I’ll admit from the start—this is a wound I still battle. Especially when I’m about to publish an emotionally charged post. I may get some of the words wrong and may rub some people the wrong way with what I’m about to say. And even though I’ve edited and cut out a lot from my original draft, this post is longer than usual.
I’ve come to the point where I know I can no longer be silent for fear of the above things. For fear of, as the title says — being rejected.
So bear with me, and please, stick with me, even if you disagree or need to come back and finish later. As usual, the words of Dawson Trotman (or depending on where you find the quote, Anonymous) ring true for me once again:
Thoughts disentangle themselves through my fingertips.
Will my words be misunderstood? Will I offend someone? Will that person comment in a rude way or attack me? Do I really need to say this thing in a public setting? Maybe I should just journal about it and keep it between me and God.
Though I have learned the hard way to avoid putting my thoughts out there about controversial issues while I’m feeling a surge of emotions, I’ve also learned that when my emotions subside, I can see my words in a new light. And in turn, I can see how they may benefit others, even if it’s not easy to say.
When I wrote the post on NOT BELONGING, I touched on the idea of feeling rejected. However, lately, the fears triggered by this wound have become far more present than simply not feeling I belong.
There is a difference between finding a place to belong in this life and feeling comfortable among your peers. But first, as a forty-something woman, I’ll clarify by defining who I see as my peers today. Then I’ll look back at the peers of my past.
Today, my peers aren’t just people my age. They are my daughters (ages 25 & 26), my church community (made up of lovely people of all ages and backgrounds, men and women, and despite living in Idaho, rather diverse in my opinion!) In addition, my peers include my online community of writers, Christians, present-day friends and associates I’ve met through writing/business networking, and some “friends” from the past.
I use quotes because some of those people I haven’t actually had a conversation with in over thirty years.
I know they see my posts and I see theirs – most likely out of curiosity and not out of a true desire to connect or reconnect. I can’t speak for those people, only conclude a few things about the life they choose to share online. Some of those conclusions lead me to believe they live in stark contrast to how I live my life and what I believe.
But I’ll get back to that in a minute.
Compromising to Avoid Rejection and Finally Belong
As I described in my Not Belonging post, I moved a lot as a kid and teenager. But after moving from my dad’s to my mom’s house at the start of my freshman year in high school, moving was more house and apartment hopping within the same town. I finally had a chance to find a permanent place among my peers.
Though I stayed in touch with some of the friends I’d made in Santa Cruz via snail-mail letters and a few phone calls, eventually those methods of connection faded. If email was a thing, it wasn’t something I had access to.
Nevertheless, since I’d lived in the Northern California, Nevada County area before, I naively assumed I’d reconnect with my peers from junior high in high school with ease.
That was not the case. Though I tried to spark old friendships, the two-plus years between seventh and ninth grade might as well have been twenty.
Details aside, eventually, I felt rejected by nearly everyone I’d known since the fifth grade. In time, I found a place among the “outcasts” and made friends with a new girl who, despite some stark differences in background and personality, became my new best friend. Between her and my other “friends”, I made compromises and gave in to peer pressure.
Risking Rejection to Reignite Former Friendships
Eventually those choices didn’t settle well with me and I started setting limits to what I was willing to do to gain and keep friends. Though it wasn’t as conscious an effort as I describe, eventually my unwillingness to cross certain lines led to me being alone again. Yes. in time even my new best friend rejected me and the friendship we’d started ended.
No, I’m not looking for another BFF.
However, with all that’s going on in the world today, I’m realizing that if I’m going to keep following certain people from my past in the digital world, I’d like to connect on a deeper level with a few of them. It would be nice to start a dialogue, perhaps even one that begins with a disagreement, and know that after several decades of living we can be mature enough to find common ground despite our differences. Or realize we are too different and part ways in an amicable way.
I’ve seen several people dismayed and heart broken over being “unfriended” due to controversial social issues in recent months. It’s like high school all over again, except this time it’s way more public and permanent in the digital age. The fear of rejection and what that means is more concrete than ever before. Even if my desire to rekindle an old friendship in order to understand someone with opposing views is pure, the thought of being rejected or ridiculed among her current circle of friends makes me feel like I’m fourteen again.
For one particular peer from my past, I chose not to respond to many of her posts in recent years. But when she basically called me out (not me specifically, though I wondered if it was a direct but indirect hook for people like me), I decided I would risk it.
Just because “Silence is Violence” Sounds Good, Doesn’t Mean it’s True
Within my flawed humanity, I know I am risking rejection with what I’m about to say. But I have had enough conversations with my present day peers to know I’m not alone. So I am going to put this out there in hopes the fear of rejection will no longer keep us from being silent.
I for one am sick and tired of one perspective, one “narrative” as they call it these days, overshadowing the others and for lack of a better term, bullying those with opposing views into silence (by shunning them, cancel culture, etc. if they dare speak up), then accusing them of further atrocities because of their silence!
- Some of us have been silent because we fear rejection.
- Some of us are silent because we are still learning, observing, and deciding where we stand.
- Some of us are silent because we want to avoid conflict, want to keep our jobs, or we are confused.
- Some of us are battling hurt, anger, sorrow over friends we’ve already lost.
- We are not silent because we don’t care.
For some of us, our social media silence does not mean we will not take action in some other way. This is not a black or white issue. Pun intended and not meant to be funny. The wounds from the past have not healed for many of us. Some wounds run deep and are not remedied by a clever meme.
And they are most definitely not remedied by destroying businesses, hurting strangers, or toppling the monuments of our past.
Our wounds run the gamut of colors in every hue—bold, pastel, gray, faded, black, white, and in colors that the human eye cannot see.
