No doubt, we all burn to belong.
Makes sense…considering we were made for relationship…to put on love and commune in harmony (Romans 12:16; 1 Corinthians 1:10, Colossians 3:14).
But let’s be honest…such desires aren’t always realized, are they.
Relocations…busyness…life changes…even the walls we put up…cycle through as hindrances interfering with our need to find unity in community.
Yet, perhaps the greatest obstacle we face when we talk about healthy relationships is the fear of rejection1.
Now, I admit: I’m still progressing through my own set of relational insecurities. But while I may have much to learn, I’ve also grown a great deal having persevered through idolatrous pursuits of acceptance in my early 20’s , in addition to recent challenges as a bivocational minister.
So when I say a fear of rejection is one of the most paralyzing strongholds, you can take my word to the bank.
As far as dealing with this fear type, you’ve probably heard much on the topic already.
Yet, for bivocationals juggling multiple responsibilities on the fly, it’s worth re-emphasizing given fear’s tendency to find its way on the backburner.
Thus, in the spirit of stirring awareness, here are three practical ways to conquer a fear of rejection:
1) Own it.
Statistics show the vast majority of what people worry about is either vain (false reality) or beyond their control (false expectations). In most cases, we fear once we sense a loss of control on a desirable outcome. For example, we want people to like us, but find we lack “chemistry”. We want to be living our dream, but find our reality is far from it. We want to reap securities, but find all we have is fractured hope.
No question, the chasms are real; however, this doesn’t mean we’re chained to them until the bridge forms. Why? Because it’s only when we relinquish our lust for control we start to conquer our fears.
So next time you find yourself fearing rejection, questioning your fit, place, image, safety..or that of a loved one, own it, surrender the stress, pray the Word, embrace self-control, and faint not.
2) Reject it.
Sometimes, we treat fear like a giant game of dodgeball. We think if we can just finagle through life without getting hit, then we’ll be okay. The problem with this idea is…at some point, you will get hit, if not with the fear, then the temptation of it.
The best way to combat fear, especially the fear of rejection, is to value what equips you. ‘Cause when you realize you have what it takes to overcome, you won’t hesitate to stand your ground when the dodgeballs start flyin’, not to mention you’ll be in position to catch and dispatch them.
Just remember: When a fear of rejection is elevated to the point of dodging certain people and situations, you’re ultimately giving it the power to manipulate your emotions and decisions. Instead, why not dare to be a conqueror (Romans 8:37) and reject fear rather than let fear do the rejecting2?
3) Replace it.
Perhaps one of the most misinterpreted passages in all of Scripture is 1 Peter 4:8: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” At first glance, we may think Peter is suggesting love cancels out certain offenses; however, when we dissect the text, we find love, in this context, is a covering, more specifically…an opportunity for us to confront3, forgive, and press on in love-soaked honesty.
How does this apply to a fear of rejection? Well, for starters, the opposite of love is fear (not hate). Furthermore, love must speak truth (Ephesians 4:15) and requires action with respect to sin. Thus, if we value honesty as the first step of love4 and recognize fear as a reciprocating response, then we’ll realize how a) a fear of rejection numbs us to what we were created for5 and b) the absence of fear is not the endgame, but rather the beginning!
In other words, if you want to move on the right way, but are still burdened by a fear of rejection, don’t just recognize and renounce it. Rather, take the next step and ask God specifically how He wants you to replace it!
‘Cause when you do, you’ll not only discover a new commitment to communicate the truth in love, but also unlock a stronger fear of Him6.
1) Note: Initially, I had planned to write this piece on the fears of rejection and mediocrity; however, I’ve since decided to split this up into two parts, with today’s discussion focusing on the fear of rejection and next week’s feature on the fear of mediocrity.
2) There’s basically two responses to fear: “Forget everything and run” or “Face everything and rise”
3) …without taking offense
4) Inspired by Steve Fry’s sermon at The Gate Community Church on Sunday, May 31
5) Seriously…what sense does it make to forfeit even the potential for relational restoration and/or clarity in exchange for passive living, isolation, guilt, and dissatisfaction.
6) As honesty abounds, you’ll find a fear of rejection will confound.
Photo credits: shifttohappy.com