~ September 6, 2012 ~

Growing Through Rejection

"He was despised and rejected" Isaiah 53:3 (NIV)

If leaders (pastors) aren't OK with periodic rejection of their ideas, their decisions, or even themselves, they probably ought to think of something else to do.

Rejection goes with the territory of being a Servant Leader.

Please know that I'm not saying that we enjoy rejection, or operate in ways where we "know" we will be rejected because we "think" we are smarter than everyone else. What I am saying is that all leaders go through the school of rejection, disappointment, perceived (or real) failure, and, at times, a deep sense of shame.

Shame is often a companion of rejection. Dr. Berne Brown (University of Houston) says that shame needs three feeders to develop: silence, secrecy, and judgment. When we don't talk about "our shameful moments" [or sense of rejection] we feel them more. When we have someone to talk to we feel the sense of shame, failure, and rejection less.

It is felt that men (in particular) seem to feel a deeper sense of shame and guilt (when failing, being rejected, or experiencing loss). This is partly because men tend to be achievement seekers, goal setters, and risk takers. If we understand that we are wired like this (men) we can get a better grip on understanding that we will periodically be rejected and disappointed.

Over the years, I've heard stories of "surprise" firings, financial nightmares, marital affairs, secret addictions, extreme doubt, depression, and unexpected disappointment.

Very few people have been schooled about how to manage these adversities in life – these experiences where we will never be able to "save face":

Not getting a job (or church)

Being released from our job (or church) ... about 1/3 of pastors will be “fired” or voted out – 50% of those leave the pastoral ministry permanently.

Having our well thought out idea rejected (or having it be unsuccessful)

Not reaching our goal

Having the "perfect storm" hit us – when we have experienced an unusual attack from every angle

Growing Through Adversity

Adversity, failure, and disappointment can be valued friends. Management expert, David Dotich, says that, "what makes good leaders great are the trials and tribulations of failure. The lessons learned from confronting fear and uncertainty, and from experiencing frustration, transform good leaders into great ones. Today, leaders who have endured adversity are most likely to be the ones with the resilience and resolve to succeed." In other words, bad times can be turned into good times. One door that closes can open another. Our past wounds and hurts can help us be sensitive to the struggles of others.

Consider two suggestions:


Find a time to process and learn when experiencing rejection, or perceived (or real) failure. Ask yourself some questions:

Why has this happened?

How can I make sense of this experience?

What can I learn from this adversity?

How have I changed because of this experience? (Understand that you have emotionally and cognitively changed in some way.)

How can I apply what I’ve learned to my present and future decisions?

What will I do differently when I begin again?


Make these decisions:

Find someone to talk to about your good and bad ideas that have worked or failed? "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed." (James 5:16, ESV)

Talk to someone about areas of your life where you have a sense of rejection.

Find a prayer partner who will care enough to pray for you and check up on you.

Allow your prayer partner permission to ask you difficult questions.

Decide that you will learn from your past positive and negative experiences, and become wiser, kinder, and more perceptive in your present decisions.

Make it a top priority in your life – regarding your decisions, work, and relationships – that your goal is to please Him ... "do what pleases Him." (1 John 3:22)

When I began my study for a life of ministry, I was like a sponge absorbing everything I could from my professors. I intensely watched pastors and leaders lead – do what they did – and wondered how they became successful, or why they walked away from their careers. I wanted to get it all then ... in the classroom ... before I began. I certainly learned much by diligent study and observation. However, there is no question that some of my greatest teachers have been my mistakes, perceived (or real) failures, trials, and unexpected rejections. We’ve all experienced trials and tribulations. Frequently I remind myself, "Great leaders limp."

Always know that I am ...

Your Friend and Servant in Christ,
Wayde Goodall, D.Min

Dean, College of Ministry

Northwest University

The College of Ministry at NU is here to serve you. Let us know if we can be of any assistance to you in your leadership.

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