Fear of Rejection
One of the most significant events of my childhood happened in the summer of ’77: our family moved from the city to the country. Moving seemed like a great idea at the time, but it didn't take long for our relocation to have a big impact on me…and our family!
We moved during the summer so I could finish 5th grade in the city. Not to brag, but I was an outstanding student! I scored straight A’s, my teacher loved having me in class, and I got along with other kids at school. I’d had great success every other year, too.
All that changed when we moved. My new school was very different. The teachers were different. Students were different. The entire culture was different.
What’s more, nobody accepted me. Not long after school started I began acting out, doing things I’d never before considered. For instance, I let the air out of the tires on my teacher’s car. If that wasn’t bad enough, I put laxative in my teacher’s coffee. Fighting with other students became routine.
You’re probably shocked to learn this about your pastor! I’m not proud of it…but it happened. This kind of behavior really was out of character for me! My parents wondered what happened to the "good little Jeff." I wondered, too, but had no idea why I was driven to behave so badly.
But I know now! Later in life I discovered I had been trapped by the fear of rejection. While reading the Bible I found it talked about my experience and even showed how to react:
“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust the Lord means safety.”
- Proverbs 29:25 (NLT)
Chances are good you’ve struggled with rejection sometime in your life. If so, you know what a toll that fear can take. The truth is, you’ll probably have to deal with rejection again. If so, watch out for these traps that will trip you up:
Trap 1: Focusing on the wrong kind of acceptance.
Saul, Israel’s first king, fell into this trap because he was a people-pleaser. He wanted his subjects to like him so much he ignored God’s directions and did what the people wanted. He later regretted this decision and admitted:
“I have sinned, I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.”
– I Samuel 15:24 (NIV)
Do you ever yield to pressure because you’re afraid people won’t like you? That’s the trap I’m talking about! People who like you only when you do what they want…are not your friends!
Trap 2: Letting your “need” for attention ruin good relationships.
Everyone wants to feel significant in some way. That’s understandable. We need to have a sense of belonging. But this trap is different.
Instead, I’m talking about allowing that "need for significance" to grow into jealousy. Left unchecked, jealousy becomes a cancer that grows until it demands everyone's attention all the time.
Avoid this trap at all costs. It’s toxic to relationships and will turn even your best friends against you:
Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but who can survive the destructiveness of jealousy?
– Proverb 27:4 (NLT)
Trap 3: Becoming overly cautious and not trusting anyone.
Early followers of Jesus lived in a dangerous world. The wrong words to the wrong people could mean death. It was in this hard environment that the Apostle Paul told his young protégé’ Timothy to…
Trust those who taught you.
– 2 Timothy 3:14 (NLT)
Trust can be a scary thing. But when we refuse to trust anyone, we’re actually rejecting the people we’re afraid will reject us. Most of the time they respond by rejecting us right back.
We are designed to share life with each other. We all need to network with people we can trust. However, wisdom is needed. Paul didn’t say “trust everyone.” He instructed his student to form strong relationships with reliable people.
Now that you know the traps, how do you avoid them? The answer is simple, but it takes practice to implement:
Learn to live for an audience of one.
I’m not talking about living to please yourself. I’m talking about pleasing God.
The Old Testament records an occasion when Ahab, king of Israel, tried to convince Judah’s King Jehoshaphat to become his ally in a war. Ahab was very persuasive. He used all the right words. As Jehoshaphat considered the alliance he insisted on finding out what God wanted:
“[Jehoshaphat said] I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, “First seek the counsel of the Lord."
– 1 Kings 22:4-5 (NIV)
I love that, because Jehoshaphat knew how important it was to please God above all else. I get the impression if God had said, “Not this time,” Jehoshaphat would have called the whole thing off.
In the beginning of this blog we looked at Proverb 29:25. It said “…to trust the Lord means safety.” When you live for an audience of one, you automatically avoid the traps of people pleasing, jealousy and lack of trust. When you trust the Lord you can rest confidently in Jesus’ promise:
“..seek first his [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you…”
– Matthew 6:33 (NIV)