I remember the first time someone told me that I had low self-esteem. I was sitting in my pastor’s office with my spouse. I didn’t want to be there, I was hurt. I wanted out, out of the room, out of the marriage, out of the moment. I wasn’t there to hear about m; I was there for permission to leave. Instead, I was met with a truth that my heart was tender enough to hear in the moment. It was the start of exploring things I had buried deep inside. The beginning of self reflection, soul searching. I started to allow God to bring healing that I didn’t know I even needed.
Fast forward ten years, I thought I had learned a lot about who I was by this point. I had taken most of the tests, read a lot of books, journaled a lot of reflections. I had made a lot of peace with myself, my marriage, my lot in life. Little did I know, I had barely scratched the surface. Looking back, it is easy for me to understand why God only shows one step at a time. I might have turned and ran had I known all that I would uncover and work through as I began my journey.
It was about the time that I faced a rejection that blew the world I knew apart. Again I was hurt, someone had taken my dream, a God given heart dream, and used it to worm their way into my life. I thought I could trust her. I ignored the warning from others; then I found out they were all part of the rejection. It was an attack on my integrity and flat out lies. It was a month before I knew the truth about what was said and learned the web of lies that were created.
I can own my faults, sometimes it may take a minute, but God and I both know I am far from perfect. I don’t and won’t claim to be. I didn’t cause this rejection, and it was a personal attack. My initial reaction after the hurt, was self pity. I let that play for a few days. Then I moved into defense. I wrote out pages of self-defense. Eventually I deleted most of it. I knew at my core, God was my defender. I was wronged, not wrong. The facts I presented won, and on the surface level, I felt vindicated.
On a deeper level, God was revealing some old wounds that the current rejection had burst open. I needed some deeper truth that would only come from God. I started exploring the roots of rejection in my life. Feelings of rejection that I didn’t even know existed. God was not only able to show me the root of rejection in my life, but was able to bring healing. He showed me the reason behind my perceived rejection as a child, and showed me His divine protection through it all.
Before doing my soul searching, I would have described my childhood as messed up, but would not have said rejected. Behind my oldest brother who was “the golden child,” I was a favored child. He was ten years older than me; my memories of his role was spoiling me with gifts when he went into the military. Despite feeling rejection (that I now understand as God’s protection) as a child, I never owned it.
I didn’t identify the rejection because I have an amazing cousin, that shielded me from that by favoring me. I have brief glimpses of feeling rejected, surrounded my years of memories of being loved and included intentionally. As the youngest child, I was spoiled by my cousin, my brother, and my grandmother.
As a teenager, despite some thoughts of rejection, my siblings identified me as spoiled because the rules never applied to me. I wasn’t looking at the rejection, just the freedom I wanted and was able to have because my parents were too busy. It is hard to feel rejected when you are favored and spoiled. That is not to say I didn’t internalize the rejection; it just didn’t control my conscious thought.
Of course, God’s healing of the wound did not change the years I spent learning how to protect myself from rejection. I had built many walls that would have to come down. Walls that not only kept me from getting hurt, they kept others from getting too close to me. I also had fine tuned the art of pushing people away before they could reject me. I had sealed my heart so tightly, I couldn’t feel. I only knew love for my family and anger. I could put on some surface emotions, but they couldn’t be played too long. I am not good at fake.
God has been working on those walls, feelings, and drawing me into relationships for about nine years now. Relationships are hard when you haven’t had to make a new one for a long time. Even harder, when trust feels severed at the core of the one place you should be able to trust, Christian relationships. I grew up where church was my safe place, a series of hurts had me feeling guarded there too.
My childhood friends had passed away or we drifted apart as our lives took different paths. I had been in relationship with coworkers prior to the rejection, but had spent years in close contact with them. It is hard not to develop a relationship with people you are around for the majority of every day for years. Those are people who can speak into my life. God blessed me through most of my jobs to connect me with people who are genuine, dependable, and truthful.
