As a teenager, I often felt invisible and ignored. People didn’t hate me; they just acted like I didn’t exist.
As I matured and became more assertive, I encountered more active and aggressive kinds of rejection. People who didn’t even know me would use spiteful words, spread gossip, or refuse to speak with me. Sometimes I shrugged it off, but at other times it got under my skin. I’m like most people: I want to be wanted. Yet, as painful as those moments were, they’re mild compared to the cruelty others have experienced from bullying, a divorce, abuse, or racial and ethnic hatred.
God made us good, and He created us in His image. He made us lovely. God does not make junk.
He wants us. He desires for us to share in His own divine life.
God does not, however, need us. His love is unconditional and unearned. He cares so much for us that He sent His only son to suffer and die for us. Jesus willingly took on the ultimate rejection and unwanted-ness when he was handed over to the Romans by his own people to be tortured, mocked, crucified, and killed.
If Jesus, who was the Son of God and perfect, could be mistreated so, can we expect any better? The capacity to reject God and others is one of the darkest parts of our broken human nature.
We frequently try to compensate by making ourselves into someone we think other people will like.
One approach is to create an online persona. We show snapshots that make us look good and like we’re always having fun. We post pictures, quotes, and videos that people will like and then think we’re cool.
One winter, my wife and I watched several Christmas movies from the Hallmark Channel. By the third show, we realized the lead male characters all shared similar characteristics: they had an unshaven scruffy look, knew how to have fun, were down-to-earth, self-confident, capable, and lived life according to their own rules. The competing male, however, was clean-shaven, stuffy, driven by shallow motives, and inhibited. I’m guessing the producers had decided on the appearance and persona that women would find most attractive. We do the same thing. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we try to create a likable version of ourselves.
Some people refuse to play the game. Instead, they pull back and withdraw socially. And while that might provide some protection against rejection, it also keeps them from fully living and forming healthy relationships.
The worst reaction comes when someone gives in to rejection and turns it against themselves or others through suicide or murder.
What Can We Do?
In a secular world that ignores God, how do we know we’re wanted and valued? We mistakenly try to distinguish ourselves in the eyes of others by trying to:
- Attract others to us by hiding our brokenness and creating an exaggerated, false image.
- Be the best by hiding our powerlessness and proving ourselves through
success and achievement.
- Be at the center by shutting out our aloneness and making ourselves the
center of attention.
You can’t know who you are when all you have to compare yourself to is other people who are trying to be somebody else.
Let go of the false images, the need to prove yourself, and the need for attention. Find your identity in God. You can be authentic with Him. Let the illusions dissolve away, for He loves you.
Seek to please God and not others.
God knows us and meets us where we are. The Holy Spirit helps us become healthier and reach our potential. This beats working to satisfy someone else’s selfish wants.
If we’ve spent most of our lives trying to be something that we’re not, we may not be sure of who we are in the first place.
One step we can take is to be honest with ourselves and let others see our weaknesses. We fear, however, that if others really knew us, they wouldn’t want us. Start by being genuine with God.
Some people like to use the Internet to tell the world about their problems. A better alternative is to share ourselves with someone who will love us the way God loves us. This person’s caring is not driven by image, success, or likeability. We need someone who doesn’t need us but loves us anyway.
Seek the good of others.
We often enter into relationships because the other person satisfies a need. We feel wanted. Our motivation should eventually, however, move beyond satisfying our need to where we desire the other person’s good.
How do you know you’re motivated for someone’s good? When your giving to others gives you joy while you receive nothing in return.
Develop compassion for those who are rejected and unwanted.
Notice when others who are unwanted and try to treat them the way you would want to be treated. Show them the love of Christ. Be a sacrament — a sign of God’s love.