Facing Rejection

I recall an incident that occurred when Elena was a young child. She was lying in bed crying because some girl at school had been unfriendly to her. “I was nice to her. Why doesn’t she want to be my friend?” At the time, Elena basically divided the world into two categories: those who were her friends and those who were not yet her friends. I don’t think it had ever before occurred to her that there was another category. It was hard to explain to my young daughter a lesson that isn’t always easy even for an adult to deal with – that the fact that we want to be friends with someone doesn’t necessarily mean they will accept the offer to allow a friendship to grow.

Even harder than the pain of the spurning of an initial offer of friendship, is the rupture of an established relationship. Something happens and all of a sudden, where there was easiness and warmth, honesty and openness, there is coldness, distance and a closed door. Sometimes the cause is identiable – some word or act is the impetus. Other times the person rejected is left wondering what happened to damage the relationship that was there, the pain of the loss all the greater for its inexplicability. (And you can’t force someone to explain to you why they are rejecting your friendship any more than you can force them to accept the friendship.)

We can pray that the rupture heals. And sometimes it does. But if it doesn’t, all we can do is ask for the grace to grow and learn from the experience. In his blessing, For Lost Friends, John O’Donohue beautifully expresses the grace we seek at such times.

Though a door may have closed,
Closed between us,
May we be able to view
Our lost friends with eyes
Wise with calming grace;
Forgive them the damage
We were left to inherit;
Free ourselves from the chains
Of forlorn resentment;
Bring warmth again to
Where the heart has frozen
In order that beyond the walls
Of our cherished hurt
And chosen distance
We may be able to
Celebrate the gifts they brought,
Learn and grow from the pain,
And prosper into difference,
Wishing them the peace
Where spring can summon
Beauty from wounded space.