This is why it’s so important to seek God’s perfect wisdom. He’s the only One who sees every situation and heart clearly. He’ll guide us to greater freedom and the sense of belonging we crave.
Does your stomach ever knot when you walk into a room full of strangers, especially when you feel they possess greater intelligence, wealth, or success? Do you often find yourself replaying certain conversations in your head, worried you said something wrong or were misunderstood? When engaging with some individuals, do you tend to withhold your opinion or present a filtered version of yourself for fear that someone will think less of, exclude, ostracize, or abandon you?
I can relate to each of those scenarios, and I know I’m far from alone. In fact, according to mental health experts, fear of rejection is one of humanity’s deepest, most common, and most insidious fears. This makes sense as we all have a God-given need for belonging and acceptance. To feel fully known, seen, understood, and completely loved. When we enjoy that level of connection, our souls thrive.
Therefore, it’s understandable why so many people experience shame, anxiety, and increased insecurity when they feel discounted, dismissed, or condemned. Obviously, we can’t avoid such painful encounters entirely. We can, however, protect ourselves and strengthen our hearts for the blows that will, unfortunately, come.
While I’m far from proficient in this area, I’ve learned a great deal about what it means to live as the chosen, empowered, and priceless child of God Scripture states I am. May what I share here help you embrace every situation with increased confidence.
1. Selectively Choose with Whom You Spend the Most Time
We all can probably think of that one person around whom we feel inferior or insecure. Perhaps they have a biting sense of humor or frequently bash our personality, choices, or appearance. Maybe they often ignore us and behave as if we’re not worth their time. This can trigger defensive behaviors within us that can easily lead to increased shame. In our desire for acceptance, we might become “clingy,” thereby potentially pushing the person further away while augmenting our self-doubt.
It’s hard to develop emotional strength and a solid Christ-centered identity when one constantly feels under attack. Therefore, in our pursuit of confidence, we might need to remove ourselves or dramatically decrease our interactions with some individuals while we work on ourselves. In some instances, such as when dealing with toxic or abusive individuals, wisdom may necessitate severing contact permanently. In other circumstances, however, with therapy and healing, we may eventually be able to build a safe and mutually satisfying relationship with the person from whom we’ve distanced ourselves.
Meanwhile, we can counter shame and increase our resilience by regularly interacting with those who respond to our presence with joy and delight. Who greets you with a wide smile and a listening ear? Who makes you laugh when you’re feeling down? If you find none of your friends fill this role, prayerfully consider cultivating a relationship with someone who radiates the light of Christ. It might take time to build these types of connections, but trust God to guide you step by step, interaction by interaction, and day by day.
He understands the deepest cries of your heart and has promised to meet all your needs.
Psalm 68:6 states, “God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing …” We receive this eternal, immutable blessing through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son. According to Ephesians 2:4-5, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—” (NIV, emphasis mine).
He placed you in His supernaturally connected, global family, in part, so that you would feel seen, known, and valued—by Him and others.
2. Ask for God’s Perspective
Most if not all of us view others, our world, and ourselves through a distorted lens. Past hurts, negative self-talk, and lies we’ve absorbed can cause us to expect rejection. We’ve probably also all had times when we’ve felt offended or hurt by someone else’s behavior that had little or nothing to do with us.
You may have heard the phrase, “Hurt people hurt people.” Let’s consider how this has been revealed in our behavior. When we are stressed, anxious, sad, or depressed we’re more apt to become easily irritated and less inclined to cushion our words with gentleness and grace. We also tend to become more self-absorbed.
This is true for everyone we encounter. When someone acts unkind, their retorts or dismissal probably stem from their unhealed hurts, mental state, and present challenges. Healthy and genuinely happy individuals tend to be life-giving, not draining or damaging.
Often, the tension we sense stems from two individuals with faulty perceptions and bruised souls each taking the other’s behavior personally. In other words, the other person may feel as rejected by us as we do by them. We’ve all got planks in our eyes that distort our vision. This is why it’s so important to seek God’s perfect wisdom. He’s the only One who sees every situation and heart clearly. He’ll guide us to greater freedom and the sense of belonging we crave.
3. Prayerfully Seek the Roots of Your Fears
For years, I felt notably sensitive and vulnerable around one particular individual. Initially, I attributed my discomfort to our challenging and at times tumultuous history. But as I began to pray over our interactions and continued to work on myself, I realized a good deal of my reaction came from wounds I’d experienced as a child.
As I sought God’s guidance, He drew me to John 13:1-3. This reads:
“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;” (NIV).
In the verses that follow, Jesus humbled Himself to wash His disciples’ feet—Judas’ included! And He did this knowing one of them would deny Him and they all would abandon Him. Yet, as verse one states, “He loved them to the end,” or as some translations phrase it, “to the uttermost.” The words preceding this tell us how. Jesus knew who He was, why He’d come (His purpose), and where He was headed.
He didn’t have an identity problem nor did He battle the self-defeating effects of shame.
I wanted to love like that. I wanted to be so whole and secure in myself that I remained strong and confident, regardless of who I was with or how others behaved. God showed me that to reach that state, I needed to seek out the source of my inner angst. This has become an ongoing process where Christ brings me to deeper levels of freedom with every layer of injury He reveals and then heals.
4. Spend Consistent Time in God’s Presence
According to Dr. Curt Thompson, a neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and host of the Being Known Podcast, we can rewire our brains to experience increased connection and joy. In his book, the Soul of Shame, he wrote, “But in the Trinity we see something that we must pay attention to: God does not leave. The loving relationship shared between Father, Son and Spirit is the ground on which all other models of life and creativity rest. In this relationship of constant self-giving, vulnerable and joyful love, shame has no oxygen to breathe" (emphasis mine).
My therapist encourages me to reflect deeply upon times when I’ve sensed God’s presence. To visualize those moments in my mind—where I was, what I was doing, what I felt—and to journal upon them. As I do, I experience Him afresh and am reminded that I rest eternally in His perfect love.
Throughout Scripture, He’s promised to never leave us or forsake us. In the original Hebrew, one could say that He’ll never turn His back or release His grip on us. He’s always watching us, moving toward us, and holding onto us—in love. As we reflect upon these truths, His love begins to cast out our fears.
We realize that, while we might, on occasion, feel rejected, that’s far from the truth. Because in Christ we’re chosen, adopted, cherished, accepted, and we belong.
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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Farknot_Architect
Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.
As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she’s passionate about helping women experience Christ’s freedom in all areas of their lives. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE and make sure to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
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