The first time I got dumped was in the second grade. Back in those days, relationships often began with the phrase, “I like you. Do you like me?” On the flip side of that, when someone declares they don’t like you anymore, there isn’t a question to follow. It is more or less a statement of fact. A crushing and painful statement of fact. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t the type to get real choosy either. If I even caught a hint of the phrase “Do you like me” drifting from a girl’s mouth, whether it was intended for me or not, the word “Yes!” came gushing from my lips. This first time I was “let go” came from wearing glasses to school one day (or at least that’s what I think). She liked me before the ocular handicap, why not after? Anyways, when I heard she hit up a New Kids on the Block concert with the new beau, I was done. All this before the 3rd grade. Who’s bitter anyways, right? Definitely, not me.
Rejection has been and will continue to play a role in our lives. It’s part of being human. Recently, I’ve ended up courting these strange emotions once again in trying to rent out our home. Since Amy wants to go back to school, we’ve negotiated several ways to be fiscally tighter, deciding to reap the rewards down the road instead. This has led to putting our home up for rent. It seems like a good idea in this market and if all plays out well, we’ll eventually move into a place that’s much less expensive while retaining a good financial asset. The thing is, when you put your home out there for rent or for sale, you really kind of put yourself out there. Your home represents a lot about yourself: how it’s decorated can speak volumes about subconscious desires of comfort and hope. The work we do to afford that home is another testament. How we spend money speaks to our values, beliefs and priorities. Our home is our kingdom and opening that kingdom up to complete strangers can be intimidating.
So when I let this young interested couple enter that kingdom, I was initially hesitant. Their good looks and convincing back-story was appealing but I knew from all the internet literature I had just started reading that this was business, and business means business, you know what I mean? How then did this risk of rejection come in? Why wasn’t I more stone-faced? Honestly, I didn’t see it sneak up on me. I was supposed to be the one doing the rejecting, writing the denial letters (not that I derive some joy from that) but there was a sense of power in having that choice to make. Having bought their story, we crossed the emotional border and went out on a limb to declare our intent to rent to this couple. I had crossed that sacred line where my emotions painted a picture of financial utopia. Why didn’t I see it coming…the back and forth via e-mails, the quick calls from references, the urgency to make a decision. Then, the hammer dropped: “We’ve decided to go with the other home.”
I thought I had prepared myself for this moment…I hadn’t. I knew these people for all of 48 hours and yet they had affected me! I was angry at myself for allowing the power of the moment to sweep me up. Here was that familiar feeling, that old bitter enemy of ‘rejection’ dictating how I’m supposed to feel or not feel. You know what I mean, right? Where you retrace your steps and ask, “What did I do wrong” or “What could I have said differently?” We’ve all been there. In fact, the more you lead and the more you open up to others, the more you deal with rejection. It comes in all shapes and sizes and for as many reasons as there are stars in the sky. So how do I deal with it? By not stopping! Stopping would be too easy. I still want to rent this house and that means rejection is a possible but potential risk. In my calling, I still want to lead people and that means rejection is an imminent but necessary risk. It’s because the goals are worth it…you are worth it. What I’m learning is that rejection doesn’t necessarily lead to the second choice, it can lead to the better choice.
Some folks won’t like your product. Some folks won’t like your message. Maybe they shouldn’t like it. Then again, maybe they should. We all have the power to walk away from something. It’s how we walk away that counts. The temptation is to detach yourself, to minimize the risk of rejection. Instead, try the opposite: put yourself out there because if no one else likes your product, you still do. If no one else believes your message, you still do.
Just for the sake of perspective, here is the story of the One who knew rejection for you and I. His is the most compelling of all:
Isaiah 53:2-6 The Message
The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
on him, on him.