On being rejected by those we love

 St Joseph the comely

St Joseph the comely

“I know that when a door closes, it can feel like all doors are closing. A rejection letter can feel like everyone will reject us. But a closed door leads to clarity. It’s really an arrow. Because we cannot go through that door, we will go somewhere else. That somewhere else is your true life.” (Tama J. Kieves)

How good it would be if we were loved by everybody and that everybody we met did see the best in us. But would it really? And would it make us wiser or stronger? Nothing hurts more than to be rejected by someone we love. Nothing hurts more than to have people we treasure turn away from us. This might come in the form of a sudden stop in communication or in other more hostile ways. The grief which is felt can be inexpressible. It is altogether different when we are treated as lowly by those we do not know very well. But it too can hurt, yet it is not the same. There are of course, the extreme and very hard cases, when a parent walks away from a child, or a formerly devoted spouse walks away from their partner. Then there are those great friendships where years have been given over to them and which have been sustained with much grace and plenty of love. The old and trusted friend withdraws his or her hand to walk away. How do we respond? To say that they were not “true” loves or “real” friends in the first place, does little to soften the pain. What can we do?

There are various ways we can come to grips with this awful happening, for we are each gifted with unique experiences and charisms. And it is upon these that we must call upon during such times that we may not become entirely disconsolate. The rejection from a loved one can give validation to our most hidden insecurities and fears. It is the cruellest and most dangerous of all the rejections. Sensitive and tender hearts have often responded too quickly, with catastrophic results. To such difficult questions, where grief and mental torment are involved, there are no easy answers. The confrontation is real and terrible and hurts the bones. Often there are additional issues of perceived shame or guilt. Our identities seem to be taken away from us. Trust is also lost. Our beliefs are shaken to the core.

Though every situation is different, we all share in the human condition and of having some idea of how the “other” might feel during shared experiences, whether physical or mental. If you tell me you thirst, I have understanding. If you tell me your head hurts, I can understand that too. If you tell me you grieve because of a great loss in your life, I also have some comprehension. Though in each case it can only be by degrees, for the experiences and our reflective natures, still remain unique. But there is common ground and it is from here, this solid and proven place, we can be saved and strengthened. The great lessons are not too far away, if only we should endure and search and never, ever lose hope.

There is a higher purpose or reason behind every great love and every heartbreaking betrayal, and both come with their hidden gifts and powerful graces. We would all much prefer the “great love”. But let us also not recoil from the heartbreak. It is good that we persevere and do strong battle knowing that it is only through the fire that steel is hardened. It is first made soft and malleable, to be brought to the ideal place known only to that element, where its properties are encouraged to their full potential. It is through these excruciating losses, which will often enough break an unhealthy cycle of co-dependency, that we can gain profound insights into life. That is, a less cloudy revelation as to the ultimate purpose of our existence; a deeper understanding of the complexities and contradictions of human nature; a more “nuclear” vision to love and forgiveness; another chance at becoming the men and women we were meant to become; the realization of our strength and power of our spirit. The all-important lesson, too, that bitterness and animosity are an enormous waste of time and a loss of valuable energy. “When you have been insulted, cursed, or persecuted by someone,” writes Saint Mark the Ascetic, “do not think of what has happened to you, but of what will come from it, and you will see that your insulter has become the cause of many benefits to you, not only in this age, but in that which is to come.”

These are ways which bring us closer to the sacred, to those things which our collective religious experience has associated with the divine.

Maybe we have given all we can to the “other”. Perhaps it is now time for them to move on, to explore other horizons vital to the unfolding of their own story. Maybe we have been one of those beautiful little tiles of a greater mosaic, little in the bigger scheme of things but enormously crucial. Maybe we have nothing more to give and we have done our job.  We should avoid any thought which might now try to talk us into believing that these people are wicked when only yesterday they were righteous. Of course, all this implies the equality to the relationship, for when an adult hurts or walks away from a child it will call for a different response and a different type of resilience. And yet we know from those who have experienced this dreadful hurt, that this too can be overcome and conquered. Here we can find our peace and turn our pain into a priceless jewel. And though there will be times when the recollection will still hurt and yes, even bludgeon us during the night, it is important to remember: this too, it will pass.

