Have you ever thought you were in love only to be told by the one you admire that he or she wants to break up with you? Have you ever applied for a job and been told the organization or company chose someone else? Have you ever applied to a school or program and been declined entry?
In all likelihood, as it is for both of us, the answers are yes, yes and yes.
In those moments of disappointment, it is very hard to move on. We get stuck. Our minds dwell on the past, we worry about the future and deconstruct what went wrong. All of these thoughts are normal. The challenge is how we move forward the next day with renewed confidence. Sometimes the feelings of rejection can be so painful that we doubt our self-worth and find the possibility of a new beginning too daunting.
Here is the truth.
There is not a single person alive who has never experienced a rejection. There is not a single journey without roadblocks. There is not a single lifespan without the distress of a detour, a dream shattered or aspirations unfulfilled.
How do we navigate these twists and turns in life in a healthy and constructive way? How do we avoid becoming mired in negativity and paralysis?
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, offered the following perspective: “A righteous man will fall seven times and arise” (Proverbs, 24:16). Falling is a part of the experience of life. We will inevitably make mistakes. We will get “no” for an answer. The most important ingredient to success and inner peace in life is developing the resilience, faith and grit to transform obstacles into opportunities and rejection into renewal.
In the emotional crucible of the painful rejections, we are confronted with two choices. We can either sit in the darkness and lament our fate…or we can muster the strength to transform our fate into destiny, and the pain into purpose.
The key to handling rejection is one word: Reframing.
When one door closes, another door opens. Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale shared a three-fold prayer that he learned from a salesman. The fellow could never hold a job for more than a year and then he received the following prayer that, after reciting it every day, changed his mental attitude and sowed seeds of success in life. “I believe I am divinely guided. I believe I will always take the right turn in the road. I believe that God will always make a way when there is no way.” The pushback you experience is a gateway to infinite possibilities.
Try this exercise. Remind yourself of open doors. Identify personal examples of when a seeming obstacle or “closed door” revealed a new and exciting opportunity. Make it a weekly practice. Remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “every wall is a gate.” And never lose hope.
From Rabbi Cohen: I will never forget the feelings of deep pain I had when a girlfriend broke up with me. Within months, I realized how grateful I was for this rejection as it led me down a path to find the love of my life. I will never forget coming in second in a rabbinic search only to be pushed to apply as a rabbi in a different synagogue that was truly right for me. I will never forget being rejected as an 18-year-old from a school in Israel only to be led to the school that ultimately would prove a sanctuary for personal development and lead to lifelong friendships. In each of these cases, I wondered “Why me?”…but learned that rather than wallow in doubt and darkness, God was sending me a message to find light. God was closing one door so I would walk through another.
The best part of your life is yet to come. Every day is a new day with new possibilities for greatness and impact. Every day we possess a choice to follow the path of life or death…to lament in the past or forge ahead towards a better future. It is truly in our hands and in our hearts. Choose life.
Click here to purchase Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s book, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?