Rejection 10 – Emotional Independence

As a ‘love receptor’ we are not designed to be an independent and isolated entity. We are designed to be in intimate fellowship with the most powerful source of love in all eternity.

However, when we experience rejection and people cut off the love supply to us, we are often left to fend for ourselves emotionally, and thus we become emotionally independent.

On Our Own

Humans are designed as social creatures. We are designed for fellowship. We are designed to be close to God and each other. We are designed for family life and marriage. We are designed for rich social interaction. We are not designed to be on our own, or left to fend for ourselves.

However, when we suffer rejection we are cut off from the sense of incorporation, value, acceptance and relationship which we are designed for. We also fear other people, since they will potentially bring further pain upon us.

Being on our own, cut off to some degree from those we are designed to connect with emotionally, means we are forced to find meaning, support, comfort and a range of emotional and personal benefits, from ourself, not those who we want to love us.

Degrees of Independence

While we each experience rejection uniquely and personally, we have different degrees of impact and different degrees of independence that springs from what we have been through. Some people become arrogantly and fiercely independent. Others become independent enough to survive, but continually seek to be dependent.

Our personality also influences how we respond to the feeling of being cut off. Some are survivors, some become aggressors, some crumple, and others hide their pain away and smile through it all.

I am lumping all the variations and shades of possibility into this one summary lesson on emotional independence, so it may apply to you in varying degrees.


Emotional independence is a withdrawal from needing others. Many may come to this because they are forced to, in that those they want to be emotionally dependent on have cut them off or hurt them in some way. Others may withdraw out of spite or hurt feelings, cutting off the possibilities that are offered to them.

The withdrawal exacerbates the problem, because it forces the isolated person to rely even more on their own independence, keeping them from the relationships which may potentially fill the void they feel within.

I am a Rock

1960’s artists, Simon and Garfunkel, produced a song titled “I am a Rock” in 1966, speaking of the emotional independence response which I am describing here. The lyrics of the song are quite telling.

I am a rock, I am an island. I’ve built walls, A fortress deep and mighty, That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. Its laughter and its loving I disdain.
I am a rock, I am an island.
Don’t talk of love, But I’ve heard the words before; It’s sleeping in my memory.
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died. If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock, I am an island.
I have my books And my poetry to protect me; I am shielded in my armour,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb. I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock, I am an island. And a rock feels no pain; And an island never cries.”

Unable to Relate

Emotional independence is more than a posture of protection. It signals a lost capacity. It involves an inability to relate confidently with others. If the rejected person felt whole and confident they would have no need to withdraw from others and isolate themself.

The fortress of protection signals their own inner brokenness. They are not only unable to relate but become unable to need others. Even though they desperately want to need others, they are trapped in a place where they cannot risk needing them. Thus they are unable to need them.

This independence locks them in their isolation.


If you have ever tried to encourage emotionally independent people you will know that they are virtually unreachable. No amount of suggestion, encouragement, prompting and setting up opportunities for them will get them to give up their defensive posture.

I have seen some people commit enormous energy and time into trying to rescue someone who had become an island to themself, yet without success.

Still Functioning

One of the sad situations I see at times is that of people who have become emotionally independent yet who try to establish relationships. They want to find friends and a spouse, so they socialise and encounter people.

Their encounters, however, lack the emotional freedom which should be normal. They are emotionally independent, despite their inner pain, and so they end up relating mechanically, by learned formulas, or with control or other processes to corner the person they want to relate to.

Their emotional independence disables them from generating a simple, pleasant relationship with others. They are still functioning in life, but it just doesn’t work out for them the way you would expect. They are emotionally compromised and their emotional independence blocks the most powerful glue to quality relationship.

Be Sure to Need God

If you are emotionally independent, for whatever reason, please be careful to need God. You do desperately need Him, but you might find that you cannot let go and be honest with Him and build quality relationship with Him.

If you are trapped there and can’t do anything about it, then the later lessons on the Love of God should be very helpful. Maybe you could look into and pray about discovery of God’s wonderful love, in preparation for that lesson yet to come.

