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Posts tagged ‘acceptance’

Moving Forward after Rejection

Mark 6:1-13 

RejectedHave you ever been rejected?

Sure you have!

Wasn’t it great?


Just kidding.

Rejection stinks.

I remember being rejected when I was thirteen. I wanted to sing. I loved music. I sang in the school choir. But my music teacher told me personally once, in front of some other students, that music wasn’t my thing. I wasn’t very good at singing. I should stick to other things.
I was demoralized. I felt like it was the end of the world. I cried when no one was looking.

And then, the worst part:

I started to believe it.

I wanted to quit choir and stop singing altogether. I believed the narrative.

Of course, that’s just a small, somewhat superficial example.

I cannot tell you how many people I know who have been rejected in big and terrible ways. People I care for deeply were rejected time and time again when they were young children. They were told that they were no good. When they showed enthusiasm for something, they were met with scoffing and sarcasm. Maybe they were rejected by family, friends, teachers, or even pastors.

So they stopped being enthusiastic. They stopped singing, or writing, or dancing, or drawing, or running, or showing random acts of kindness, or doing the things they loved.

Why do we remember rejection so much?
Why does it follow us for much of our lives?

Rejection deals a direct blow to our ego. The ego is the inherent part of the self which holds intact our pride, esteem and self-worth. So when the ego is bruised, a core element of our being is damaged. We automatically begin to blame ourselves, assuming there must be something wrong with us and criticizing the behavior that led to our rejection.[1]

And some follow-up questions.

Why do we seek approval of certain people, and not others?
Is it more difficult to be rejected by those who know us best?

Today’s Mark story is all about rejection.
Jesus of Nazareth was rejected and in his hometown, no less.

I would argue that this is what attracts so many to the person of Jesus—not that he was some supernatural force—but that he experienced failure and rejection just like we do.

Jesus, in the story, marvels at the way he his rejected by his family and friends. In typical Markan style, there are no details about what “marveling” meant, but I’m going to assume that Jesus was upset. And yet, he doesn’t overreact to the rejection or become defensive. He heals who he can, he does what he can, and he tries to model this for his followers.

Jesus’ response is simple: a Jewish custom: shake off the dust.
Shaking the dust off of one’s feet was a custom of pious Jews returning to Jerusalem after spending time in a Gentile, non-Jewish land. It symbolized separation from any clinging form of defilement. But of course, Jesus was constantly with Gentiles, and in Gentile land. So his mention of this custom served to be a teaching moment for his disciples. They were not to hold onto the feelings that come with rejection. They were to let go of any attachments that kept them from moving on.

Moving forward from rejection means accepting what we cannot change.

For Jesus, it was in accepting that not all the people he spoke to or dealt with would accept his message of love and mercy. He had to accept [and I’m sure this was hard to do] that even some of his family and friends would reject him. That’s tough. But it’s real. And in accepting that, Jesus didn’t move towards resentment. He moved towards accepting himself as he was, and passed on that same advice to his disciples. I’m sure they struggled with it too, but it was good advice.

He told them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; only wearing sandals and a single tunic. Metaphorically, you probably get the idea. Don’t carry baggage with you, as much as possible. It will weigh you down in this life. As I mentioned before, this is about being free of attachments as much as possible, whether material or relationship-wise. This is becoming aware, but also stepping towards freedom and honesty. That’s why they told by Jesus to stay in someone’s home as long as they were welcome–to really stay. To appreciate the hospitality, the friendship, the connection. But if there was not an acceptance and instead a rejection, they were to leave without attaching themselves to the situation. In other words, don’t get defensive!

letitgoEveryone is different and looks at the world differently, do don’t expect everyone to think like you.

It’s great advice for us.

So often we focus on achieving someone’s acceptance. We do it at school, at work, in public, with friends, and at home with family. So when we are rejected, we take it so hard. But in order to move forward, we have to come to accept that not everyone will approve of everything we say and do. It’s just fact. Even our family and closest friends will not always accept how we live.

And that’s okay.

We are meant to live fully and wholly as we are. We are not meant to live someone else’s life or to fulfill someone else’s expectations for us. If we accept that about ourselves and about others, something wonderful can happen–albeit slowly as part of a process. We can find the capacity within ourselves to stop seeking approval all the time. We can just be ourselves and that is freedom. We won’t hang on to past rejections, giving them so much power in the present moment. We’ll accept ourselves and we’ll accept others. We’ll shake the dust off of our feet when necessary, and we’ll walk forward.

Friends, there is so much that we can learn from rejection.
First, that everyone is rejected at some point. It’s not just you.

Second, moving on from rejection orients us to see the world differently. For me, it meant that I would continue to sing, but under different circumstances. I didn’t seek the approval of my music teacher. But I didn’t stop singing.

Further, if people tell you “no” or “you can’t” that’s just them. You alone can tell yourself no or yes or what you can or cannot do.

Lastly, it’s not about you. People make subjective judgements about themselves and about others [including you] every day. And those judgements change in the blink of an eye.

When somebody rejects you, they are acting on their own insecurities and fears. It is encouraging to consider that the person who rejects you is dealing with his/her own personal issues; most likely you did nothing to cause them to reject you.

