Ephesians 4: 2-3
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
1 Samuel 15: 16-26
Samuel said to Saul. ‘Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.’
‘Tell me,’ Saul replied.
Samuel said, ‘Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, “Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.” Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?’
‘But I did obey the Lord,’ Saul said. ‘I went on the mission the Lordassigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to theLord your God at Gilgal.’
But Samuel replied:
‘Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.’
Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.’
But Samuel said to him, ‘I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!’
As humans we were created with the desire to be accepted and loved. Yesterday we looked at how rejection can bring all of our deepest insecurities and feelings of inadequacy to the surface. When we feel rejection we tend to rehearse and process the experience repeatedly in our minds, trying to find a way to deal with the pain. We construct self-protecting mechanisms to insulate ourselves from it ever happening again. These might include building a wall around our heart, keeping our defences up, being overly sensitive, not letting people get too close, avoiding emotional intimacy and isolating ourselves. Jeanette Winterson expresses it well: “I am good at walking away. Rejection teaches you how to reject.”
Fear of rejection may also manifest itself in people pleasing and perfectionism. We want to keep everyone in our world happy, we dare not risk ever offending anyone, we are terrified of criticism and disapproval, and so we try to live up to impossible self-set standards and become obsessive about avoiding failure or conflict.
We see many of these tendencies in the life of Saul, Israel's first king. Saul was physically impressive, "...as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else." (1 Sam 9: 2) It's strange, but from my experience, some of the most physically attractive and outwardly gifted people, are also some of the most insecure. This was certainly true for Saul. When the moment came for Samuel to anoint him as king, "....he was not to be found.....the Lord said, ‘Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.’" (1 Sam 10: 21; 23)
There was something within Saul that felt deeply unworthy, insecure and inferior, that caused him to hide from visibility and responsibility. Immediately after he is anointed as king and his role affirmed by most of the people, we see that he is someone who avoids conflict at all costs: "But some scoundrels said, ‘How can this fellow save us?’ They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent." (1 Sam 10: 27)
Fear of rejection causes us to keep quiet when we should speak up on issues and confront wrongdoing. We don't want to rock the boat. Joyce Meyer says this: "The fear of man causes us to be men-pleasers instead of God-pleasers. When a person has the root of rejection in him, he can easily fall into the trap of man-pleasing. We want to please people because that will keep them from rejecting us."
Saul was more concerned with pleasing people than with pleasing God. This leads to ongoing compromise and disobedience which eventually becomes his downfall. Look at what we read in 1 Sam 15: 24-26:
"Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them....Samuel said to him, ‘I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!’"
Notice his excuse for sin: "I was afraid of the men...." He was more scared of being rejected by people than he was of sinning against God. Ironically, however, this led to the rejection of his kingship by God.
This is a pattern I've observed with people-pleasers. In seeking to keep others happy to hold onto a position or relationship, by the very act of compromising, they end up pushing away that which they were trying so hard to cling on to. People find it hard to respect or follow those who compromise their values or need constant approval from others. Fear of rejection is the fastest road towards rejection.
Tomorrow we will look at some ways we can root out and deal with rejection in our own lives. In the meantime, ask yourself:
Is there any area in my life where I am violating my standards or compromising my values to keep others happy or avoid conflict?
Who am I honestly more concerned about pleasing: God or other people?