I had my family. Honestly, I have always been content to be surrounded by family. Whether immediate or extended, it didn’t matter. Even when the extension is ex’s and in-laws. It’s all family to me, regardless of which family member they are or where they attach to my family. These are the people who really get to know me.
About that time, God brought a couple women in my life that really saw me through some tough transitions. Even if at times, I didn’t know how important they were in keeping me on a healthy path. As I was allowing God to bring healing, my life was being shaken on every front. In a three year period, I lost my job. I spent three months unemployed. We had our house foreclosed on. My mother went from assisted living, to nursing home as her health and dementia worsened, and then passed away. My son moved across the country to follow his now wife. I became an empty nester as my youngest graduated high school. I became a grandmother. My church split, twice. A core of four ladies, carried me more that I let them know. They accepted me despite my faults.
I also drew closer to God during this time. Outside of my mother, God and my spouse are where I turned when things are tough. My husband, like me, doesn’t do the emotion thing. He can be a great listener, but he don’t know what to do when he can’t fix what is wrong. Neither of us knew how to handle this new emotional me, so I learned to take my emotions to God. I didn’t like to cry in front of anyone else, I knew God could handle my weakness. I pressed in to Him, like I had during other difficult times in my life.
This week as I sat in our women’s Bible study, I saw all of this laid before me. We are doing a study by June Hunt, combining her books on Rejection and Self-Worth. We were talking about rejection. I admit much of what is said in the book, I don’t relate to; I didn’t identify rejection as something I struggled with until I was an adult. I am not someone who needs the approval of others. God reminded me of the past fifteen years. I can see the journey of acceptance that God took me on to bring healing even when I didn’t realize I needed it.
As I was reading, I identified with one statement in the fear of rejection list. As an adult, I consider myself shy and unsociable around others. I will talk if engaged or if I feel comfortable, but otherwise I stay introverted, especially in a group. When I allow myself to be sensitive to the Spirit, I will speak up; I have learned it is better to be uncomfortable in the minute than to stay comfortable in the moment and live with regret. I don’t remember when the switch occurred, or maybe I was a good actor growing up; my mom used to say I didn’t know a stranger. I am not sure shy would have even been in my vocabulary.
Then the book moved on to the classic symptoms of those who have been rejected in the past and as a result have a fear a future rejection. The list reminded me of things from the past, or areas where God is still working.
Anxiety – I have a real apprehension when someone says trust me. I smile even as I type this because when I first met my husband “trust me” was part of something he said all the time. I did learn to trust him, even though the rest of his saying proved false. In 2015, God really began to show me how my younger self had deceived even my thoughts towards Him. The first tied to this was about trust. That was another thing that really rocked me, because I always knew despite everything I have walked through, my faith was solid after I came back to the Lord following my best friend’s death. I didn’t recognize the difference between faith and trust.
Distressed – I can’t really trust others not to desert me. My father was arrested when I was in 1st grade. He was out of the home for some time following. My brother joined the military when I was eight. Death entered my life early. I lost my grandfather and great-grandmother when I was young. Family was always a big part of my life. I was eight when my best childhood friend died. I didn’t understand that them leaving was not personal.
Flat emotions – My heart is so deeply hurt that I can’t seem to feel excited about anything. Being happy and being angry were the only emotions I remember being free to express as a child. When you are hurting and can’t express it, it becomes anger. I was a very angry person, and could explode easily as everything else was flat. Excitement very rarely looks like I feel inside, because I don’t want to be disappointed if whatever I am excited about doesn’t happen. My grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, tend to bring out excitement in me, but even then it is generally short-lived. It’s interesting that I can help others get in touch with their emotions and have no problems with sitting with others in their emotions, yet, have a hard time identifying my own and I really have to have some time to process how I am feeling before I can sit with them.