Rejection 5 – Rejection Defined

My working definition of “Rejection” is simple, like most of my concepts. I believe that it is best to keep things very simple, so any child could understand and anyone could apply the teaching to their life.

So, in this lesson I will explain the simple process by which we experience rejection and point to some of the many ways through which rejection can be encountered.

Love Supply

Since we are “love receptors”, as I explained in Rejection 2, we are highly sensitive to the experience of being denied love. When those who should love and accept us refuse to do so we are hurt on the inside.

We don’t seek to be hurt. Those hurt feelings are not a game we are playing to get back at those who hurt us. Instead, they are an automatic response from within us, due to our inherent sensitivity to love and our natural desire to be loved just the way we are.

So, rejection has a lot to do with the natural flow of “love”, or any expression which represents love, such as acceptance, friendship, care and so on.

Cutting Off the Love Supply

My simple definition for Rejection, then, is “Cutting off the Love Supply”. When someone turns off the supply of love which we would naturally expect from them, then we experience something of the feeling of rejection.

Now, there are many disclaimers and explanations which could be applied to this topic, and I am trying to keep things simple. Allow me to point out that some times there has not actually been a cutting off of the real supply of love and affection, but simply the perception of being denied love by the other person.

When a parent disciplines or rebukes a child, for example, the child may be tempted to think that the parent has stopped loving them. That is why I teach in my Parenting material about the need for the parent to affirm the child who is being disciplined, to protect them from misunderstanding the parent’s actions and intentions.

When a person perceives that the love supply has been cut off they will encounter feelings of rejection. Their perception may be wrong, but the impact will be just as real. Alternatively, a person may be being taken advantage of, but not realise it. In that case they are experiencing something negative, but are spared the hurt feelings that would otherwise result.

Expectation of Love

Rejection is most strongly felt when the person who is (or seems to be) cutting off the love supply is someone we expect to love us. Therefore much of people’s experience of rejection can be traced back to early childhood encounters with their parents or other relatives. A child should expect their family and carers to care about them. So they are readily hurt when it seems they do not.

The picture which I use to depict the rejection process has an adult pointing the finger at a child. I chose this image because of the likely early childhood times of feeling rejected because of the actions of parents and adults.

Obviously we can experience rejection in adult life, and we are most likely to feel rejection from those we expect to love us. Our extended family, friends, spouse, work associates, boss and teachers are among those we would normally expect to show care, compassion, respect and even love. Each of them, then, is able to bring stronger offence into our life than complete strangers would normally be able to do.

Active Rejection

Many people are the victim of what I term ‘active rejection’. This occurs when a person is shunned, rejected, insulted, verbally abused, used, or otherwise wrongly treated in an active way.

The active form of rejection may come in words of accusation or denigration, through physical abuse, by being pushed away, or the like. In each of these cases the victim experiences an unhappy encounter that impacts their life.

Among the many examples I could site, let me list a few. A child who is not the sex which was desired by a parent can be pushed aside or ‘tolerated’ instead of loved. A child who does not live up the parent’s expectations in academics, sports, art, natural ability, or the like can be despised by the disappointed parent.

An angry parent can vent harsh words on their child. An irritated or frustrated parent can falsely accuse, scold with inappropriate venom, lash out at a child, or otherwise vent their feelings in a hurtful way. A parent who resents their spouse can resent that spouse’s favourite child or despise the child who most reminds them of that spouse. A parent who has their material ambitions limited by the needs or expenses of the child can punish the child in various ways for being an impediment to their dreams.

A child can be unwanted, unaccepted, below the parent’s expectations and standards, hated, out of place, and so on. All of this involves the active expression of rejection.

Passive Rejection

People can also be victims of passive rejection. This is where a child is not subjected to any overt or obvious rejection, but feels neglected, overlooked, and the like.

Passive rejection may easily occur when a parent is preoccupied with other interests or needs. A workaholic parent will most likely neglect the children. A parent who wants to pursue their own interests, friends, relationships, career or the like, can leave the child feeling undervalued. Parents who spend time fighting with each other can leave their children feeling of no value.

