My first job was at a local neighborhood bagel shop. Three times a week I would work from 2:30-6pm after school in a privately owned, delicatessen-type establishment that was run by a very arrogant and pompous man. I was only fourteen years old, so I was paid under the books, below minimum wage. I was always on time. I always went above and beyond the call of duty. And when I had finished any task I was given, I’d report back to my boss. He’d look at me and say, “Now you can scrub the tables,” or, “Go dump out the old bagels.” On occasion, he’d just stare at me and say nothing.
I worked there for eight months, which in high school years is like a golden anniversary. One day, I announced to my boss that I had not only cleaned the bathroom, but I had also taken the liberty of fixing the paper towel dispenser that was falling off the wall. He looked at me and said, “Do you want a medal?” His wife quietly replied in my defense, “Sometimes it’s nice to hear a thank you.” He looked at me as though I was the biggest nuisance in the world and in a sharp, staccato tone said, "Thank you, Jen!" Clearly he was mocking my desire for a word of approval. I nodded and walked away, wondering why nothing I ever did seemed to please this man.
Two weeks later, the baker robbed the store. He grabbed a bunch of money from the cash register and ran. I was not even there when it happened. But I got fired. That’s right – I got fired! I was supposed to work until 6pm and I left at 6pm. The man who normally came every night to lock up was running late, so a coworker agreed to stay behind and wait. Since I was not there to “defend” the register when this grown man decided to come in and rob the place, my boss took his revenge out on me.For months I internalized feelings of shame as I drove myself nearly insane trying to figure out what I had done wrong, and what, if anything, I could have done better to have prevented the loss of my job.
After eight months of showing this man complete loyalty, faithfulness, and dedication, he fired me for something that I had no control over. And he wasn't nice about it, either. He called me unexpectedly on a very quiet evening and proceeded to yell at me in his big, bad "man" voice. He cursed and screamed, and posed questions to me like, "What is wrong with you?" and, "What are you, an idiot?" I did not even know the store had been robbed. He never told me. He just open fired. It was nothing short of devastating. The rejection I suffered was painful, confusing, and unfair. For months I internalized feelings of shame as I drove myself nearly insane trying to figure out what I had done wrong, and what, if anything, I could have done better to have prevented the loss of my job.
Ironically, my drastic reaction to being rejected stemmed from biblical truth. The Bible says that woman was created for man (1 Corinthians 11:9). Our whole entire reason for existing is to support the men around us. I am not a man, and I do not know what kind of painful feelings men go through when they are rejected. But I am convinced that the single worst feeling that a woman experiences when she is rejected by a man is the feeling that her entire reason for existing has been utterly dismissed. When a man no longer has any use for us, we feel as though we have been rendered completely unnecessary. It can feel as though we no longer have a function. Depression sets in quickly because not only are we grieving the loss of a man’s company and the security of our regular routine as dictated by him, we are coming to grips with the idea that we are no longer valued. It makes sense why God would command men to love us. If our entire reason for existing is to devote ourselves to them, what we want in return more than anything else in the world is the assurance that we are loved, or at least appreciated. But what do we do when we feel we are not loved or appreciated?
The first thing we must do is to assess our motives for serving. If in fact we are only serving the men around us in order to gain a sense of approval from them, we are really seeking our own need to be liked, appreciated, or even admired. Underneath it all, some of us may simply be fishing for a compliment. If that compliment doesn't come, it doesn't automatically mean that we are not appreciated. It simply means that the appreciation was not expressed in the manner we had hoped. When we feel rejected, we must always examine our motives in the context of that relationship. If we find our motives are not pure, then we repent of that selfishness and the feeling of rejection goes away.
But because men are sinners just like we are, there are those times when the rejection we experience is real. In this case, we must still be careful to guard our hearts. For example, when my boss fired me, the first reaction I had was one of terror. But once the initial shock wore off, the fear gave way to pride. At the tender age of fifteen, I uttered for the very first time the words of disbelief spoken by every woman who has ever been rejected without warning: “After all I’ve done for him!”
When we are rejected, we must be careful not to compensate for our feelings of low self-worth by becoming puffed up. Saying desparaging things about the man, or over-inflating our own good qualities in an effort to make us feel better is sin on both ends. The only cure for the hurt and pain is to turn to the cross. The cross has a wonderful way of leveling the playing field on both sides. It enables us to forgive the person who rejected us when we put ourselves in his shoes, remembering the many times we have rejected The Lord. It also helps us to forgive that person when we consider the way that God has forgiven us over and over and over again.
Finally, when we are rejected, we must be strong in our duty to continue serving. The Bible says "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9). Because every person we come in contact is a sinner, we can rest assured we will be rejected again and again. We cannot just shut down and avoid having relationships in an effort to avoid rejection. We must continue serving others, but we must also use discretion. "Continuing to serve" does not necessarily mean we continue to serve the individual who hurt us. Forgiveness is required of us always, but reconciliation is not mandatory. There may be good reason to separate yourself from someone who is abusive or cannot be trusted. But we cannot allow ourselves to grow weary of doing good to those who are blameless. We cannot go on in the present punishing the innocent for the sins of the guilty committed against us in the past. If you are suffering from the bondage of rejection, know that you can break those chains and be free to serve others in Christ. Here is a wonderful message by Charles Stanley called, "Release from the Bondage of Rejection." It runs approximately 50 minutes in length, or you can also skim the sermon outline by clicking here.