December 8, 2010

Re-examining Rejection

“I think all great innovations are built on rejections.” -Louis Ferdinand-Celine

I was so excited to have a preliminary interview on the Oprah radio network for my trip to Chicago. This chance to share my new book in a place where so many people could learn about it seemed too good to be true. It turned out that it was too good to be true.  They rejected me- and I remembered again just how much rejection stings. It is a sticky experience too, like the super glue of negativity that has a cutting edge of self-doubt. It seeps into all the places where the residual scars of painful endings and disappointing events linger. It makes you question all of the goodness and assurance that seemed so strong in you just moments before.

I have learned that this tenacious residual of rejection is the primary reason that many people quit in both life and love. I remember writing a piece a couple of years ago about a whole rash of young adults I knew who were opting out of the relationship game entirely. I wrote that the point of the game of love is not discovered in the winning or losing, rather it is found in the play itself. Human hearts are resilient, and going through rejection and emerging whole on the other side is how we grow strong.

Although I still believe that, I also realize that it had been a long time since I had experienced a rejection that made me question so deeply. Finding the courage to go back into the game is the right idea, even as I sit on the sidelines now, wondering if I have what it takes to put myself out there again. The pain of this rejection reminded me of the last time I fell down hard and scraped up both my knees and palms badly.

For years I had bandaged up my kids’ scrapes with barely a nod to their discomfort, so routine were the events. But then when it happened to me and every day for weeks that I got into a bath and felt them stinging again, I learned something deep about how long it takes to heal, how quickly we forget and how much compassion life requires and deserves.

Rejection, it seems to me today is like a skinned heart. We all have a trace of that scarred place that is the weakest link in our human psyche. It is the place where we are required to learn and re-learn self love and acceptance. The human struggle with self-love is universal. This question of our own self worth acts as the fulcrum that is constantly balancing how we live in the world. Finding the grace to love ourselves again when someone we love rejects us, or when our best is not good enough, is the last great frontier of emotional maturity.

Love starts inside of each of us, and having the guts to hang onto ourselves when the people and events of life reject us is the foundation for building any relationship that lasts. Believing in our own goodness even with evidence to the contrary is a path that is sometimes hard to find, but one that is etched into us when we take our first breath. No one said it would be easy though.

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