Self-pity – I’m always ignored. No one reaches out to me. This one I admit I still sometimes struggle with. People call me when they need something, and I am always happy to help or connect them to the resource they need. I feel like very few people just check in or ask me to go do something. I realize part of that is me, I tend to need a structured schedule and I don’t really put myself out there as someone who needs connection. Most of the time I don’t, but there are times when I really want that, even though I find it hard to do myself.
Withdrawal – I’m not willing to be vulnerable again. This is another one that God has to really check me on. I know that making connections requires being vulnerable. I don’t have it all together, and pretending I do doesn’t help those who are walking where I have already been. I find it easier to be vulnerable one on one, and if there is something I have to offer that can encourage the person in front of me. Being vulnerable isn’t comfortable. That risk of rejection intensifies when I am vulnerable. Again, I have learned that being uncomfortable in the minute is far more comfortable then living in the feeling of regret and like I have disappointed God for not being obedient.
Then the book moved on to outer signs of rejection. While I’ve overcome many of those things, I can see where God was working on me in His timing to bring healing, even before He showed me the root of rejection that was in my life. Some areas He is still working, He has to move slowly with me because I can be stubborn.
Addiction – seeking solace and addictive behavior and effort to numb your pain. This is an area where, again I never defined my addiction. I was smoking and drinking almost daily in my early teenage years, I was popping pills and smoking pot most weekends. I had almost stopped those behaviors completely when someone shared their addiction story and I found myself relating to every part of their life. Even now though, I recognize that I have an addiction to food. I am able to see the unhealthy relationship I have with food and that I tend to turn to food as a comforter instead of God.
Arrogance – acting superior to others. I have been accused of being arrogant. As a teenager I used to say “I’m not conceited, just convinced.” It was a super arrogant statement, one I honestly am not sure I believed. In my heart, I believe all people are equal. There are times when God has to check my thoughts when I get into the comparison trap. I can start to get a little self-righteous until God gives me that reality check.
Competitive – assuming I have to be the best. I was in my undergraduate studies when someone pointed out how competitive I am. It took me aback for a bit, but as they shared I was able to see the truth in their comment. I am the parent who never let my children, nieces or nephews, and/or grandchildren win, unless they could do it in their own right.
Critical spirit – being condescending towards others. This one is probably the hardest to admit. I have to be careful of my tone as sometimes my personality still comes off as condescending. I can easily find the strengths in others, but I have been critical of those closest to me. God has taught me to keep my mouth shut. He has bound the critical spirit and allowed His Spirit to help me see others through His eyes.
Defensive – arguing with others for self protection. I have a knack for arguing. If I am in the mood, I will argue just to argue. I will defend a point I really don’t care about, just for argument’s sake. I never saw it as self-protection. I still remember standing in the entry way of my house, completely engaged in an argument with my spouse. Not audibly, but I knew God was telling me to shut my mouth. I admit while I was silent to my spouse, I was definitely giving God an earful. There was a shift in my marriage that day. Not that I don’t still have to catch myself, but I have learned to pick my battles.
Isolation – becoming a loner as a means of self protection. Again, I am not sure when this really took hold in my life. After I got pregnant, I left most of my friends behind because I wasn’t going to continue the lifestyle I lived. I transferred schools and was younger than all my classmates. As my children got older, there were not parents my age. Those who were my age didn’t have kids or had babies. And those who had kids my kids age, generally had other kids my age. I was older than most of my classmates in college. I was younger than most of my peers. I didn’t know where I fit in and at some point I stopped trying to find my place.
Legalism – complying with the rigid rules based on black-and-white thinking. I recognize black-and-white thinking as a cognitive distortion. I didn’t think of it as legalism, yet it was engrained in my thinking. I thought I had to be at every service if the church doors were opened. I thought that if I didn’t ready my Bible every day I disappointed God. I lived by these rigid rules, legalism had a stronghold in my life. When I traveled for work, I made sure I went to a church. If I got off work late, I pushed myself to make sure I didn’t miss service. When I heard a message that was disrespectful to be late, I would struggle because I couldn’t miss services and I couldn’t be late. This also played into the next outer sign.
