The fear of rejection
March 8, 2010
by Dr. Phil Geoffrion, Albion Evangelical Free Church, rural Cokato

The fear of failure and rejection is a powerful fear, rooted in the question, “What will others think of me?”

For example, the fear of public speaking is rooted in the fear of making a fool of ourselves in the eyes of others and hence, being rejected.

As I reflect on my early years, I realize I desperately wanted to be loved, liked, and admired. Failure was not an option.

When confronted by a new opportunity or possibility, I would assess ahead of time whether or not I thought I would succeed or have a positive experience. If the answer was “yes” or “most likely,” I would proceed.

But if I thought there was a good possibility that I would fail, I wouldn’t even try. Because of that perspective and attitude I missed out on a number of excellent experiences that would have made me a better person. I was afraid of rejection.

How about you? Are you afraid of failure and rejection? Have you experienced rejection or betrayal? Have you been sexually or physically abused, abandoned, or used for some parent’s selfish ambitions? Though covered and concealed over time, perhaps the pain is still there and it oozes deep within.

Have you attempted to drown your sorrows in alcohol, drugs, daredevil activities, or excessive sex? Have you sought to compensate for low self-esteem by over-achievement and perfectionism?

I am coming to realize that the fear of rejection can be overcome by focusing on God’s acceptance of me. It’s a matter of perspective. The more I experience God’s acceptance through Jesus Christ, the less I fear rejection by others.

Since God is for me, no one can ultimately prevail against me (Romans 8.38). God loves and accepts me; that’s what really matters. Only when I internalize this reality am I truly free to love and accept myself for who I am in Christ.

With this perspective, then, I am able to love and accept others – regardless of whether or not they accept or love me.

It seems we have a choice: we can focus on what God thinks of us and wants for us, and who we are in Christ. Or we can fixate on what others think of us, trying hard to fit in with the crowd, and risking failure and defeat – because sometimes we’ll even disobey God and our conscience to avoid rejection by others.

Barnabas was an encourager to Saul after his conversion (Acts 9). Saul, a religious terrorist, had a life-changing encounter with the living Lord on the road to Damascus. When he attempted to join the very band of Christ’s disciples he had been hunting down, imprisoning, and killing, he was understandably rejected.

It took the perspective and courage of Barnabas (“son of encouragement”) to incorporate him successfully into the fellowship. And he went on to become the great and influential Apostle Paul!

The more we reach out, accept, and encourage others, the less we fear rejection.

Who could you encourage today? Who needs love and acceptance? A shut-in? A child of a single parent? A lonely person? An elderly neighbor? A classmate rejected by peers? An ostracized office worker?

To have a friend, be a friend. To be accepted, accept others. To overcome fear of rejection, receive God’s love and acceptance and then share it with others. Be a Barnabas today!

Remember: Perfect love drives away fear (1 John 4.18).