So, let’s say you go to a party, or a small group fellowship, or maybe just a regular church service on Sunday morning . . . and you feel like no one is talking to you, like you’re being avoided, or that you’re a loser.
What is your typical reaction?
If you’re like most people, your first reaction is going to be hurt and confusion:
“What have I done wrong?”
“Why don’t they like me?”
“What’s wrong with me?”
All of those reactions are pretty common. If a sense of rejection becomes a frequent occurrence, it can lead to feelings of worthlessness, depression, even a desire to stay home and isolate yourself in protection.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Most of my life I’ve skipped happily along, generally oblivious to whether people “liked me” or not, that kind of thinking wasn’t on my radar screen. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely encountered a few people who made it obvious that I was not their favorite person . . . but I learned a long time ago to take on a “thick skin” in ministry and not hold on to things like that.
I’ve had a hard time relating to women who get their feelings hurt by what others say or do to them, but I’m grappling with this whole thing in a new light and trying to gain some understanding of what is happening when we care what others think of us, or when we could “care less” what others think.
Want to join me in thinking through this, today?
When people seem to be rejecting us, there seems to be three typical reactions:
1) Hurt or offense over the rejection
2) Oblivious to the rejection because of putting on a thick skin
3) Love—no matter how I’m treated—because of who I am “in Christ.”
I think behind “door number three” we’ll find the right heart reaction. But first, let’s investigate the more common reactions.
I’m a Loser!
When we are hurt by (perceived or actual) offenses by others, it is indicating something about our hearts. Our hearts long for affirmation, for approval, for love. That’s a good thing. That’s how God made us.
If we’re living for others to shower us with attention and love, we’ve missed the boat. Our focus should be more on giving love than getting love. The love that we’ve received from God is more than sufficient to meet our every need. Therefore, we can love others.
We were created to have our longing for love met in experiencing love the way Jesus described it:
[box]“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind . . . And . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37–39)[/box]
What about building up your self-esteem?
When I hear someone encouraging me to “love myself” it is a red flag to me. The idea of “loving myself” always bothers me . . . I’m sure I “love myself” already more than I should, but what is Jesus talking about here when He says “love your neighbor . . . as yourself?”
I know He’s not promoting some kind of narcissistic focus or endorsing the idea of self-esteem.
I think it’s safe to say that He is instructing us to care for others in the same way we care for ourselves, not that He is promoting some kind of self-centered love and from that try to work up love for others.
The point is that we are to be vessels that are first, receiving love from God, and from that we are able to pour out love. That is to be our focus: to love God and to love others . . . rather than grasping for, pulling for, looking for, others to love us!
Putting on thick skin is not the answer.
When we put up walls of protection, it may isolate us from experiencing some of the pain inflicted by being in relationships, but that is not the way of Christ. Remember what He gave us as an example in our relating to others?
[box]We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3:16)[/box]
[box]For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:21–23)[/box]
“Door Number Three”
When we are solidly planted in God’s love for us, when we are looking to Him alone as the One we are living to please, we will be oblivious to what others think of us . . . we will only care what He thinks of us. In order to reach that place, we need to get a solid understanding of who we are “in Christ.”
Reveling in Love!
When we are centering our lives and identity around the truth that we are valuable to God, when our personal esteem flows from His purchase of us through His shed blood, then we will be so caught up in that gracious reality that we won’t even take thought of how others “treat us.”
Instead, we’ll be reveling in His love for us, and as we revel in it, we’ll turn to share that love with others. When we are so focused on loving others, and our need for affirmation and value has been totally met in what Jesus did on the cross, we won’t be on the hunt for others to shower us with their attention or to “treat us” as likeable, we’ll be rushing to bless them with His love flowing through us.
That is totally different than just putting on a thick coat of armor that says “I don’t care what people think or how I’m treated; it doesn’t matter.”
What is your typical reaction when you feel left out at a gathering?
Are you struggling right now because you feel isolated or rejected?
Where are you finding your worth and value?
How can you reach out to love others today?