“He is despised and rejected of men. A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. And we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not.” – Isaiah 53:3
All of us face rejection. Perhaps we don’t get the job we interviewed for. Maybe a love interest breaks our heart. It could be that a parent only accepts us if we do things their way. We may try to share our beliefs, only to be turned down. Rejection hurts and, if we’re not careful, it can lead us to self-pity, bitter anger, and hopelessness.
The Example of Jesus Christ
As in all things, the Savior offered a perfect example of how to cope with rejection. We read that He came into the world not “to condemn it, but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). Nephi explained that Christ “doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto Him. Wherefore he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.” (2 Nephi 26:24, emphasis added).
How could anyone reject Him? As we read above, He was on a mission to save the world. He displayed total selflessness. He died a hero’s death. He was welcoming towards everyone. What’s not to love? Yet he was rejected.
Many turned away because they didn’t like His teachings or because He expected more from them than they were willing to give. Many hated Him because He challenged the status quo, called out hypocrisy, and didn’t meet their standards for what He was “supposed to be.” He was kind to the people other's despised and spoke candidly about His theology. For this He was despised and rejected.
To all of this, how did Jesus respond? He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34); “Love your enemies. Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you” (Matthew 5:44); and “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14).
Where Does Our Worth Come From?
The Lord understood something that we all must understand:
Rejection has zero bearing on the worth of a person. It has zero bearing on the worth of a message. It is largely a reflection of the rejector.
Jesus knew that His worth was eternal. It came from His relationship with His Father. It could not be diminished in any way by naysayers and haters. His message was true; the fact that people refused it didn’t make it any less true. For this reason, He said, “he that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:9) and “I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in unto him” (Revelation 3:20).
While sometimes we are rejected because we have things to improve upon (getting more job training, being a better listener, avoiding sanctimony), oftentimes we are rejected because the other person is not ready or right for us.
Sometimes you’re not right for the job but other times the job’s not right for you. Sometimes you need to be a better romantic partner but other times “it’s not you, it’s me” is actually true. Sometimes people reject the gospel message because they’re not in a place to accept or hear it, not because you should keep your mouth closed. Sometimes loved ones aren’t as loving as they should be because they’re unable to give that love.
Dealing with Rejection
Your worth is eternal. It comes from your relationship to Heavenly Father, as His child. Naysayers and haters cannot diminish that worth. Employers may go with someone else. Love interests may no longer be interested. Friends may not want to know more about your beliefs. Family members may fail to love you unconditionally. None of them can diminish your worth!
By following our Savior’s example we can be loving and kind to those who reject us. We can do good to them that hurt us. We can be unfazed by rejection when it is eternally insignificant and learn from it when it helps us to grow. Others may reject us, but our Heavenly Father won’t. Jesus understood this. So should we.
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Jonathan Decker is a licensed marriage and family therapist and CEO of Your Family Expert. He offers online relationship courses, webcam and in-person counseling, organizational development training, and family movie reviews. Jonathan will be presenting on “Stepfamilies and Adopted Families in the Gospel” at BYU’s Education Week in August.