Perfectionism feeling like a failure unless you do everything perfectly. I remember walking out of a job because I did not feel like I could do it 100%. I felt like if I couldn’t do it perfectly, I couldn’t do it at all. I didn’t quit, but I really had to have a reality check that I was never going to be perfect in any job. I have to allow God to change my point of view, because that thought immobilized me more times than I can count.
Performance-based acceptance – believing your acceptance is based only on how well you perform. I remember when God showed me that I had a work’s based mentality. I knew that God loved me. However, my actions showed that I felt like if I did certain things God would be able to accept me.
Undisciplined – lacking self control and boundaries around others. I don’t have an issue with boundaries, if anything I can be a bit legalistic when it comes to my boundaries. On the outside I can appear to be very disciplined because I operate in a structured routine. When I get out of that routine, it is hard for me to stay disciplined. There are things that I know I should be doing – writing, exercising, eating better, where my lack of self-control shows. I haven’t found the routine that has helped me stay disciplined in these areas.
June Hunt’s book on Rejection then talks about the reactions against God. She writes sometimes people who have been rejected rely on self protection and deny the protection of God. I look at the walls that I built knowing that it was because I did not trust that God could protect me from the hurt of rejection. That breaks my heart because I now know God as my Protector. I see His hand throughout my life. I see His protection, even if I couldn’t see it in the moment. It didn’t always look like I thought it should, but He was always there.
They rebel against the Word of God. I was raised in church. From age two, I steadily had the Word of God planted in my life. I was eight years old when I accepted Christ as my Savior. I still remember the first time I walked away from Him. I was a teenager and saw the hypocrisy of church leaders saying one thing and doing another. I wanted no part of it. For about five years, I rebelled, I ran. I did everything I knew was on the “don’t list.” When I came back, I still walked in rebellion, living with one foot in the world and one foot in the church. I wanted to believe, but I wanted proof. When I believed for my father’s healing and he died anyway, my faith was crushed. I walked away again. It wasn’t until I learned about a personal relationship with the Living Word that I was able to surrender to Him and start applying the Word that had already been planted in my life. He continues to grow me in His Word.
They resist the thought of trusting God. I mentioned above and shared in a previous blog the journey God took me on around trust. It was a resistance that I didn’t even know existed. It wasn’t until I was alone in prayer during my first Journey retreat, working through The Prayer Cottage and the Sacred Garden that God opened my heart to my issue with trusting Him. Learning that faith and trust are not the same thing. I had faith God could, I just didn’t trust that He would for me. Again, my life abounds with God showing me that He would, that I could trust Him, but I allowed the earthly example I had to taint that trust in God.
They recoil from true fellowship with God. I grew up knowing of God, but I was into adulthood before I really knew God and could fellowship with Him. God had changed a lot in me life, but I wasn’t sure about the idea of Him really having input into my daily life. Although I started my journey well before I ever learned of The Journey process, I really understood fellowship when I had my first retreat. I thought five to ten minutes of prayer was good, I had no idea what to do with myself for an extended prayer time. Allowing God to fellowship back with me was a new experience. I walked away from that day with a deeper desire to stay in fellowship with Him.
These are all thoughts that flooded my mind in a brief moment as I sat in the women’s meeting. I was physically present, but God had taken me on a journey of acceptance. He reminded me if the things that He had carried me through. He was able to show me how I had buried that process and how allowing myself to see it all could help others see that He accepts them also. God wants relationship with His children. He wants us to trust Him even when we don’t feel like we can trust people. He accepts us, even when we can’t accept ourselves and feel like no one else can either. He wants to show us that when we obey His Word, He will take all our pain from past rejections and hurts and lead us into a life of fellowship with Him and others. He wants to take all of us on that journey of acceptance.