When Rejection Hits and Hurts

I heard some sad news recently. A 16-year old autistic boy named Max hanged himself in Kansas. The event touched me personally because I had posted a blog about Max more than a year ago. I quoted a letter from Max’s mother, in which she referred to Max being bullied in school. She complimented the open friendship offered to Max by Kara (my grand-daughter) and her friends. The emphasis of the letter was not critical, just thankful to Kara and friends. Some excerpts follow:

“Hi Kim, I wanted to send you a note and tell you about Kara. She has seen my son Max several times this summer, and has been very nice to him. She and her friends even play games with him at the local swimming pool, where they shoot baskets and probably let him win at the game of PIG. Kara always smiles, and never acts as though he bugs her (even though I know he probably does).

I know this doesn’t seem like much, but let me explain. A lot of kids are nice to Max, say hi, and take a photo now and then. However a lot are just mean, tease and even punch him to see him meltdown. Taking him out in public is a real struggle because I don’t know which will happen. At night, he cries and struggles to “fix himself” wanting to just be normal and accepted. However he often melts down and can’t sleep.

On the other hand, when Kara and her friends treat Max so well, he has a smile for the rest of the night. He eats dinner, and often feels so good about himself that his creativity emerges. Surprisingly he will try to develop a new formula in an effort to cure Aids. Alternatively, he can invent incredible origami pieces, or just design a new form of candy. Afterward he goes to sleep in peace, feeling like he is really worth something. As you ponder this, please note that Max has already passed some entry exams for college. Even though he has not yet finished high school)

For fourteen years the love and compliments of his family were all he needed, but since age fifteen he seems to require the acceptance of peers, and that is something I cannot provide. In summary, Kara has brought peace to our often hectic life, even if just for a day. And that to me is a true angel”.

I ended this blog by thanking Max’s mother for sharing this wonderful letter, which may inspire kids to be kind to others no matter what disabilities they may have.

When we are rejected, or when we feel rejected, it hurts like crazy! Feelings of rejection may play a role in suicide, because peer-pressure and friend-esteem are the coin of the realm in high-school. 11% of children under 18 are diagnosed with depression. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL):

  • 19% of high school students have seriously considered killing themselves.
  • 15% of high school students made actual plans for committing suicide.

The CDC reports that it is the third leading cause of death for youth ages 15 to 24. The only two things that cause more death among teenagers are accidents (usually in the car) and homicide.

“Jesus was despised and rejected of men” (see quote below). I never understood this statement, because I figured that Jesus was God, and God planned his crucifixion anyway. So the spiritual purpose was clear, and he would end up in heaven (where he came from), so why should Jesus feel rejected?

However this misses the point that Jesus was also human. And his human-ness must have just about cracked under the rejection by not only the religious authorities (who were supposed to be looking for a Messiah). But also by the hysterical masses when they screamed to crucify him. These were some of the same people who had seen him offer hope to prostitutes, redeem adulterers, and heal lepers, and who received life-supporting wisdom like the Sermon on the Mount. We must conclude that Jesus experienced genuine disappointment, rejection, and the mental anguish that goes with it.

Isaiah foretelling the birth and death of Jesus (click to enlarge the image and reference the source).

What is the learning here? We need (like Kara and her friends above) to be love-sensitive to others, especially those who are not the same as us. Jesus was a fine example of this. He was not afraid to circulate among publicans and sinners, and the handicapped and the sick. I admit that I have failed miserably more than once in this regard. As a result, I keep saying to myself “Help Someone to Hope”, which is a very good antidote for my tendency to reject (or ignore) someone different.

Jesus commands us to love all people, but a judgmental attitude has a way of squeezing into our thoughts. Especially when we do not understand people who are different from us, and we have not had to walk in their shoes. At the very least we can sprinkle compliments around during the day, since most people are starved for compliments.

The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers……

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” (Isaiah, chapter 53)

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10 years ago

Hi Ian ~ Sensitivity awareness is extremely important! Entering into my 20th year of teaching has taught me to reinforce “respectful” behavior daily, and model this behavior to the best if my ability. I had a brilliant autistic student last year whose parents didn’t want his autism to be discussed. He is very “to himself” and I would suggest a friendship once a semester. I’ve wondered how building friendships has blossomed while he is on the school basketball team. Our school is promoting a book titled “Wonder”. An ALL school read covers this story about a 7th grade boy entering mid-school with a severe facial deformity. I’m fortunate to work in such a warm environment with so many precious children. Being human will have us experience rejection. All of us feel this cold slap and the earlier in our lives the harder the blow might land. I wish there was a neatly boxed answer. Trying to teach compassion is challenging.

10 years ago
Reply to  Vanessa

Vanessa, you mention three key words: sensitivity, respect, and compassion towards others. And you try to model these in your own life. This is a marvelous approach. You have now made me curious about why teaching compassion is difficult. Thank you for sharing.

Julian Pfitzner
Julian Pfitzner
10 years ago

Well written, Ian. I have a relative, a girl of 10 years old, who is being bullied at school and may have to change schools. The impact on her self-esteem could be very damaging. In the past I have found it hard to relate to people with tattoos or metal pieces all over their face. At least I am aware of this prejudice and now consciously try to speak to these people if the chance arises. It turns out that these people are generally quite normal, that is, just like me! A play presently being performed in Adelaide, South Australia, has 6 actors who have a disability. It has been well received with standing ovations. We need to stop concentrating on the disability (we all have some sort of disability, for example, I have two left feet and can’t dance!) and recognise the abilities in all of us. Whoever we are, God loves us and wants us to be part of his family. What a wonderful blessing this is.

10 years ago

Good thoughts Julian. I heard a handicapped lady once say “I look for the advantaged side, not the disadvantaged side, of a person”. In the campus I attend of our church (must be seven or eight thousand attendees each weekend in several services) the assistant band leader who sings solo sometimes and plays guitar, wears a nose ring and a lip ring!

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