I’m learning that rejection is an inevitability in life, but I am also learning that the feelings I experience after rejection are controllable. The inner resources I have to deal with the pain caused by cruelty or carelessness from others (whether intentional or not) can be exercised like a muscle. They can be strengthened by being used, just like physical, tangible muscles. The hard part is, in order to become stronger in this way, the pain has to be experienced, felt, held, and noticed.
It’s amazing how much like working out this is. I have to stress my muscles in order for them to get stronger. I have to feel the pain of exhaustion, the sting of the lactic acid, the burn of lungs struggling for more oxygen. Gradually it gets easier because I get stronger. When I first walked into the gym seven months ago, I was weak and feeling old. Now, I am growing by leaps and bounds in my ability.
And in actual physical exercise as well as practicing holding pain, there can be an element of fear. If I am afraid to pick up the weight or run the mile or grasp the bar and allow myself to hang there, I can avoid the discomfort by not doing the activity. But I never grow. In life, I can hide and withdraw from people because I’m afraid I might run into a situation where someone will do something that hurts. But I never grow.
In this stage of my development (which sounds weird to me, like I am a child, even though I am a 52 year old woman) I am practicing being myself fully. If I feel strongly I should say something, I do. I don’t say every little thing that pops into my mind – I am judicious. But I am much fairer to myself now. Where I used to put myself in a box in order to avoid appearing foolish to others or inviting their disdain, I value my own expression more. I am allowing my unusual peculiarities out into the light. Predictably, this has put me in a more vulnerable position as far as inviting the sting of criticism or the cold silence of being ignored. By embracing these situations and sitting with the pain, I am becoming stronger. I am bouncing back quickly from the sting.
Through all of this, Jesus is walking with me, my companion on this remarkable journey of growth and strength and significance.
Just another way I am learning to love myself. What about you?
Photograph courtesy of Christopher Campbell.