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Identity Crisis

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?

4 Comments

  • Laurie

    Kim, I am so glad to see that this is your topic today! It’s very timely for me as I am one of those that is always evaluating others’ reactions to me and it has become quite a prison. Just yesterday, God made it clear to me that this is nothing more than pride on my part and that I have set up people as very large idols and made God very small. It hasn’t always been this way. I used to be very painfully shy but when I was saved I felt a great freedom from that shyness. It was easy to love people in the church that I was then in, even though I knew that not everyone thought I was just awesome lol, but there were lots of people that loved me and that I could love. Then we moved to a new city about three years ago and go to a very small church and there is no place to serve formally, nor does anyone seem to accept my offers of love. I’m not sure what to make of it but I’m considering that perhaps I have made an idol out of feeling needed and God is breaking me of that. So I am trying to be more self-forgetful, focus on Christ, and be thankful always and not let my thoughts dwell on “Why doesn’t anyone like or need me?” I don’t know where this will go and what all God wants to teach me but I’m quite sure that staying in isolation (I haven’t been to church in a couple of months though I have been in contact with a couple of the ladies there) will drive me insane. Kim, I think it’s wonderful that you are delving into a subject that you don’t understand or wrestle with yourself. Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    Kim,

    Thank you for this reading today. I can say that I am in both places 1 & 2. I long for others approval and I am broken when I am rejected. I can use my marriage as an example. I placed such value in myself by the love and approval I received from my husband. Of course, hurt came after rejection. Then I began to put up a wall towards my husband so that he could not hurt me anymore. God revealed to me in my life that I have an Idol. “Approval Idolatry.” Ugh, that is such an ugly truth. Door number 3 is where I want to be, so in love with the Lord and only seeking his approval and love.

    Thanks for this lesson this week!

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Hello Laurie ~

    Thanks for taking the time to share your heart and be so honest about how you’ve been struggling with this. I think it is a very common issue.

    From what you said about setting up people as “large idols” and making God “small,” I wonder if you’re reading Ed Welch’s book: “When People Are Big and God is Small”. If you haven’t read his book, it is an excellent resource, I hope you’ll check it out. Another good read on this topic is Tim Keller’s little book: “The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness”.

    I hope you’ll push past the difficulty and get planted in a healthy church body. Truth-speaking friends, and a network of growing believers is so vital for our spiritual health.

    Stay in touch and let us know how it’s going and how we can pray for you, friend ~

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Hello Dear “Anonymous” ~

    I love that you want to reach “Door number 3” having a greater love for the Lord than the desire for the approval of man. He delights in answering that prayer. He desires for us to “Come to Him . . . Learn of Him . . . and draw close to Him.”

    This is His Word to you, dear one:

    What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

    Just as it is written,
    “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG;
    WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”

    But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31–39)

    Pausing to pray for you now ~