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Rejected! How Could They???!!

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 212

Rejected And Betrayed By A Confidant?

One of the most painful experiences in ministry is to have a confidant reject, subvert and/or betray another. It is painful for a number of reasons.

First, because it represents a violation of trust.

Second, because the rejective action often brings with it destructive political, spiritual, and personal consequences to the rejected one.

Third, because there appears to be a totally unexpected, undeserved, and inappropriate response for the circumstances cited.

Fourth, it is difficult because often reconciliation is made nearly impossible by the rejecting party. Any such "reconciliation" which might occur is generally superficial, ingenuine, and short-lived. This, of course, adds to the frustration of the genuinely concerned wronged one.

Fifth, because the rejecting party will often project unwarranted guilt on one who really cared, supported, and invested their spiritual, personal, physical, and emotional energies for the purpose of a having an effective, genuinely united ministry team.
Sixth, it is difficult because of the sudden, inexplicable "flip-flop" which leaves one in the bewildering confusion of "What did I do to cause them to reject me?"
How Could They!!! An Example

One of the most insightful books relating fear to relationships is Men Who Can't Love. Co-authored by Steven Carter and Julie Sokol (New York: Berkeley Books, 1987), the insights in this book go far beyond describing why some men suddenly leave women. It also explains why some women also suddenly leave good, healthy, fulfilling relationships.

The relationship dynamics described in this book, however, can also apply to any important or significant relationship between like-gendered or opposite-gendered individuals. 

Whether it be friendship, working together in a business association or on a work team, or a church staff member, Men Who Can't Love details in an insightful manner what actually may go on in the mind of one who rejects a perfectly good relationship and, consequently, trashes the unsuspecting victim.

Inside The Mind Of The Rejecter

The uniqueness of Carter and Sokol's book is that their insights were based on hundreds of interviews with individuals who, though they had nurtured successful and fulfilling relationships with a loved one, suddenly rejected them. 

The following example recounts "Mark's" reasons for rejecting "Jane."

"When I returned, Jane was waiting in the apartment, eager to see me; she looked really pretty and she had ordered in a special meal for the two of us. I, on the other hand, was tired and grubby--I sort of avoided any physical contact with her and went to bed, and sleep, as quickly as possible. I guess I became more and more moody and grumpy with her after that. From that point on, it got really bad.

Jane was still accommodating and catering to me, and I, of course, had very mixed feelings about it. I liked it, but I knew she didn't realized that as far as I was concerned the relationship was over, so I felt guilty and uncomfortable around her. She was still working on the relationship, and I was trying to subtly communicate that it wouldn't last.
 
The guiltier I felt, the testier and madder I became. The nicer she got, the more annoyed I became, because I wanted to turn the relationship around and get out of it. I would tell myself that she was only being nice because she was trying to get what she wanted.
 
There is no question about it. On one level it was a very honest, intimate relationship, but on the other, because of what I didn't tell her, of course it was a very dishonest relationship" (Men Who Can't Love, pp. 188-189)
What Happened...
 
Carter and Sokol summed up what happened in the above otherwise "perfect" relationship.
"At the beginning of the relationship, when Jane had been nice to Mark, he saw her behavior as a sign of her superior character and judgment. Once he wanted to leave the relationship, however, he began to find other explanations for her basic goodwill, and he decided that she was trying to manipulate him... If a women is pained by rejective behavior, for example, some men deny the honesty of the woman's feelings and decide she is trying to manipulate the man with her feelings" (p. 188).
Put Yourself In Jane's Shoes
 
Many well-meaning Christian leaders and church staff members have been in Jane's shoes. Though certainly not in the context of an intimate interpersonal relationship as described above, the dynamics can be similar.
 
An important part of any ministry is a cohesive, supporting leadership team. Such teams are often built on a healthy, growing "give and take" of sacrifice, concern, sharing, and supporting each other toward the attainment of their ministry goals. Like Jane, many of the best leaders and staff people reach out to assist, motivate and encourage others on to the fulfillment of their ministry goals. They hold them up during discouraging times.
 
When the "Marks" are attacked by others, these staff members will be faithful "Janes" who will take the heat. When all seems lost like Jane, they will remind the Marks of their value. As part of this relationship, close bonds can be forged. Confidant relationships will develop.
 
Over years, these relationships can be essential for our support. On the sudden death of one essential lay leader, one pastor, grieving, tearfully lamented, "He was my arms and my legs. He was the most valuable asset to my ministry."
 
Such staff relationships are a very special gift of God for ministry. The joy that they give is often among the greatest joys of ministry.
 
Fear Changes Relationships
 
It is the joy and fulfillment of these staff relationships turned suddenly sour that makes the rejection so mystifying. The rejection is unexpected. It can come after years--even decades--of team ministry. All it takes is for one thing to occur in the mind of the "Marks" on staff and the avalanche of mystifying rejection occurs. That one thing is "fear."
 
