I think I am going to be completely honest with you today. No masks, no abstracts, and no blaming. Just pure honesty. In the past few years that I have come to realize that I have a fear of rejection. Previously I just felt unwanted so I would not attach myself to people. My relationships were not casual but they were not deep either. I would not allow people to get close enough to reject me, and anytime I thought someone might reject me I would strike first. My relationships with older men were the hardest because I wanted to have a father but knowing the damage they could do I kept mostly to female company. When I finally let down my guard and sought an older male’s guidance and leadership he let me down and it took a few years to recover.
Recently, I found that a major issue that was holding me back in ministry and life, in general, was that I was waiting on permission from a father figure. Because all my previous attempts at approval had ended like the Hindenburg landing I felt stuck and all the platitudes in the world about how God qualifies the called could not help me. I realized that while I desired male approval I had made myself into a man that other men did not feel they needed to approve of. What I mean by this is other men felt that I was “all set” or that I did not need anything from anyone. I had unwittingly created a persona that I was a man’s, man. So here I am, a man’s man who needs nothing but feels like a scrawny sixteen-year-old who craves approval. I became a contradiction.
It was not until my wife and I felt God’s clear call to plant a church that I realized I had a serious issue. Every book I have read says that if you are called to ministry then those in church leadership need to confirm or approve. My greatest fear had been realized. I now had to ask for approval from another man but that meant I had to be vulnerable. I had to take my dream, which is really an expression of myself, hand it to someone else and ask them not to crush it. After six months of deliberation, I finally did this and felt sick until the appointment. The meeting went well and I was confirmed, however, after the initial high of not bring rejected wore off I found myself not feeling much better than I did before.
I have found through prayer, Bible reading, and worship that my fear of rejection has caused me to seek man’s approval and value it over God’s election. I am now stuck between a fear of rejection from man and a desire to receive blessing and approval from God based on His grace and goodness because of Christ. How do I navigate between the two when my fear of rejection causes me to not allow people to get close to me? Do I simply allow them in without expecting or seeking validation from them? Do I not expect people to hurt me? I find that my fear of rejection has caused me to expect people to hurt me which brings up additional issues.
If I am not expecting people to hurt me or fearing their rejection how do I navigate those relationships? What am I supposed to expect in a friendship or mentor relationship? Is the purpose of these relationships simply two people both growing and traveling life together? I find that in needing God to heal me of my fear of rejection I also then need to better learn what it is to be in relationships with people. I have built my relationships, partly with an expectation of rejection and this causes me to be performance based. If I am not going to expect rejection, then it follows that I should not be performance based either but I do not know how to do anything else.
I find that I am now not only in a place of needing healing but instruction as well. I need to be healed of the pain of being rejected when I was younger which I have been working through but this idea trust-based relationships is new to me. How do I let people in when I fear their rejection and constantly fall back on my performance-based mindset? How do I move forward when I think I can perform well enough to make people want me? Maybe confession is the key here. Maybe I confide in my closest friends and become naked before them bearing my soul? I have heard it said that the best thing that could happen to you is for your deepest fears to be broadcast on the news so they are out in the open and while I am not so sure this is a good idea I think it does have a ring of truth to it. What if I am honest, actually and truly honest with my closest friends that I fear rejection and fear that I am not good enough for them?
James writes that we should confess our sins and pray for each other. I think this is partly because once they are out there they cannot be put back in the secret place. Once we expose ourselves we can move forward to a place of healing but only once we are honest. I am afraid. That is my default state. Maybe in order to move forward to a place of healing I need, to be honest about that.