Fear of Rejection
All of us, at one time or another, have had our desire to act curtailed by a fear of rejection. You want to audition for a role in the play but not making it would be too great a social embarrassment. You want to try out for the team but riding the bench would brand you a failure. You want to talk to that certain someone you’ve been crushing on but what if they don’t like you? You want to invite your friends to church but are afraid they will say no, or worse, that they will visit and then say no to returning. The risk of hearing that one little word, “No,” often keeps us silent when we should speak up. Such a little word wields so great a power because of the one fear we all share, the fear of rejection.
This fear that dictates behavior is not only a modern day phenomenon. God’s Word provides examples that help us understand that a fear of rejection can rob us of our opportunity to participate in God’s plan. God miraculously spoke to Moses via a burning bush, choosing him as the ambassador to negotiate the release of God’s people from the hand of Pharaoh. Moses’ first response was, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). Moses was trying to remind God of his present circumstances. He had already been rejected. He was already hiding in the middle of the desert. Surely if he appeared before Pharaoh, commanding the release of the Israelites, he would be laughed at or worse. Moses was provided the opportunity to take his place as a great leader, and he hesitated because of his fear of rejection.
Gideon was hiding behind a winepress threshing wheat when the angel of the Lord appeared to him and identified him as a mighty man of valor, charging him to save Israel from the Midianites. Gideon spoke out of his fear of rejection when he said, “Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? I am the least in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15). Gideon knew he was the runt of all runts. If he declared that he was going to conquer the Midianites, he just knew he would be laughed out of town. Even after Gideon agreed to do as God asked, he chose to carry out his first task—tearing down the altar of Baal—under the cover of darkness. The Bible tells us that Gideon did not carry out God’s request by day because he “feared his father’s household, and the men of the city” (Judges 6:27). Gideon’s behavior was being dictated by his fear of rejection.
Perhaps the greatest illustration of the fear of rejection is revealed in the story of Esther. She too was put in the position of saving her people from destruction. Mordecai challenged Esther to use her influence with her husband, the king, to save her people from Haman’s evil plot. Esther’s fear of rejection was well founded. She wasn’t afraid of being laughed at or socially misunderstood. She wasn’t even afraid of failing to change the king’s mind. Esther knew if she appeared before the king, and her visit was rejected, she would immediately be put to death. Esther’s narrative takes facing the fear of rejection to a whole new level.
What do we have in common with great Biblical heroes like Moses, Gideon, and Queen Esther? Our nation isn’t being held captive waiting for a great leader to arise and be used by God to bring liberation. Or is it? The circumstances have certainly changed, but it seems to me that the calling of the people of God remains the same. We walk the halls of our schools and sit at the desks of our classrooms, surrounded by individuals who are held captive by the sin of this world. Their lives are plagued by situations like divorce and depression, and they are devoid of truth. We have been positioned with purpose. We aren’t being asked to perform miracles in front of Pharaoh, conquer the fierce Midianite army with only three hundred soldiers, or convince a king to free a nation of people. We have been asked to be “the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill…” (Matthew 5:14). We are God’s vehicle to bring salvation to people in trouble. Who will tell them if we remain silent? Isn’t that worth being rejected a time or two?
When I was in elementary school, it seemed like we had a new fundraiser every other week. Between magazine subscriptions, fragrant candles, and Girl Scout cookies, I became a regular peddler of all things unnecessary on my neighborhood block. Considering my recent success in sales, I decided I would make some money for myself. I took a box of free pens advertising my uncle’s business and began going door to door selling them to my neighbors. I sold the first one for twenty-five, but by the time I got to the other end of the street I had upped it to five dollars per pen. Before I left the house I considered what would happen if I was rejected. However, my fear of regret at not having my own money outweighed my fear of being rejected.
To evangelize our own personal world effectively, we have to allow our fear of regret to become larger than our fear of rejection. It is our experience of rejection that brings us closer to Christ. It was, after all, Jesus Christ who was “despised and rejected of men” (Isaiah 53:3). We must fall in line with the men and women of God’s Word who decided that being rejected might be fatal, but they would not be able to live with the regret of not having tried at all. We stand at the intersection of decision. Will we risk rejection to evangelize the people God has placed in our path, or will we shoulder the regret of never having shared the message of Jesus Christ?