Fear changes relationships quickly, dramatically, and permanently. To the one at the receiving end, the results happen suddenly and inexplicably. Anger and confusion are common. Helplessness and rage at the uselessness and mysterious nature of the rejection only lead to deeper sense of unresolved guilt, loneliness and anger.
 
What Jane Did
 
In the example above, it was fear that caused Mark to reject Jane. Jane, of course, was the "perfect" mate for Mark. She was tolerant, patient, hard-working, attending to his every need.
 
She sacrificed, changed her lifestyle, delayed satisfaction of her own needs, and bent over backwards to be sure that Mark would feel supported, loved, and encouraged in this relationship. She communicated honestly, directly, but compassionately. She was tender, always supportive, always positive and invested a great deal in herself so that Mark would be successful.
 
Yes, she did everything for Mark. She did such things not necessarily due to an unhealthy co-dependency dynamic. Jane was, after all, a healthy, competent, energetic, self-confident woman. Instead, she simply acted on what had been indicated as a mutually beneficial, reciprocal relationship of trust and support. Everything she did for Mark was done simply because she loved him, cared for him, and wanted the best for him. Certainly it was not manipulative!
 
Mark's Response
 
Mark's response that everything she did was simply to "manipulate" him is classic for this type of rejective personality and scenario. Nothing could be further from the truth. For Mark, it serves as defense mechanism. It's simply a means that he can use to justify "jilting" Jane. For Jane, this accusation cuts at the heart of her motivations. It hurts deeply. Unfortunately, Jane cared so much for Mark. By means of her caring actions and concern, she made herself vulnerable to his projections of guilt, worthlessness and loneliness.

What Hurts Most!

In the final analysis, it's the unwarranted projections of guilt and other painful emotions which make this sudden rejection so difficult. Certainly, the rejection would be bad enough by itself. But the confusion and suddenness of the rejection only drive the knives of rejection even deeper into the grief wound.

Have You Been "Mark"-ed?

Sooner or later in ministry we will experience the "kiss of betrayal." We are not above our Master. He was betrayed with a kiss by a close associate. 

We, too, will have our "Judases"...or should I say, "Marks." Whether we've been "Mark"-ed by a male or female makes no difference. The grief these "Marks" can cause is, to the "Jane," seeming insurmountable.

Keys To Coping

1) Recognize the characteristics of the "Mark" personality.

"Mark"s are fearful personalities with a strong portion of a melancholy temperament. Indicators of such individuals include:

  • idealization of the good;
  • rich fantasy life;
  • a propensity to choose for themselves things that aren't healthy;
  • difficulty in making day-to-day decisions (even simple ones);
  • when decisions are made, they tend to be motivated more by annoyance than initiative;
  • aversion at committing themselves or their feelings to writing;
  • frequent change of jobs, activities, addresses and relationships;
  • show aversion to anything which infringes their freedom or entraps them.

In addition "Mark"s characteristically...

  • call attention to their "perfect" family;
  • compartmentalize their business and personal lives so as to maintain a facade and secrecy;
  • always have reservations about giving trust;
  • have an inability to form lasting, intimate relationships;
  • demonstrate a tendency to over-commit and over-reveal confidences, feelings, and intimate details of their private lives;
  • when escaping a relationship they blame others for the relationship break-down;
  • they become inaccessible and unapproachable after the relationship break-down;
  • afterwards, they feel little remorse for abandoning even the most "perfect" relationship;
  • they are masterful at making others feel indescribably guilty and bewildered for the relationship break-down. Often these feelings of guilt and bewilderment can persist for months or even years.

2) Don't be too eager to help the "helpless" too much for too long!

Though Paul told the Galatians to "bear one another's burdens," in virtually the same breath he wrote, "so that they can bear their own" (Galatians 6:2,5). The most talented and creative Christian leaders often are the ones with strength to help others. They are also the ones those with insecurity and weakness issues call on the most.
 
Certainly these calls for help cannot always be unheeded. But, after prudent consideration of the request, do as the Good Samaritan did. Pick them up, give immediate first aid, direct them to where the care is, and then leave in prayer. If you can't leave the helping relationship, you're in too deep.
 
If your ministry energies are focused and imbalanced in such a way that you continually go out of the way to help your insecure and indecisive "Mark," you're enjoying it too much. You are setting yourself up. Get out...before you get burned. Besides, wouldn't the most effective use of your time be directing and supporting self-starting, confident "eagle" leaders who, by their respective ministry leadership, may provide a broader base of support for the "Mark"s and for the overall ministry?

3) Recognize your own susceptibility to unwarranted projections of guilt.

"Marks" typically reject after the going starts getting tough...or when it's toughest. Generally, the "Janes" of ministry will have already begun experiencing significant guilt, grief, rejection, loneliness, failure, etc. Weakened spiritually and emotionally, unsuspecting Janes will generally turn to the Marks for their always "loyal" and unshakable support.
 
