Rejected But Not Defeated!

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Rejection is a word that can’t feel good no matter how you slice it, parse it or spin it. All of us have experienced it at some time or other. I know I’ve stared rejection in the eyes many times in many ways in my life. It never feels good, and there are times we may go through long periods of rejection; be it one issue of extended duration, or repeated rejections that hit us relentlessly like a jackhammer pounding concrete.

I’ve known and walked with people who have suffered tremendous rejection in seemingly all aspects of their lives. Relational & vocational rejection that when combined, brought them to their knees both emotionally and physically. These are the kind of situations for which there seems to be no words.

But it is at these very times; when we are knocked down, dragged around and feel unfit and unable to take another step, that we have an opportunity to have our ruins turned to riches. To take the nothing that we appear to be left with, and ask God to do something with it. It’s at these times, when all we have left is the total surrender of our nothing, that we can begin to climb out of the pit we’ve fallen or been kicked into.

Gideon was the least of the least and the weakest of the weak. Anyone in their right mind would have rejected him to lead anything. There’s no question he would’ve been picked last for basketball on the schoolyard. Yet God raised him up to lead a great army to victory against unthinkable odds (Judges 6:14-16 & 7:19-25). Esther was a poor Jewish Girl who, through the unlikeliest of circumstances, became queen. Then, at the risk of almost certain rejection and possible death, she took a risk, took a stand and saved an entire people (Esther 7:1-8:11).

Before Abraham Lincoln became president, he lost a previous bid for vice president, and two runs at the senate. His first business failed, and as an attorney, he lost a case he argued before the Supreme Court. His mother was killed from poisoned milk, his son died while he was president and his animals also died in a White House stable fire. Despite all this, he endured to see our nation through it’s darkest period and will go down as arguably, our greatest president.

A young Stephen Spielberg was rejected for admission, three times by the University of Southern California’s film school. You know the rest of the story.

Some form of rejection is inevitable for all of us. For some those rejections will take the form of temporary setbacks and disappointments…for others they can be devastating gut punches that stop us in our tracks, and buckle our knees. However, the individuals mentioned here and so many others show us that we can (and should) bounce back from these rejections; and when we do, we’ll be stronger and wiser for it.

There are many scriptures that should come to mind when we are facing trials or rejection but here are two to consider: The first is from 1 Peter, chapter 4. Verse 12 says: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you”. The second is in John 16:33 where Jesus himself says: “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” These verses tell us to expect trials, trouble and rejection but not to let them defeat us. Why? Because He is fighting the battle with us and for us; and He always wins.

We often allow our children to learn from their mistakes, discipline them  and tell them “no” when needed. None of that changes the fact that we love them beyond measure. Don’t ever doubt that the same is true of your Heavenly Father. So when we face rejection, let us rise up, not so much with the patience of Job, but with the faith of Job when he said of God: “Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him…” (Job 13:15).

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A Little Help From My Friends

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It has long been said that it’s lonely at the top. For many years (and to some degree, even today) that’s how leadership was viewed. There the leader stood, looking down upon his domain with critical decisions to make and carry out. The entire fate; the success or failure of the endeavor or organization rested on his or her shoulders. Not only was the leader to create the vision and strategy but carrying it out also, was all part of what a strong leader needed to be able to do.

This view of leadership results only in fatigue, burnout and ultimately a frustrated workforce and a failed mission. Leaders may rise to the top, but should never get there (and certainly can’t stay there) alone. Taking the hill (whatever that hill may be for you) is a noble undertaking. The question for you as a leader is, when you get to the top and look around what do you see? Depending on how you lead, it will be one of two things: A team surrounding you, fists in the air, celebrating the victory right along with you…or a hillside of dead bodies.

You see, you can get to the top on your own, stepping over the bodies on the way (bodies by the way, that you created); or you can bring the team with you; calling on them, asking for help, banding with them and yes, allowing them to lead as well, as you journey up the hill.

There are times when a key decision lands with you, and for that moment leadership can be a lonely, even agonizing business. But even then, if you’ve enlisted your team to partner with you on the journey that led to that point, they’ll share in your agony and support your decision, even if it brings news that’s hard to hear.

Leadership should not be a lonely business. Leaders should never walk alone. Don’t just teach someone or mentor someone, bring them with you as you lead. This practice is not about succession planning (though it can include that); it’s not about empowerment (though you should always be looking to do that); it’s not even just about leadership development (though that is a critical goal). While it’s in part about all those things, it’s also and just as importantly, about you not being isolated. It’s about you rebuking the old adage; “it’s lonely at the top”…because it doesn’t have to be and frankly, never should be.

If you find yourself in a lonely position as you lead, you will not be at your best. You won’t make your best decisions regarding strategies, customers, programs, what’s best for your team. You simply won’t be at your best. Andy Stanley said; “who and what we listen to will shape us as leaders”. If we’re only listening to ourselves, then we limit our mission to only what we can see or imagine. Think of all the lost ideas and wise council that’s never heard, because we chose to take the hill alone.

The Beatles had it right when the said; “I get by with a little help from my friends”. So ask yourself as you lead, who’s voice do you hear as you consider decisions? Is it yours alone or are there the voices of others who have been walking beside you. Is it you that’s getting that done or can you smile as you look around and say; “I got by with a little help from my friends”? Oh, and if it’s the later, make sure they know it.