Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com
The Bible teaching about fear of rejection is critical in evangelism, but it is helpful whenever you or I face the possibility of disapproval by others: spouses, bosses, neighbors, co-workers, etc. We all want to be accepted by other people, but the threat of their rebuff often causes us to clam up with fright. This self-inflicted distress will sometimes silence us when we seek to win others to Christ.
The wise man told us, “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted” (Proverbs 29:25). Jesus said that some hid their faith because, “they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:43, see verse 42; cf. Luke 12:4). The same is true today.
I must be quick to insert a qualification. You and I are not to be careless and invite death, prison, or being fired from our job with our witness. We must proclaim the gospel, but not be foolish in our methods. I say this because many who read this study live in areas of the world where Christians are murdered for their faith.
What, then, should we do when confronted with criticism or fear of being rejected? Here are some basic causes, and how to manage them. It is basically a mind game, because fear is a function of our mind.
This causes of fear of rejection stems from the belief that approval equals worth, or conversely, disapproval equals worthless. Since we don’t want to be worthless, we become super careful to avoid criticism or rejection. We have convinced ourselves that it will be terrible if someone disapproves.
Two problems emerge with this faulty thinking. First, we spend too much time and energy trying to please others, and neglect doing creative, productive things in our life. Fear of rejection freezes us when we should be focused on successful performance.
Secondly, we will never win, because there will always be someone who will disapprove of things we say, do, or are. It is impossible to please everyone.
Finally, the ultimate cure is our faith. Paul said, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1; cf. verses 31-39). The writer of Hebrews said, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6). Our worth comes from Christ, not what other people think of us.
Sometimes when people criticize or reject us, it may be their problem. They may be thinking irrationally or wrong when thy react negatively to you. It is their problem, and you don’t need to let their problem become your problem. If someone mocks you for your faith in Christ, then their issue is with God, not you.
If someone yells at you for driving too slow, then the anger issue belongs with them – not you. Even if the other person’s criticism is valid, this need not destroy you. You can pinpoint your error and take steps to correct it. You can learn from your mistakes, and you don’t have to be ashamed of them. If you are human, then you should and must make mistakes at times. Mistakes are things you learn from.
Mistakes and Losers
If you have goofed, it does not follow that you are thoroughly a hopeless loser. Frankly, it is impossible to be wrong all the time – or even most of the time. Even in business and war, it is a matter of managing mistakes that determines who wins. Think of the thousands of things you have done correctly. Fear of rejection clouds and disqualifies your good successes.
Furthermore, you can change and grow. It is impossible to be completely right or wrong in this life. A few mistakes do not make you a loser. Certainly, rejection because of your Christian faith does not make you a failure!
Who is the Judge?
Several principles are helpful under this heading. First, other people cannot judge your worth as a human being. They can only judge the validity or merit of specific things you do or say. They do not have the authority to judge you as a human being. God has that authority (cf. Luke 12:4-9).
Second, everyone will judge you differently no mater how well you do or how badly you might behave. There is no need to continue taking a beating from those who don’t like you.
Consequently, you can stop hanging out with those who reject you, and go hang out with those who approve of you. That is why it is important to fellowship with Christians to keep your faith strong. The upshot is this: even if worse comes to worse and you do get rejected by someone, you cannot end up totally alone.
Don’t give others the power and right to judge you. We are all just human beings, not Supreme Court justices or God. Don’t magnify other people until they are larger than life. Don’t you give them the authority to judge you. Paul wrote that we should let Christ be our judge (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:3-5).
Rejection Need Not Be Permanent
From God’s point of view, He never rejects His own. From a human point of view, disapproval and criticism are usually uncomfortable, but the discomfort will pass. Stop moping. Get involved in an activity you’ve enjoyed in the past even though you feel certain it is absolutely pointless to start. Don’t dwell in self-pity.
Disapproval is rarely permanent. It doesn’t follow that your relationship with the person who disapproves of you will necessarily end just because you are being criticized. Arguments are a part of living, and in the majority of cases, you can come to a common understanding later on. Husbands and wives do this all the time.
Another qualification: sometimes religious, political, and racial hatred is permanently ingrained in some people. Again, that is their problem – not yours.
You do not need to mentally accept the blame and shame hurled at you by another person. It is up to you to accept or reject their barbs and hurt. Criticism and disapproval can upset you only to the extent that you buy into and believe the accusations being brought against you.
Of course you should take responsibility for mistakes, but don’t absorb the fear and intimidation others want you to take. Again, to maintain balance, don’t deliberately disobey your boss or government or family and social rules. I am not advocating becoming a rebel.
You can increase your own self-worth to ward off fear of rejection. There are three ways. First, memorize and dwell upon the facts of God’s approval of you. When negative thoughts of fear of rejection bombard your mind, counteract them with God’s thoughts about your fundamental worth and value.
Second, realize that rejection by people is not horrible and terrible, and you can stand it. Expect some rejection. Even Jesus was rejected, and you are not better than Him. Focus on doing the right thing as opposed to trying to win everyone’s approval. The worst thing people can do to you is kill you, if God permits, then you are in heaven (cf. Luke 12:4).
Third, as a practical method, every day write down in a diary five things that you did correctly. This will help you focus on and build positive behavior, rather than focus on and repeating unproductive behavior.
With this, Esmie and I pray that your boldness will increase in proclaiming the gospel of Christ. All the best to you.
Dr. Willis and Esmie Newman
Bible Study Questions
1. In the face of his fear of rejection, what did Paul request (Ephesians 6:19, 20)?
2. As Christians, what attitude should we expect from the world (John 16:18-20)?
3. What did the early Christians ask of God (Acts 4:29)? What was the result (Acts 4:31)?
4. What was the apostles response to the authorities commanding them to stop witnessing (Acts 4:18-20)?
5. What does Romans 8:31-34 tell you about fear of rejection? Explain.
6. What does 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 tell you about fear of rejection by people?
7. What does Hebrews 10:24, 25 instruct you about combating fear of rejection by people?
8. Realistically, what is the worst thing that can happen to you if people reject your witnessing?
Explain why it is so bad. Compare your answers to the Bible, and see if they are realistic.
9. In the face of death and persecution for witnessing, what did Paul and Barnabas do (Acts 13:50, 51; 14:5-6)?
10. What stand out to you the most in this Bible study about fear of rejection? Explain.
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