When Marks withdraw their support, the result can be exponentially more hurtful than all of the other difficulties combined. The guilt projected by Marks can be so intense and so strong that Janes can become traumatized or prone to mental illness, depression and other unhealthy behaviors.

4) Be careful of over-taxed transferences and co-transferences.

In less technical terms, this simply means don't put all your relational support in one basket. Spread it out as wide as practical and necessary.
 
Unless Christian leaders continually develop various levels of coping relationships, one can be vulnerable in conflict as spouses, family members, trusted leaders get upset, angered, and withdraw their support from the ministry--and you. Such withdrawal can truly result in the so-called "dark night of the soul." (For more insights see Ministry Health Article 14, "Five Types of Coping Relationships.")

5) Seek professional counseling before the relationships become overtaxed.

According to Carter and Sokol, the main thing that moved Mark to leave Jane was fear. Mark was afraid of a relationship which went too deep, which involved too much emotion, which meant that he would have to share and experience pain. Such was too much for him. He could offer some support...but only to the degree of his fear threshold. Everyone has their limits. So do you! Don't tax these limits unnecessarily if at all possible. Every time you do, you will pay a price.

6) Recognize the painfully transient nature of all relationships.

Individuals who have unrealistically high expectations for relationships can be disappointed. One of the most unreal expectations is that once one has worked together on staff or as a friend, the relationship will be permanent. Sometimes it is. Other times it is not.

In this changing world, the only thing that stays the same is Jesus Christ. All other relationships may come and go. This is particularly true of church relationships. There are few--if any--exceptions.

Sadly, many of even the best team relationships die over time. This is a source of countless tears. But it is the ministry. Accept it. Don't force supportive relationships. The more force needed, the more fear will be evoked. As Jane discovered, the greater the fear, the greater the chance for rejection.

On the other hand, those who did not force relationships or were not in a situation of extreme emotional duress which stressed the relationships, may experience lifetime friendships with staff members even over years. Such individuals have one of the greatest gifts God can give.

7) Forgive yourself. God does!
Recently I preached a sermon illustrating God's nature. First, I pulled out a fly swatter. I explained how many people think of God as a judging God seeking out our sins in the same way we seek out flies. When we find one--SPLAT!!! When God finds sinners, we think "SPLAT!!!" The guiltier we feel, the more we seem to think of God in the terms of "SPLAT! SPLAT! SPLAT! SPLAT! Because we're theologians, we are especially good at "SPLAT"-ing ourselves mercilessly due to our unwarranted sense of guilt.
 
God is not a "Fly-Swatting God." Instead, He's a God with an eraser. What many erasers have in common is that they absorb and take on the dirt or filth of what was erased. The result is that what was erased in clean. It's the eraser that's dirty.
 
Jesus is our eraser. He took upon Himself our sins. When He went to Calvary, He didn't go to "SPLAT" the world in judgment. He didn't go to be a fly-swatter for our sins. Instead, He went to be our eraser. His blood cleanses us from all sin. The lesson: Quit SPLATTING yourself! Grab an eraser--Jesus!
8) Find a trusted brother or sister with which to share the rejection experience.
Sometimes these outside observers can be most helpful and supportive. Most importantly, they can remind and reassure you that they are there to support you.
9) Prayerfully seek and submit to God's leading.
Ultimately, however painful the rejective experience, the experience challenges us to turn back to God's plan for our ministries. Our plans may have included the rejected one as major players. Other plans may have incorporated smooth, honorable transitions for ourselves and them.
 
But all these are "our" plans. Not God's. Sometimes God must use pain to get us to go back to His plan. The greater the pain, perhaps the further we've gone from His will and leading. God's working through this rejective experience can be one of the most difficult promptings back to His will. But recognize that it is precisely that. 
 
Sometimes the grief of the rejection is not just a grief of losing a trusted confidant. The grief can also be the loss of a degree of self-determination in our lives and ministries.
10) Trust God to bring other significant, supportive, loyal people of God into your life of ministry.
It may take time. But God can and does raise up supportive leaders of high Christian character. Like cream from a milk creamer, they seem to rise to the top...especially in conflict. But you will need to take some risks.
 
Though burned by "Marks", you must not hold to a traumatized response which doesn't talk, doesn't trust, doesn't feel. Such retreating is a natural defense mechanism. But don't let it hinder you from finding those individuals which God has placed in your life.
Rejected? Not By God!
 
Thankfully, whatever men and women might do to us or against us, God does not desert His covenant children. As James said in his epistle, "Come near to God and He will come near to you" (James 4:8). 
 
When we're rejected, perhaps the most important thing is to recognize that the rejection is an unmistakably loud clarion call reminding us that we have moved too far away from God.
 
Come near to Him. He'll never forsake you. Just be sure you never forsake the One who is forever faithful--and near--to you.

"Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." James 4:8-10 NIV

Thomas F. Fischer  

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:04:19 PM