Warning, this is going to get real personal real fast. I hope you still love me after this. You might even be entertained or surprised that I struggle with the fear of rejection. But here’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
I’ve always been loud, obnoxious, and humorous. I can remember, even in elementary school, that I just had to be the class clown. Growing up, I always had to be the life of the party and the center of attention. But for those of you who know my story, you know exactly why I needed the attention.
You see, at home I was raised by my grandmother. My grandmother was an angry, bitter woman (who I love dearly). I grew up under more of a regime, than a family. My grandmother had been widowed twice, and lost both of her only children to death, and now she was raising me and my three siblings, and we were demon children haha. I wanted to tell you a little bit about my grandmother, so that you’d understand a little bit of the background story to how I grew up. Nothing I did ever seemed good enough. It wasn’t until I was a 28 year old adult that I ever heard anyone in my family say, “I love you,” to me. I would bring home good grades, and I was told that I could do better. I would have good behavior in school, and I was told that I should always be that good. I would clean my room, in hopes for affirmation, and I was told to keep my room clean all the time. I was never celebrated at home, and never affirmed.
The lack of affirmation and celebration in my home caused me to walk lightly around the house. I tried to become physically immobile, emotionally disconnected, and practically mute in my home, in hopes that I could avoid any sort of punishment for being a nuisance. I stopped making an effort, because it seemed like there was more benefit in just existing, as opposed to thriving. I was so scared of making a mistake, that I very rarely did anything in my own home as a child. You see, in my home, I was taught that, “…children are to be seen (barely), and not heard.” There would be times I would creep to the basement so that I could sing softly where no one could hear me. I thought I was being quiet, but after a few minutes, I would hear my grandmother say, “Shut up with all that singing! No one wants to hear your voice.” There were other times I would be eating, and she would let me know that I was eating too fast, or making too much noise, or eating too slow. Something was always wrong with anything that I did at home. I could never manage to do anything right. I learned to be invisible in order to be accepted at home.
So when my 6th grade math teacher sarcastically responds to my goofing around in class by saying, “Mr. Augusta, I know you’re acting out right now because you want all of our attention. How much more of our attention would you like,” everything inside of me wanted to yell, “I WANT ALL OF IT!” Because God knows I wasn’t getting any attention at home. At a young age, I developed this need to be seen, no matter why I was being seen. I had taught myself that ANY attention was better than NO attention.
We all have this desire to be seen, to be known, and to be loved. So what do you do as a child, when in your own home, you feel unseen, unknown, and unloved. If you promise not tell anyone, I’ll tell you what I did…
I was in 9th grade and I had received my third pay check. I was making $10 an hour, plus commission working for the local blood bank. I was already addicted to pornography and I was struggling with my sexual orientation. I had done some research and found that there was this gay strip club in my city. So on a Friday, after school, I slipped on a hoodie, grabbed my wallet, fake ID, and paycheck and headed to the strip club. I nervously entered the main auditorium, where the room was dimly lit and a man walks up to me and asks for a tip. My hand shakes as he snatches the twenty dollar bill out of my hand, and he proceeds to do what strippers do. When he walked away, there was a mix of emotions going through me. But one emotion stood out very clearly…relief. Where did ‘relief’ come from? Why did I feel so relieved? I didn’t know then, what I knew now, but as a young high school student, I had just learned something in that dark auditorium. I had learned that I could pay someone to see me, to get to know me, and to love me. I could pay someone for the appearance of acceptance. This is why I think I hired so many prostitutes and became addicted to sexual encounters. Because for that hour that I was in bed with someone, I felt seen, known, and accepted.
Somewhere in the history of my testimony I began to embrace the shallow form of acceptance, that paying for sex provided. The prostitutes that I hired didn’t really accept me. They didn’t know me well enough to be able to fully accept me. And I was ok with that. I was satisfied with not fully being known. I liked being anonymously accepted, if that’s even possible. I was willing to be known on this shallow monetary level, because I knew that I would be accepted on this level. My childhood had taught me that I was not and would never be good enough. I had learned that being myself would never be accepted. So for years I settled for taking on a secret persona and paying someone to love and accept the person I pretended to be.