“He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3).

Other doors will open. One of the secrets is to wait, to not force these doors, to allow and to give time for providence to work.

In the Old Testament Joseph was betrayed and sold into slavery by his brothers (Gen. 37:18-36). What was worse, they had even thought about killing him. “When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him.” Joseph both endured and he forgave, to rise up to become the second most powerful man in all of Egypt, next to the Pharaoh.

“Dear Father do not allow for me to crumble and break should I ever be rejected by a loved one, do not let for my heart to grow cold that I might not forget that there was much beauty and joy in there too, amidst the sorrow. I want to remember that I was an important part of another’s unfolding story and that my own is not yet over.”

On Being Rejected

“Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence, or death, you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds.” (Henri J. M. Nouwen)

 http://www.curiositiesbydickens.com/

http://www.curiositiesbydickens.com/

Few things hurt more than the sense or feeling of having been rejected. The pain can enter deep into the bone and marrow and it can ache for a long time, sometimes even a life-time. There are lots of ways which can conspire to make us feel like this: ranging from letters or emails which go unanswered, to losing out on a position for which you were ideally qualified, to being ignored by an old friend on the street, to not being selected in a sporting team, to being dismissed by colleagues and peers, to missing out on the love of a parent, to not having our affection or passion reciprocated. All this hurts, especially if rejection comes from someone we have loved and trusted or looked up to and admired. We are all afraid of rejection. It unconsciously conjures up sickening thoughts of what the word originally meant: “to throw” or “to throw back”. When we experience this emotion we can allow for it to make us feel ‘unloved’ and ‘irrelevant’. It is implied, we are not good, that we are not worthy of the other’s respect or attention and so we are excluded. We are, therefore, made to feel unimportant.

The results of rejection have brought to an end a great number of lives (there is more than one way that we can ‘end’ the life of another), and not surprisingly it is the common denominator to most forms of punishment. Nowadays, we also see this in cyber-bullying and other forms of online terrorizing, which includes the fickleness of ‘friendship’ on Facebook. The fear of rejection, particularly after we having experienced it, can stop us from moving on, it can leave us dead in our tracks. Self-esteem and self-worth can be destroyed. It need not be that way.

Many people from different walks of life have not only been able to rise above numerous rejections, but also to succeed in becoming illuminating signposts. The highest example for those who hold to the Christian faith is Jesus Christ, the GodMan, who was himself “despised” and “rejected” (Isa. 53:3) and during the darkest hours of his life abandoned even by his closest friends (Mk. 14:10-72). Afterwards this rejection would become the cornerstone for the theology of hope and the gift of eternal life (Titus 1:2).

Beethoven, arguably the world’s greatest composer was considered “hopeless” and “lacking in talent” when he was a young man, experiencing plentiful rejections at the hands of prominent music masters. The important lessons of self-belief and determination which he realized along the way would also help him later in life when he continued to compose after he had lost most of his hearing. Beethoven’s grandest work according to many and one of the most played symphonies in the world, Symphony No. 9 (“the Choral”), was composed when he was almost entirely deaf.

What do we learn from such extraordinarily resolute spirits? The lessons are not difficult to understand, and though it takes practice and perseverance to apply them, it can be done. That is, we do not give up; we do not lay down the arms. We refuse to surrender our future to those who might make sport of wounding our dignity. Of course, we are not Christ, and we might not possess the brilliance of Beethoven, yet both in their own very unique way were deeply and profoundly immersed in the potentials and possibilities of our shared humanity.

Rejection does not mean we are failures, often enough it might mean that we are different and “stand-out”. Being marginalized forces us to discover other ways to approach those things which we genuinely desire, and to reconsider afresh who and what truly matter. We learn that to be rejected does not define our identity or determine our self-worth (which can only ever be belittled or diminished by self-rejection). We no longer measure ourselves by another’s ‘yardstick’. Individual freedom is also re-defined. There are times, as well, when rejection is sent by providence to protect us from destructive influences. And importantly, we are forced to look more intensely into the great mystery of why we had life breathed into us in the first place.