The Fear of Rejection

Remembering Jia Jiang’s Talk from the GLS 2019

OK, let’s be real.  No one likes rejection:  not personal, not emotional, not professional, and not interpersonal.  It hurts.  It really hurts.  Remember that old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?”  Yeah…words hurt.  And words that reject us…well they REALLY hurt.

So, what kind of person actually seeks out rejection?  May I introduce Jia Jiang, author of Rejection Proof, and owner of Rejection Therapy?  He went out in search of rejections.  For 100 days.  Yep,he sought out rejection of all sorts.  Why?  To be able to help people and organizations overcome the fear of rejection and so be able to be bolder, more creative and more innovative.  Why?  Because the world needs bold, creative, innovative citizens and leaders.

Three take-aways from his presentation:

  1. Rejection is a numbers game.  After so many no’s, there will be that “yes.”  If rejection remains captured in that frame, it just becomes a game.  Offer-reject.  Offer-reject.  Idea-reject.  Proposal-reject.  Sooner or later, according to Jiang’s research, “no” yields to a “yes.”  For leaders, that means having two things firmly embedded:  the courage of your conviction and patient endurance.  Got those?  Enter the numbers game.
  2. Rejection is just an opinion about what the receiver sees as important.  That’s all it is.  It is not personal.  It is not a reflection on the worth of the person or the quality of the offer…work…relationship.  A rejection lets you know what the person doing the rejecting values.  Take it as a learning opportunity.  And then stop there.  Do not overlay all the other interpretations and emotions on it.  You just learned what another values.  Be grateful.  Hold that knowledge.  Move on.
  3. Rejection provides a growth opportunity for the one rejected.  And what areas might grow from a rejection?  Self-confidence.  The courage of the conviction.  Clarity about your own reasons for being in this inter-change at all.  The quality or necessity of a supportive team.  I am sure you can name more.
For those of you who are ecclesial leaders, take this one step further.  Take a look at how Jesus managed rejection and you will see his commitment to each of these three truths.

  1. With regard to the numbers game, Jesus told his disciples to just move on, bang the dust off their feet in places where their message is not heard (Mt 10:14).
  2. With regard to rejection being an opinion about what the receiver sees as important, take a look at Jesus’ interchange with Pilate.  Jesus values the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom.  Pilate values the preservation of Roman power and therefore his power.  And Jesus calls Pilate on it, telling him that it is Pilate who is calling Jesus a king.  Yep.  That rejection is more about Pilate than Jesus.  (Mt 27:11ff, Mk 15:2ff, Lk 23:3ff, Jn 18:33).
  3. And how do the disciples grow from their various rejections?  They grow in faith when Jesus tells them why they could not do great works (Mt 17:19).  Peter grows in his understanding of the kind of love Jesus wants after he rejects Jesus (by denial). (Jn 21:15ff).  Use this lens and see how growth happens through rejection throughout the Scriptures.
For those of you growing in your own leadership, take time with this idea of rejection.  How are you affected by it?  Does fear of rejection silence your prophetic voice, stop your priestly presence to others, or stunt your leadership?  Want a conversation partner as you consider rejection and leadership?  Contact us.  The first hour is on us!


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As I write this, it’s just under a month until the first phase of the Church’s Synod on the process of synodality is to begin.