His eyebrows were sunken and words quiet. It had been a rough day, lots of arguing and complaining, everything seemed strained. I pulled the covers up close to his chin and dimmed the night light and sighed. In that quiet place I finally saw it, the tantrums and outbursts were coming from a much deeper place.
“What’s wrong, son?”
Instantly the tears came.
“Mom, I just don’t have any friends.”
My heart sank and then I wanted to run. If only he’d seen my tears just this morning. My playground was a lonely place too. The sting of rejection fresh in my soul. The phone silent. The calendar empty. Like the swing set, Facebook had slung pictures of past memories and present exclusions in my face all day long and it was making me mad. I may not have slammed my back pack into the wall and shoved my brother into the floor, but I sure did eat an extra cookie or two and I most definitely forewent the exercise to watch my crime drama, ignoring the laundry on the way.
Rejection hurts. And sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. Oh how I wanted to give him the three guaranteed steps to finding and keeping friends. I wanted so bad to rush out to the store and buy us both a set of best buddies.
Instead, I sighed and rubbed his forehead, letting the silence search for words. This is the one lesson we can’t outline or purchase in a kit. It must be lived and it might leave some scars along the way.
What if we just got real and admitted that sometimes friendships hurt? What if we were real with ourselves and real with each other that relationships are hard and never predictable. But they are what we live for. We were created to love and to be loved.
As I sat there with my son, pouring out grievances, I realized he and I were faced with a choice. In the aftermath of rejection we could choose to be offended, we could choose to become the victim or we could choose to love. The choice may appear obvious, but its not easy.
Neither of us knew why our friends had chosen to play somewhere else. We had no idea what thoughts were rolling in their heads or burdens they carried in their souls. And this could make us angry. Because, lets be honest, anger is really an attempt to influence the other person. It is a first line defense to the fear of rejection, and it only isolates. To be angry, or disgruntled about their choices would mean we made an assumption about their motives. And that offense could only turn into bitterness – heavy, constipated bitterness.
We could try to take the blame. Searching ourselves, endlessly, for the fault. We could spend hours filling our pillows with tears of failure only to emerge in the morning swollen and depressed. Really, this makes the situation all about me, powerless little ol’ me. The victim is left in the gutter, drowning in self-pity.
Or we could choose love. Love is a very active word, and it is more a choice than it is an emotion. To give love, we first have to believe that we are worthy of being loved — this starts at the cross. For God so loved the world… if the savior of the world can endure crucifixion for you, than you are worthy of love. With His love, we can love ourselves and then pursue genuine connection with others.
We love because God first loved us. 1 John 4:19
We love others not because they make us feel appreciated, or accepted, or cool. We don’t love as a reaction. We love as a response to the cross.*
“You are a powerful person who can make powerful decisions. And more importantly, you are a powerful person who can choose to love- because He first loved you. Choosing to love is the most powerful choice you could ever make, and is more rewarding than you could ever imagine. …A powerful person’s love is not dependent on being loved in return. Their love can not be managed by other people.” Danny Silk
I swallowed my tears and leaned in…
This is an attitude, and we have a choice to live love given. I will not shut down. I will not close off. I will not be angry. I will hold on to love. They deserve it and so do I.
*I first read this concept of React vs. Respond in “Keep Your Love On” by Danny Silk