Last week, I published an Adoration Meditation article — “Harnessing the Power of Fear” — that focused on two types of fear, servile fear and filial fear. You can find the article in the adoration chapel or online at Adoration.com. If you haven’t read it, I would recommend that you do so. There’s a good chance you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what is says about a prayer that you memorized when you were in second grade.
In many instances, the underlying motivation behind sin is the emotion of fear. Most of our fears reside within us at a subconscious level. Depending on our situation, we may fear that we will be humiliated, criticized, ridiculed, despised, chastised, slandered, rebuked, or laughed at.
So what happens when we are motivated by one or more of these fears? We lie. We cheat. We gossip. We procrastinate. We withdraw. We make excuses. We fail to defend our faith. We become angry and hostile. We escape by drinking, gambling, or engaging in illicit activities.
One of the most dangerous fears that we have to deal with on a regular basis is the fear of rejection. Why? Because the other fears that I mentioned have as their foundation the fear of rejection.
In every aspect of life — relationships, faith, family, employment — the fear of rejection holds us back from doing what we know we should be doing. Unfortunately, most of the time we don’t realize what is actually holding us back, because the fear of rejection is hidden deep within our minds and souls.
So what can we do to overcome the fear of rejection? Is there a formula or process we can follow to effectively deal with it? The answer to these questions is twofold. We need to adopt both a spiritual and a mental approach to dealing with this fear.
From a spiritual standpoint, the most effective way to overcome the fear of rejection is to pray daily for humility. The two prayers recommended by a former mentor of mine, Fr. John A. Hardon, are the “Litany of Humility” and the “Freedom from Human Respect” prayers. The freedom prayer is as follows:
Jesus, my Lord, help me to overcome my weakness of giving in to human respect. I seem almost to live by the judgment that others have of me. Yet I know how foolish it is to pay so much attention to what people think or say, as though it was their opinion and not your infallible wisdom that was the norm of my actions. Deliver me from this tyranny, which it is, by making me so conscious of your presence that no human being may interfere with my joyous freedom in your service. Amen.
From a mental standpoint, the most effective way I’ve seen to deal with and overcome the fear of rejection was outlined in an audio program developed by Tom Hopkins, one of the top sales trainers in the United States. In his program, “How to Master the Art of Selling Anything,” Hopkins explained the five “attitudes” a salesman must adopt in order to overcome the fear of failure and rejection. Here are the five attitudes (followed by my own comments):
1. I never see rejection as rejection, but only as a learning experience. As children, we learned that we were created to know, love, and serve God in this world, and to be happy with Him in Heaven for eternity. If we are truly sincere in our belief that we were created to know, love, and serve God, then we should view rejection as an opportunity to learn how to better know and imitate His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ experienced all the fears that I mentioned above. He was humiliated, criticized, ridiculed, despised, chastised, slandered, rebuked, and laughed at. Yet, He remained steadfast in adhering to His Father’s plan for Him. Every time we experience rejection, our Lord helps us use the experience as an opportunity to teach us how to be more like Him.
2. I never see rejection as rejection, but only as the negative feedback I need in order to change my direction. One of the reasons God allows us to experience rejection is so we will be forced to reflect on how we are living our lives and, with His grace, figure out how we need to change the direction in which we are going. We are, by nature, selfish creatures. There are times when rejection and humiliation are the only tools available to get us to stop focusing on ourselves, and start focusing on what we should be doing to serve God.
3. I never see rejection as rejection, but only as an opportunity to develop my sense of humor. One of the greatest gifts God gave to us is our sense of humor. I can’t imagine what life would be like if He had left this gift out when He created us. From a logical standpoint, we know that we can handle rejection when we have to. But at the subconscious level, we have a tendency to do everything in our power to avoid rejection. Knowing that we can use laughter to soften the blow of rejection helps us to do the things we know we should be doing. The best medicine for rejection is laughter.
4. I never see rejection as rejection, but only as the opportunity to practice my techniques and perfect my performance. How are we ever going to get better at handling rejection if we don’t allow ourselves to learn and practice the techniques that are needed to overcome rejection? When I started writing my weekly articles in 2006, I had to deal with the fear of rejection on a weekly basis. If I hadn’t developed techniques to deal with this fear, I wouldn’t have been able to continue writing for more than a couple of months.
5. I never see rejection as rejection, but only as the game I must play to win. What’s the prize if we win this game we call life? The prize is eternity with our Creator and all the other people who were faithful to Him. Rejection is the game we must learn to master if we want to make it into Heaven.
Regardless of our age and abilities, God has a plan for each of us. The one fear that acts as the biggest obstacle to us following His plan is the fear of rejection.
If you’re in the state of grace and you’re honest with yourself, you know that you would be able to accomplish much more for yourself, your family, and your fellow Christians if you were able to completely overcome your fear of rejection. Don’t you think it’s time to focus on overcoming this fear so you can get busy doing what you were put on Earth to do?