A rejection complex was a bugbear that I struggled with for many years, stemming back to my earliest years. Its claws gouged deep wounds in me that I feared would never heal. Here is a poem I wrote recently about part of my decades long struggles with it.
have ensnared me.
I am weary,
a beast burdened by
of past hurts.
To protect myself
the Golden Rule:
“I must never reach out,
I must hide my heart,
for I cannot risk
being rejected again.”
I withdraw behind
these lifeless walls.
I question why
I have such little faith.
So I tear down
those walls I built.
And like a toddler
taking his first steps,
I venture forth
and risk my heart
and in the fullness of time,
I meet her.
Characteristics of a Rejection Complex
One characteristic of a rejection complex is the tendency to read rejection into everything: a cancelled appointment by a friend or acquaintance, a raised voice, an ambiguous statement, a frown – any of these actions can be misinterpreted as rejection, even when rejection was not even present.
To further complicate matters, when someone with a rejection complex is actually rejected, it is quite common to spend hours mulling over the rejection clues, as we try to convince ourselves that this is only another case of misreading the other person.
And then to cap it all off, once we acknowledge or recognise that we have been rejected, it is common for us to pick up the ball and reject ourselves. This is typically linked to past episodes of rejection, especially if it occurred during our childhood. We may parrot the criticisms that others have spoken over us, telling ourselves that we are worthless and useless. Descending into self-hatred, we may even punish ourselves in an attempt to stop ourselves from repeating the behaviour/ mistake/sin that caused this particular episode of rejection. And worst of all, we may try to force ourselves into becoming someone other than ourselves in a vain attempt to please the other person.
A typical characteristic of a rejection complex is to surround ourselves with rules or walls that are designed to protect us from ever being exposed to the unbearable pain of being rejected again.
Conditional Love and Unconditional Love
Understanding the difference between conditional love and unconditional love is crucial in being set free from the fear of rejection.
Conditional love says, “I’ll only love you if you do what I want you to do.” Conditional love sets impossible standards that we can never meet, it is never satisfied, and when we fail to meet those standards, it classifies us as useless and worthless and then rejects us. And if we make a mistake or sin, it is treated as deliberate rebellion and we are judged for it. Conditional love is not love at all. It is self-centred, neurotic, controlling, paranoid, and fearful.
God desires to set us free from the bondage of conditional love. He wants to set us free from the trap of living to please men, and bring us into the freedom of living to please Him. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:4. God’s love, in stark contrast to conditional love, is unconditional, and He not only extends it to us through His grace and mercy, but He also forms it within us as the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
God’s unconditional love is patient and kind. It does not seek to manipulate others, it does not set impossible standards, it is not self-centred, and it accepts us. If we make a mistake, unconditional love recognises this, and does not judge. If we commit a sin, unconditional love illuminates the sin in order to bring conviction, and encourages repentance and a change in behaviour. Unconditional love restores us to fellowship, and it says, “Even if you blow it, I will still love you.”
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Let us keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus, and dwell in the security of His unconditional love. He will never leave us nor forsake us. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8