“I don’t want to come to your stinkin’ party anyway!” Those were the words I thought, but never uttered as a young adolescent in the roaring 80’s. One of my middle school’s most popular girls was having a party at Holiday Skate Center, and while we appeared to be friends during school, I was hurt to find out I wasn’t invited to her big bash. So I began the mental fireworks show of popping off questions of what could be wrong and why I wasn’t invited. Was it because I only had one Member’s Only jacket? Was it because my Mama wouldn’t let me get a Jheri Curl and my hair puffed up during P.E.? Was it because deep down inside she really didn’t like me? Why, oh why wasn’t I invited?!?!
Social rejection, or perceived social rejection (in other words it’s not really rejection, but all in our minds) can be hard. As humans we’re created to interact and desire to be included. Why else would people searching for connection join gangs? Even into adulthood social rejection, (or perceived social rejection) can be just as hard as it is for a child growing up. I’ve had my fair share of giving the secret, side-eye when co-workers didn’t invite me to lunch (knowing I bring my lunch). I’ve wondered when friends went on trips (that I knew I couldn’t afford anyway) why they didn’t invite me so I could at least say “no”. I’ve been “curious” when friends or family have had events and didn’t invite me that I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed, or couldn’t have attended anyway. The painful flipside of that is that I have had close family, and seasoned friends totally stop talking to me for perceiving to be excluded from things I hosted or was invited to…with no questions from them which would have allowed clarity.
Feeling rejection or convincing ourselves we’ve been rejected usually doesn’t start with its most recent scenario. It usually stems from something deeper and carries with it a maniacal array of mindgames. “Do they not like or love me”, “Is there something I’m not doing right?”, “Should I not trust people?”, “Do they like this person or that person more than they do me?”, “Do they not notice me?” or “Are they really fake people who don’t do what they say?” Those feelings are natural emotions that many humans experience at some point in life. We just have to be very careful in letting it live, especially allowing those feelings to change us in a negative way. Experiencing an emotion and being affected by or infected by an emotion and not healing from those emotions are two different things. However, often times we totally withdraw and shutdown (as in “don’t fool with them anymore”), become bitter, think or speak of the others badly, or cause division among other parties to feed our misery, and miss out on the beauty of the relationship in whatever state it’s supposed to be, with or without the ever-elusive invitation.
So what are some reasons we might be excluded?
- We can’t be involved in everything. My sister says, “Everything ain’t for everybody!”
- Sometimes people simply can’t afford it. Yes, we may just be one person, but one person and one plate might cost more than you know.
- There might not be enough room.
- God might know we didn’t need to be involved anyway.
- Some times are set aside for one-on-one interaction, ministry, business, or plain ol’ fun for a specific group for a specific reason.
- Some relationships are simply closer for a cause that has nothing to do with something being wrong with us.
- They really do like or love us, but simply choose to be with someone else during whatever setting it is that we are not a part of.
Just like the Holiday Skate Center party in the 80’s I’ve learned and accepted that there may be valid reasons why we aren’t involved in everything. My friend’s family could only have so many people at the party and when counting up her family, friends she’d had for years from school, church friends, softball team friends and so on there simply wasn’t room. Whew! Three decades later I feel so much better!
I’ve learned that the reasons we’re not included often have nothing to do with a person’s like or love for us. And if it does have to do with their like or love for us we should have enough of like and love for ourselves to deal with it the right way and love them anyway.