Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rejection and the Love/Hate Dichotomy

I was told a story recently where a mum rejected her daughter, not once, but serially through her upbringing. Apparently, the daughter never really ‘fitted’ into her mother’s life, as one boyfriend after another strolled in and out of their troubled lives. On occasion, attempts were made at reconciliation--and the daughter did everything in her power to create attractive propositions to advance her chances--but again and again, the mum would reinforce rejection over any shred of the love of acceptance in their relationship.
What occurred later in life was the rejected daughter punished her mother by withholding from her access to her own daughter. From her own sense of bitter rejection she got back by rejecting her mother’s needs to see her granddaughter. This both pleased and tormented the daughter (as I’ll explain below).

We’ve all heard these stories, and more than that, we’ve experienced them firsthand in many instances. What is it about some people and some families that reinforces such gross dysfunction? It’s all about the rejected rejecting others--the generational curse strikes again!

There’s never quite a more powerful truth than our innate need for acceptance. It’s the key to our instinctive and private personage. Acceptance is the pole opposite of rejection. None of us is really that much more resilient than the next person as far as our unlearned traits are concerned; God’s wired into us the very basic need to be accepted. God-follower or not, we’re all the same.

So, we never really come to terms with the risk of rejection or of being rejected.

There are two things that occur to us when we feel rejection’s sting. Firstly, we want to get even. We want the person propagating the pain to feel the same as we do. We want them to suffer and we want the satisfaction of seeing them squirm.

Conversely, and ironically, at the same time we also want desperately to receive that person’s acceptance, love and assurance. We need it; and by virtue of that need, the rejected feeling has forced us to want to reject them back.

These conflicting emotions create within us a confounding and irreconcilable dissonance. This love/hate dichotomy destroys relationships and hopes of forgiveness more than we realise.

I want you to think about this. Think of the last time you felt betrayed, let down, disappointed, or cheated by someone, and find in that the part of rejection. Then think about your natural response, your natural inclination to the situation--how did you feel? You wanted to get even; but you also wanted to please that person and gain their acceptance, winning them over. Even more so, you probably wanted them to apologise profusely and admit they were all wrong and you were right after all--providing both the recognition of their suffering and their acceptance of you. We’re all that predictable.

Recognising these facts, which simply make us human, is the first step on the journey of dealing with rejection, and all those memories of rejection that harm the sense of hope, faith and love within us.

If we can only learn to embrace rejection as Jesus would--in love for the other person no matter what--we’d then see the person rejecting us responding from their own rejection, and at once crush our own fears, for love overrides fear.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Acknowledgement: Gary Ezzo, Rejection: Man’s Greatest Fear; Pastoral Sermon as part of the Growing Kids God’s Way series of the Growing Families Australia course.

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