Rejection is a gift. Of course, I don’t mean you should break up with someone and say “I have a gift for you; it’s really good, and you truly earned it.” Sure, rejection can be demoralizing and cause us to feel like a giant failure making us want to give up on life because what’s the point when our dreams are crushed and we’re too useless to do anything of value… but it also has a positive side. We just need to avoid getting stuck in the negativity of it. The obvious benefit of rejection is it can motivate us to work harder in order to prove someone wrong: “You think I’m too dorky? Well, I’m going to prove you wrong… I don’t know how yet because I’m not at all cool, but I’ll figure it out.” In the best cases, rejection can inspire us to work hard and be better than we would have without that push. This is the experience of some hugely successful people like Walt Disney, Harrison Ford, and Stephen Spielberg who all ended up working hard and winning in the end.
A less obvious benefit of rejection connects to the post I made last week about The One Who Got Away. Rejection helps prevent this because a good rejection kicks us in the pants so hard that we typically lose the attraction. Without rejection, we can be stuck wondering ‘what if?’. In my post last week I mentioned that my wife dated a lot of guys before me, and when it came to ending the relationship, she dumped every one of them. She never actually felt the rejection of being dumped like a normal people… normal people being the term I use because that’s the category I was in. Before finding my wife I was rejected by some amazing women… and some not so amazing; desperation leads to lower standards. In university a couple girls I asked out gave me their numbers and when I called to set up a time to meet they said they had boyfriends and couldn’t go out with me. What? Another girl even went out with me for coffee and it wasn’t until part way through our time together that she said she had a boyfriend. Serious? It was like there was a meeting where all the girls I liked were told to say they had a boyfriend when they don’t like a guy. Either that or they first thought I was gay and wanting to be a friend. Other girls gave me their number and never called me back after I left a couple messages. I’ve even been rejected by a few girls I didn’t like: (girl being a snob) “I would never go out with you.” (me) “I didn’t ask… mostly because I had no interest.” The harshest rejection I received was by a girl who said: “Get away from me.” That only happened once… although in my mind it’s replayed over and over. That being said, I earned this rejection; I really earned it. Years ago, before my wife, I was flirting with this girl at university who actually ended up liking me (she didn’t have a pretend boyfriend). After a couple weeks of talking she really liked me… until she found out I had a girlfriend. Yeah, I earned that rejection from her, and learned a valuable lesson: Don’t let the girl you’re hitting on find out you’re dating someone… wait, that’s not the lesson… although valuable if you’re going to be a cheater. As I said to one guy, getting caught is the worst thing you can do; cheating is the second. I have a feeling there’ll be a few people who disagree with that, which is fine; they can reject it.
I have been rejected by some really great girls, especially the girlfriend I had when I got rejected by the other girl when I low-level-cheated (I never touched the other girl or said anything sexual, so it wasn’t “cheating” in the way I see as a therapist; it was more me being a huge jerk than it was full on cheating). And how do I feel about every girl I was rejected by? All feelings are gone. Rejection is freeing. In its best form, rejection is liberation. It’s like winning the American Civil War. You suffered great loss, but you’re now free. Rejection was great for me… at least now in retrospect. It wasn’t great in the “Was it good for you?” (me) “Yes, you were my best; I couldn’t stop crying,” but it was really helpful. Rejection was valuable because as fantastic as all those girls may have seemed, there’s no question of ‘what if?’ because there wasn’t an option. For my wife, however, she could be left wondering ‘what if?’ with every guy she’s dated. Just like the girl I said is the one who got away, she’s partly left in this position because she never got to reject me. In a way, she got cheated out of an experience many other girls seemed to enjoy.
Rejection can feel terrible, but it can be the very thing we need to become who we are and free us from any doubts of what could’ve been. Thus, as painful as rejection may feel, we need to see how it provides opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise know.
This week may you see a past rejection in a better light.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people