Written by Kate Doran-Smith

A simple word, but such a complicated concept. We all want it, but sometimes sabotage it or dismiss it. Love is a constant push and pull. How many of us have tried to love another, but had it rejected? Can you remember the pain?

Whether it is your first broken heart as a teenager, the neglect from a parent or the spurned efforts of trying to connect with a tenant, we’ve probably all thrown out love to someone at some point, only to have it bounce back in our face.

I can vividly remember Christmas presents planned and given after thoughtful consideration and weeks of saving, thrown back at me (literally!) with screams of “THESE ARE FAKE!” Granted, this was a 5 year old and I’d bought cheaper versions of the dolls she wanted, but still... I can remember the sting!

I wonder if you too, have ever been that person rejecting someone else’s efforts to love, comfort or bless you? Have you ever reflected on what was the underlying reason?

Attachment theory suggests that we’re wired to pursue love and acceptance, which makes the fear of rejection understandable. But might there be a corresponding, contradictory, less visible fear - the fear of acceptance?[1]

Those who have been hurt, abused, neglected or manipulated in the past may not respond as we expect, when we offer them love.

Rebecca Winfrey recently spoke to several Hope into Action tenants. Her research highlighted some basic questions which were cropping up time and again: ‘Am I worthy?’ and ‘Can I trust you?’. I’d argue these are significant to us all and not just to tenants.

The fear of rejection makes sense: if we’ve had a steady diet of shame, blame and criticism, we learned that the world is not a safe place[2] and people are not nice. They do not want what’s best for us, but what’s best for themselves. Something within us mobilises to protect our tender heart from further stings and insults.

But this mechanism doesn’t discriminate: Our defensive structure not only safeguards us from the prospect of rejection, but also from acceptance and welcoming. This is rife in our tenants, their mistrust comes from a place of negative life experience. We’ve all had negative life experiences, ergo, we must all struggle with this to a certain degree. Our common humanity again shows, we have more in common with each other than we have difference.

Acceptance can be frightening. When someone is nice to you, those who have been significantly harmed in the past can be flooded by fear. Those who have negative core beliefs about themselves and the world may think "What if this person begins to see who I really am? What if they don’t like what they see? What if I start to like them, trust them, open up to them, rely on them and they let me down, or leave, or hurt me– is it really worth the risk?” So they play it safe by keeping distant as a pre-emptive defense against possible future pain. Their conclusion: A temporary connection which is then lost is worse than having never had one.

In Hosea 6 the people of God have rejected Him and replaced him with sinful pleasures and idols, not a lot has changed in over 2000 years! In a moment of clarity they cry out

“‘Come, let us return to the Lord; it is he who has torn us—he will heal us. He has wounded—he will bind us up. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him, and he will respond to us as surely as the coming of dawn or the rain of early spring.’”

And how does God (who has had his many attempts to love them, rejected) respond?

“O Ephraim and Judah, what shall I do with you? For your love vanishes like morning clouds, and disappears like dew…I don’t want your sacrifices—I want your love; I don’t want your offerings—I want you to know me.”

So I pray for us all, that as 2021 unfolds and a world in such desperate need for love, connection, forgiveness and healing, we look to our Father God for inspiration. He hungers daily for our love and connection (and we reject and neglect Him so regularly). He sees past the endless number of times we’ve let him down and keeps trying. So must we.

May we get into the habit of waking every morning and being so aligned with the filling of the holy spirit, that we are full to overflowing.

May each of us love others recklessly and with wild abandon, accepting that there’s a chance our efforts may be spurned. May we not tire of casting our seeds of love far and wide. May those closest to us know to a deeper degree our love and care and concern for them.

May we be vessels for His love in a world which very much needs it, and may the hurts of our past not rob us from the joys of tomorrow.

If you like what you heard from Kate, do get in touch here.  Kate would love to support your church as they offer love to those experiencing homelessness.

[1] https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-fear-of-acceptance-are-we-afraid-of-being-rejected-or-accepted#1

[2] as above