Moving on from rejection can mean beginning a new day and finding new opportunities.

[1] Dr. Carmen Harra, “How to Deal with Rejection”, Huffington Post.


Inner Peace and a Path

Isaiah 40:4-8, Psalm 85: 8, 10, 11, 13  

This time of year, a second candle is lit and people speak an elusive word:


 PeaceUnfortunately, I’m not sure we are all that honest about this word.

Do we really believe in peace?

I mean, it certainly doesn’t seem like we believe in it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be fighting wars and starting new ones. We wouldn’t have tons of weapons; we wouldn’t separate communities of people from each other–if we really believed in peace. We wouldn’t be shouting or posting racial slurs; we wouldn’t be apathetic about building bridges across lines of difference.

So I would like to go in a different direction, taking another path, this Advent season. What if the prophetic passages of Isaiah, the Psalms, and the NT Gospels didn’t really talk about peace the way we think they did?

What if real and honest peace is not about lighting candles and singing songs and observing a holiday season and religious traditions, just like we do every year? What if peace isn’t even about most of the things associated with Christmas?

Now before you start throwing things at me, allow me to explain.

The typical “Advent” scripture passages [and also the typical Christmas Eve passages] talk about peace, but not as an absence of conflict, a nice, warm feeling, or comfort.

Take Isaiah 40, for example. The prophet Isaiah speaks of a path of preparation. Something new is about to happen, something that will change everything, and the way for God needs to be prepared. The highways and byways are metaphors of the spiritual pathways in people that need to be ready to receive such a change.


Isaiah the prophet tries to convince people that beyond all the destruction and loss in the world there is comfort and recovery. The earth itself will proclaim God’s reign of healing and transformation.

And then there are Psalms like Psalm 85 that echoes the Isaiah proclamation of healing and change. People [and whole nations] are forgiven and justice becomes healing. People are transformed and become free and joyful, and they commune with God.

And finally, in the Gospels, what does John the Baptizer do? He quotes Isaiah [and so does Jesus], and tells people to “turn around” to change, and he tells them to prepare the way for God.

But…none of this change, justice, and peace happens without real, honest human change on an individual basis.

People are exhorted to look deeply and honestly at themselves.

They are challenged to deal with the fears, the anxieties, the prejudices, and the apathy within themselves.
And they are encouraged that if they commit to that path, they will find something within themselves.

A highway.
A vessel.
A space where the divine can live and act.

And the encountering of peace…inside ourselves.
Inner peace.

Of course, it’s impossible to define what inner peace is, because it is and will be different for every person.
But, the path to inner peace is less relative.

Not just in Christian or other religious traditions and scriptures is this true, but in real life it’s true.

Inner peace is about accepting yourself.

But how do people discover acceptance?

Usually the first, and the hardest step, is in recognizing that the past is just…the past. Letting go of the past is critical, because the past is something that we cannot change.

And then it is in recognizing that the future is not here yet. We cannot turn the hands on a clock to make a day skip forward. We cannot turn the pages of a calendar to move ahead to future months.

Peace/Wholeness within yourself comes when you realize that the past and the future are not yours to hold in your hands.

Instead, the one thing you do hold in your hands is the here and now.

If you live firmly in the moment and then move fluidly from moment to moment, life seems to have a rhythm.
You will spend more time actually living, and you will see and experience the here and now in an honest and healthy way. You’ll spend less time regretting or dwelling on the past and less time worrying about the future.

And in the embracing of the here and now you actually embrace yourself.
You realize that you are alive. You are present.
Right now.

One particular theologian and philosopher who doesn’t exactly get mainstream love, and who certainly wouldn’t be on most people’s Christmas list, is one Paul Tillich.

tillichTillich looked at the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament Gospels with an alternative lens. He saw in the scripture stories a particular dynamic in what many Biblical scholars call Kairos time—in other words, when the divine breaks into the moment-by-moment existences of human beings.

In Tillich’s work, The Courage to be, he states:

…the reality of God’s moment by moment coming – the Kairos of this very moment – calls us to be self-aware and mindful and to be people who already live “on earth as it is in heaven.”[1]

But in order to live on this earth as we expect things are in heaven, we will need to have the courage to look at ourselves. We will need to honestly accept who we are—in spite of all that happens around us that might seek to distract us from such a pursuit.

It’s common for us to look out at the world and to become apathetic, depressed, and overwhelmed by all the suffering, injustices, violence, and pain.

It would be easy to just do things as we’ve always done them and to neglect looking intently inside ourselves.
But this is the path of Advent, the path of waiting, the path of real change.

For when we look deeply at ourselves and learn to accept ourselves as we are, we start to see others differently.

We even participate in that Kairos time—that intersection of the divine and us.

But don’t think that finding inner peace is just some isolated act for each individual. It’s more than that. Because when you commit to the path of accepting yourself, you participate in the divine act of God affirming all the good creation, all the beauty of the animals, and the plants, and the humans.

And you become aware of justice and the need to participate in it.
And peace is more than a dove or a word or an idea.
Peace is real because it lives in you.

[1] The Courage to Be. By Paul Tillich. Second Edition. New Haven, Yale University, 2000 (1st ed. 1952).

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