Rejection, Jelly Beans, and New Directions

Many of us have experienced rejection at some point in life. And, when you felt that rejection, you were in pain. You decided that rejection was probably one of the most painful things that you went through in life. As you were experiencing this rejection, you may have questioned your value as a person, the value your skills, who you are to another person or an institution, or why you are even alive!

Yet, in all this questioning, did you stop to wonder what that rejection really meant?

Let’s answer this question by talking about jelly beans – JBs! Jelly beans are candies that come in all kinds of flavors, colors, and smells. Most of the time, you and I will probably pick and choose exactly which jelly beans we like then eat them. The ones we don’t like, we will leave behind. So, lets say that you really like those red-JBs, but the bowl is full of red, green, blue, and yellow JBs. Every time you pick the red-JBs, you are actually rejecting all the other colors. Then, one day, your best friend comes to visit you and he cannot believe how many blue-JBs you have left! He digs into the bowl and picks out all of the blue-JBs and consume them in a second! What your friend just did was accept the blue-JBs and reject all the other JBs that he doesn’t like.

That is what the rejection you felt meant!

In the JB-example, the value of the red and blue (and all the other) JBs is inherent in them. Your value in inherit in you – it is something that you come with and not a tag that someone needs to attach to you. When you ate the red JBs and your friend ate the blue JBs, we see that both colors of JBs have value . The only difference is how you and your friend interpreted that value based on YOUR likes and dislikes. You rejecting the blue-JBs did not mean that blue had no or low value, because your friend could beg to differ! The same concept can apply to you when you have been rejected by one person, group, or institution. Your value does not change whether you have been chosen or rejected. The only thing that changes is in the perspective of the other, while your value is still the same.

If we were to focus on romantic relationships, although rejection can apply to other aspects of life like jobs, friendships, competitions, or college applications, what we see is that every person has to rejected and accepted. You have to be rejected by the people who would not make a good match with you. From the perspective of these people, you would not work as a life-partner. This is not because you are not worthy of their love and affection or that you are not valuable. NO! Your inherent worth and value are not going to change based on the opinion and perspective of one other person. This rejection has everything to do with how that one other person views the world and how he prioritizes his life. The reason that you ate the red-JBs and your friend ate the blue-JBs was that each of you had a liking to something different from the other. But your taste buds don’t determine whether or not all the jelly beans are delicious or not! The green and yellow jelly beans won’t cease to be delicious just because you or your friend didn’t eat them.

And, just like the JB-example, if you hadn’t rejected the blue-JBs, your friend wouldn’t have been able to enjoy them later! The logic follows in that unless you are rejected by the people who wouldn’t fit into your life anyways, the person who accepts you couldn’t find you.

This means that you have to be rejected by someone else. But, that rejection will have nothing to do with who you are or what you can bring to a relationship or a job or whatever. That rejection can now serve as a sign-post in your path to make adjustments and walk in another direction. I cannot help but use an analogy from biology! Antibodies are proteins that have a very specific attraction or affinity to certain other molecules. When an antibody is floating around in your blood, it tries to fit into other molecules to attach itself to them. MOST molecules won’t fit into the antibody, but that’s actually a great thing! The antibody moves on. It doesn’t linger. It uses the rejection to pursue a new direction so that it can do its job of defending the body against foreign pathogens and particles. If I were an antibody, I would be thankful that one molecule rejected me so that I can find my target and do my job.

In the same way, we have to be grateful to the people who reject us. They guide us to walk in a new direction that is a better fit for our lives. When you are rejected by a person that you loved (or thought you loved!), that rejection has to push you to find more about who you are and who would actually be a good fit for you.

Emotions and tears aside, a heartbreak from a rejection is nothing but a lesson in that while you thought someone was a good fit for you, they saw differently from you. It is all about perspective. What you can learn is the following:

  1. Your perspective is not the same as the other person – and just as you would want that other person to value your perspective, you need to value theirs.
  2. Your life would have not been a happy one had the two of you actually gotten together.

What you can do after a rejection is the following:

  1. Begin to highlight what makes you unique and bring those characteristics forward in your life.
  2. Explore new directions in your life that have nothing to do with trying to fit your life into the life of someone who is not a good fit for you.
  3. Recognize that the perspective of one person has nothing to do with the reality of who you are, your intrinsic worth, and the value you bring to the world.
  4. Focus on your perspective of who you are and adjust it according to who you want to be and NOT who someone else wants you to be.
  5. Assess, realistically, who would make a good fit into your life – before that other person rejected you, you should have had enough vision to see that they were not compatible with you!

Point #5 is hard to apply because when we think that we have fallen in love with someone, we begin to turn a blind eye to the things that are not what we are looking for in them. We lower our standards and break our own boundaries to try to fit into their life. Naturally, this opens us to rejection because we have decided to choose that person. But, being able to see what we would and would not accept in our own lives will help us navigate who even gets into our circle of consideration. So, before we get rejected or accepted, we can have a vision of who we would accept or reject in our own life. Adjusting our own vision is essential so that we can really understand our own value and who would make a good fit with who we truly are.

The sloppier we get in letting people into our lives, without carefully examining whether they would make a good fit, the more rejections we will experience.

This doesn’t mean that we need to be closed-off or reject all people before they have a chance to reject us…but it means that we need to be selective. As a Christian, I don’t think that being selective goes against loving others. In fact, if we know that we struggle with rejection and struggle with coming to terms with the fact that not everyone will see us in the way that we wish can help us be more loving within the relationships that we already have in life with friends, family, and co-workers.

person taking picture of the building
Photo by Leo Cardelli on

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