasy. For a minute, I consider ignoring my body to carry on with my writing, but I pause.

I sense the Spirit saying, “Wait.”

Oh, jeez…I should have seen that coming.

Within seconds, tears began to stream from my eyes. I wonder if I will ever “get over” what happened.

In obedience to God’s leading, I allowed my emotions to flow however they needed to and then after reflected on what had happened. I noticed several things: 1. The release of emotion came quickly—a minute tops—and 2. the pain I was feeling was grief, not rejection. Ohhhh! Now that’s interesting!

Make no mistake: grief sucks. However, I’m truly pleased that I seem to have left behind the abysmal pain of rejection: I am now merely feeling sadness at the loss of my friend. Let me explain the backstory.

Toward the end of 2020, a.k.a. annus horribilis, my dear friend of sixteen years dumped me. We didn’t have a fight. No, the beginning of the end started with an email from Ann (not her real name) saying she was concerned that a variety of my beliefs did not align with hers, and she demanded I explain my position to continue our friendship. Although this was a period of time when there was a lot of controversy regarding vaccinations, social isolation, and masking, I never dreamed that a long-term friend and sister in Christ would draw a line in our friendship and demand allegiance to her beliefs for our friendship to continue. To say I was shocked would be an understatement.

It took me four hours to craft a response to Ann’s email. I agonized over every word, wanting to assure her that I loved her and valued her opinion, even though my beliefs differed from hers. Although I was shaken by the threat she made regarding the continuation of our friendship, I honestly thought we could work out a way forward. I ended my email on a positive note: “I am incredibly thankful to call you my friend and truly appreciate you sharing your heart with me. I hope we will still be able to share our thoughts with one another and learn from each other in the future. You are my sister always and my friend forever.”

I honestly didn’t see the train wreck coming. Instead of agreeing to work towards building a bridge between us, Ann responded by attacking my character and ending our friendship altogether. The pain of rejection I experienced was horrendous. I wonder if you can relate.

a red stop sign sitting on the side of a train track
Photo by Ben on Unsplash

What has your experience been with rejection? How did you handle the situation? I suspect everyone has their own rejection story to tell, which is why I wanted to write about this topic in the first place. In past years, I handled rejection like I suspect most people do: I buried the pain and moved on. However, because the situation with Ann was so awful, I needed to do much more than bury my hurt. The pain that gripped me was not going to shift by going for a run or doing deep breathing exercises. Recovering from rejection was a years-long process in my case. Here’s what I learned below:

Rejection Recovery Plan:

  1. Allow yourself to feel and process your emotions, no matter how long or how many tries it takes. Rejection is a deep pain experience, so expect to feel hurt, sad, lonely, and/or angry. As I’ve said many times before, unexpressed pain does not disappear; it gets buried only to reappear later. (Ask me how I know. 🙄). Pain from rejection could stick around for years, depending on who rejected you. My initial pain from Ann centered around her rejection of me, but lately, I am processing a fair amount of grief about losing her friendship. Anyone who has struggled with grief knows that it can pop up on and off for years. (BIG SIGH.) Let yourself keep processing for as long as it takes.
  2. Find a friend or partner who can be with you in your pain. A good “rejection recovery” partner will come alongside you and validate your feelings; they will also give you space to express them for as long as you need. People who try to fix you or tell you to move on and forget about it do not make good “rejection recovery” friends. It’s important that you feel heard, even if you did something to trigger the rejection. Remember, emotions are not right or wrong; they just are. Find someone who gets this.
  3. Resist the urge to spiritualize your pain. We Christians can be the worst at this. Some of us think slapping a bible verse on top of pain will somehow magically make things better. It doesn’t. You are allowed to feel pain and recognize biblical truth simultaneously. Knowledge doesn’t fix emotions. Processing them by identifying them and speaking them out loud does.
  4. Move toward forgiving the person who rejected you. I understand that forgiving someone who has deeply hurt you may take a bit of time, but it’s important that you not let the difficulty of the task stop you from moving in that direction. Jesus tells us to forgive because it’s good for us, not them. Perhaps you have heard the saying, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” That about sums up the consequences of refusing to forgive someone who hurt you: Unforgiveness turns to bitterness, which can eventually poison your soul. Remember that forgiveness is a choice; no one ever feels like forgiving. Ask Jesus to help you if you struggle to make this choice.
  5. Pray for the person who rejected you. While I fully expect that you won’t feel like praying for the person who hurt you, the practice of doing so is a powerful display of spiritual warfare. Evil wants you to hate the person who hurt you, so the world becomes more hate-filled and dark. Hate begets hate. Jesus, however, tells us to love our enemies. Praying for those who reject us is a supreme act of love. This is how the world becomes a better place.

  6. Seek healing for deep roots of rejection. My experience with Ann’s rejection forced me to recognize that I had been carrying around years of wounding that stemmed back to my childhood. With the help of a gifted minister, I was able to identify and be healed from wounds that I’ve hauled around for years. Although I’ve since experienced more pain from this rejection, I am in a much better position to navigate my current emotions since I’m not carrying around years of hurt. I encourage you to do the same.
  7. Ask God for His truth about you. When someone rejects you, that rejection is a hit to your identity. Evil is quick to pile on, sneakily suggesting that your identity, lovability, and worth has been destroyed (or never really existed). It’s vital that you seek God for His truth about your value and worth. It can be as simple as asking Him these questions:

    a) What do You love about me?

    b) In what way am I not seeing myself the way You do?

    c) What is Your truth about me?

If you are dealing with rejection right now, know that I am praying for you. You will get to the other side of your devastation, I promise. If you want someone to process your pain with, please reach out. I’d love to help.

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