Eventually God broke the bonds of my addiction and I stand today healed from sexual brokenness. However, this rejection thing is a whole other demon.
Now that you know where my rejection stems from, let me tell you how I identified it. I have a friend, who I love dearly. She came into my life like a sweet summer breeze, and we developed a close friendship quite quickly. We live in two different states and both are actively involved in international ministry so when we met each other at a conference and and found that we had so much in common, we naturally developed feelings for each other after a few months. There was only one problem. ME. hahah. It seemed as if every time we spent time together in person, I would turn into this awkward character who didn’t know what to do with himself. I’m naturally more of an assertive person, but with her, I became this friend who just wanted to make sure that I didn’t do anything to mess this friendship up. My fear of rejection caused me to behave in a way that just wasn’t me. I was loud, when I wanted to be quiet. I was quiet when I wanted to be loud. I tried to never get in the way, but in my attempts to be incognito, I became socially clumsy, making mistakes every time we hung out. I always walked away from our time together feeling hurt or embarrassed, because I had made some dumb mistake.
If she asked me what I wanted to do, my response was most likely, “Oh, it doesn’t matter to me. Whatever you want.” In the moment, I thought my response was out of honor for her. I thought I was simply putting her desires above mine. But looking back, I realized that I was simply too afraid to have an opinion or even show her who I fully and really was, because I didn’t want to get rejected. I hid my full feelings for her because I didn’t want to be seen as moving too fast or too slow. What if she doesn’t like what I like? What if who I am is too much, or not enough? These were all questions I wrestled with on a daily basis. So I spent most of our friendship trying to “learn” her. I wanted to be preemptive in my attempts to befriend her. I wanted to make sure that I became everything she wanted in a friend, so that I wouldn’t be abandoned or rejected. I wanted to take on a persona that I thought she would accept.
Long story short, our friendship is not the same anymore. In retrospect, my fear of her rejecting me, left me constantly having to put on a mask, and eventually it became too much to maintain. I was having one of those “last conversations” with her, and she responded to what I said by saying, “You’re not even making sense.” Out of frustration I hung up the phone. But she was right. I wasn’t making sense and I didn’t know why. I didn’t know why I couldn’t get the right words to form a sentence that would express my heart.
Well, today I know why. I was trying to explain my frustrations with our friendship, without being fully vulnerable and honest. Even in my communication, I was still trying say the “perfect” thing in hopes that her response would be, “yea, you’re right.” If she agreed with me, then I would feel accepted. I was afraid to fully be vulnerable and transparent, and admit my flaws, simply because of the fear of rejection.
How many of us have ruined relationships like me? This demonic fear of rejection keeps many of us out healthy friendships and relationships. Some of us tend to cut off relationships, because if we reject first, then we strip the other person of the power to reject us. For others, we don’t want rejection to even be an option, so we never show our real selves. We hide and become social camouflage, hoping that no one will see anything worth rejected. Others us, we isolate and seclude ourselves from new relationships. We stay with the same relationships we’ve always had, because we’ve learned how to manage in those relationships, and in our managing we are never rejected.
Here’s what I’m learning. Rejection hurts, and acceptance heals. Very cliche, I know. But the Lord is setting me free from the fear of rejection with this revelation. No matter how great the rejection of man is, the acceptance of the Lord is far greater. Not everyone will be able to fully accept and embrace who you are as an individual. And that’s ok. What’s not ok is to hide. Adam and Eve hid, because they were afraid of that rejection. The first thing God required of them, after they sinned was to come out of hiding. “Adam, where are you?” God wanted to wipe their sense of rejection with His acceptance. His grace covered them, and as far as we know, they walked in that freedom and acceptance until they died.
I have learned in this last season, that I would rather that people reject the ‘real’ me than the ‘fake’ version of myself. I want to be real and authentic with everyone in spite of the potential of rejection. And the only way that happens is if I embrace God’s acceptance. Knowing that I’m seen, known, and loved by God, heals all fear of Rejection.
This blog is already long enough, so I’m going to end thing here. In the next blog I’m going to resolve the issue of my personal struggle with the fear of rejection, and show you how God is developing the real me in every aspect of my life.