Flip that, and being loud doesn’t change the truth about our wounds either.
We all must make a personal choice to take our wounds and turn them into wins for our own benefit, for those around us, and for our society as a whole.
The Distinct Loudness of Silence – The Ultimate Rejection
Two days after George Floyd’s death, I’d been thinking I was ready to post something. There were so many things bothering me about what I was seeing on the news and on social media. From blacked out social media feeds to various hash-tag slogans, I was trying to understand what was happening and why, as a white woman, I felt so attacked and guilty for something I had very little knowledge of or direct experience with.
Then, feeling I had the courage to finally post something, I see a post by an old classmate who I was well aware had opposing views on nearly every social issue we’ve faced in the past five years. To summarize, she’d reposted someone else (I believe it was a black person) accusing those of us who had been silent up to this point were playing it safe and that our “silence [had] a very distinct loudness….one that we will never forget.” And my “friend” reiterated by demanding us white people must speak up and do it loudly, or we are basically cowards.
Okay, I thought, I was about to speak up. My gamut of emotions at seeing her post spanned from guilt, to fear, to anger. How dare she decide why I was being silent and judge me for it? How could I respond in love and honestly and finally take a step to try to understand her post and people like her who took this ironic road of demanding equality while acting superior to anyone who opposed her views?
Yes, my emotions and thoughts were far too intense to respond to her at that moment.
So I slept on it and spent the better part of the next morning crafting a rather long response to her stabbing post.
I had decided it was worth risking rejection to see if she would reply in kind and be willing to start a healthy conversation. Would she reach out and try to get to know me again and not place the judgment on me she implied she would not display toward me? But even more important, I would set aside any presumptions about her tolerated hate speech toward those who she’s said in so many words are idiots and fools for not agreeing with her many “research-based” posts and her ever-reliable “news sources”.
Set that all aside.
I never felt rejected by her when we were teenagers. Still, I felt I was taking a huge risk at rejection to reignite a friendship with someone who had opposing views. Even if it was for the purpose of finding common ground and better understanding of what they believe and why. With so many hot issues literally causing the burning of the fabric of our society to the ground, the peacemaker in me decided to trump the peacekeeper (See my 2011 post on Peacekeeper vs Peacemaker). I was willing to take a risk to understand her side better. And I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she would respond one way or another, even if it was in the form of rejection.
After all, she had at least appeared accepting of me in our awkward teen years.
So, with heart racing to the point my watch thought I was exercising, I drafted this very long response to her comment. If she was demanding I no longer keep quiet, I was prepared to give her an honest-yet-respectful earful.
My comment followed a few comments from her like-minded peers, so I was the first to heed her challenge to “speak up”. For the purpose of length (yes I did remove about one-third of my original comment!) and privacy, I’ve only included parts that are relevant to my point:
… I’m sure it’s been near 30 years since we’ve seen each other in person. And I’m not sure how much you see or read of my posts or what types of assumptions you’ve made about me based on the small bit of my life you see via Facebook… [your] post implies a lot about someone like me that you really don’t know enough about to sum up in a couple of sentences. I actually had a very long Facebook post in my drafts yesterday regarding everything that’s happening. I planned to post it at the end of the night after some editing and contemplating to share my heart and my personal thoughts based on my experience and understanding… [Last night] As my [family] roasted smores around our fire pit and watched the sunset, the discussion turned toward all that’s happening in light of George Floyd’s death. My oldest daughter is very torn on the matter (thinking how we raised her and her siblings in Idaho and never made “race” a thing, she’d reached out to her friends of color (is that PC?) to get their take and questioning how her and her husband will discuss racism, white privilege, etc. with their kids one day. We all asked a lot of rhetorical questions and had difficulties knowing the right answers. At the end of the night, I felt more confident about publishing my post, even though I felt more conflicted — but I knew it was time to start the discussion. Then I see [your post] and I feel angry and offended to be honest … The civilized, productive … argument begins with finding the thing we can agree on first, not finding ways to continue to disagree that get us nowhere … I’m open to discussing this more in a PM or even by phone, since I really want to understand your side of things … One final thought. This is bigger than anything we can sum up in a sentence or two, a box or two, or a color or two. And I for one am ready to change my heart, change my mind, and change what my hands do in order to be a part of real and lasting change! ❤”
Yes, it was long, but she had asked for us to speak up, right?
I know this is a crazy long post and I’ve probably lost most of you by now. But in case you’re still with me, I’m guessing you’re wondering what happened next?
Nope, she, of all people, responded in SILENCE!
But since I had taken so much time to draft my reply, I had also taken the liberty of saving both her and my posts/comments in my notes app. I had invested too much of my emotions, risked opening old wounds of rejection, etc. to have her delete it.
After three days of waiting, I went back to her page, deleted my comment, and removed her from my “friends” list. I didn’t say more to her, didn’t message her privately.
To my surprise, she had rejected me by her silence and as a result spoke the lies of her narrative in the truth of her own quoted comment.
A SILENCE OF “DISTINCT LOUDNESS” THAT WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN.
Despite the sting of rejection, I will move on and am working toward a spirit of forgiveness to all who have rejected me because of my whiteness or other unseen, yet distinct differences in how I live my life. My stories (both real and fiction) touch on many wounds. Some I’ve healed from and some I have not. Some are mine and some belong to others. Believe me when I say I am sensitive to them all. Yet, my ultimate goal is to bring those wounds to the surface, re-open them even, in a spirit of true healing and to move forward in a ways we can all win in the end.
Yes, to my true friends out there, I still fear the rejection of my peers. But I am learning that doesn’t mean I should be silent. It means I need to be courageous and willing to speak up about the things that matter in a way that makes the most sense to me, even if you disagree.