Many times the abusing parent is completely unaware that they are causing deep hurts in their child.

Some parents take greater interest in the activities of one of their children in place of another. The child who misses out on what they see their sibling receiving will likely feel rejected by the favouritism.

Feeling Unloved

Among the many stories I have heard from hurting people here are some examples of how they have come to feel unloved.

One young girl accidentally discovered papers which proved she was adopted. She went to both her parents and asked them if she was their real child. They both assured her that she was, probably because they didn’t want her to feel anything less than their loved family member. She, however, knew they were lying and felt hurt that they would not tell her the truth. The very next morning as she left for school her dad said, “Aren’t you going to hug daddy today?” She replied, “I don’t hug daddy any more.” The man smiled to his wife and said, “Our little girl is growing up”. But he did not know that she was feeling deeply rejected and was rejecting him in return.

One family had a sick child who consumed all the parents’ time, energy and money. The other children not only despised and resented the sick child, but felt deeply abandoned by the parents.

One small girl felt deeply hurt by her father leaving home for another woman. The child assumed that she must have been responsible in some way.

One young boy brought his school papers home to show his mum, but she had seen that work before from his older siblings and didn’t take any interest. He felt jealous of his older siblings and deep resentment toward his mum.

Children of alcoholic and addicted parents suffer greatly. Children from broken homes often feel hurt by the process. Children of high achiever parents often feel they run a poor second to their parent’s own agendas. And so it goes on.

Ultimate Love

We will see much later in this series that God’s love is the ultimate love. It is the perfect love which casts out our fear, inferiority, hurt, pain, feelings of rejection and so on.

Rather than get buried in the pain which might be surfaced by this investigation of the subject of rejection, take time out right now to ask God to pour His amazing and ultimate love into your aching heart.

Remember the verse we saw in the previous lesson about God’s desire to make you whole.

He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3

“He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Allow me to add to those verses this lovely text about the love of God…

“The LORD appeared to me of old, saying, Yea, I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you.” Jeremiah 31:3

God’s love for you is the ultimate love. It is much more powerful and valuable than the love of your parents, siblings, spouse, friends, family and society. God’s love is more powerful than all other love put together. So ask for Him to pour that love into your heart right now.

“And hope does not make you ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us.” Romans 5:5

The Un-Charming Prince – “I Kissed the Frog”

Someone who I discussed these recent posts with identified with what I have written and she had a cute way of describing the situation. She said, “I kissed the frog, and he’s STILL a frog!” This is the disappointment many young wives and husbands have about their spouse.

Someone else put it this way. When a man marries a woman he doesn’t want her to change, but she does. When a woman marries a man she wants him to change, but he doesn’t. Either way, both husband and wife find themselves living with a reality that is not their ideal.

One of the traps in the process of marriage is that both the guy and the gal are transformed from one status to another. As boyfriend and girlfriend they live in the reality of being single and full of hope. However, when they become ‘man and wife’ they are both brought through from single-hood to a new personal status of husband or wife. It is almost as if in internal switch is then triggered to readjust them to this new status. Whatever their factory settings are for ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ is what they now being to operate by. So the sweet little ‘girl’ is a ‘girl’ no more. The hopeful boy is a boy no longer. They both switch into the settings which they have been programming since their child-hood, most strongly from the example of their parents and their own responses to that example.

It should never be a surprise that both the bride and groom will change their behaviour once married. So this demands two effective processes at work, for ideal results. Firstly, we should each be aware of our humanity and need to become better people. The most ideal role-model for us all is Jesus Christ and we all need to become more like him, no matter what our religious persuasion. There is no-one in all of human history who is a more worthy example to us all. Each of us should be committed to changing to be more like Jesus all the time. So, when we discover that our internal, automatic settings cause us to behave less like him we should be quick to address that.

The other effective process is for the people affected, especially the spouse, to offer grace and forgiveness to the person who proves to be less lovely than was hoped. An important reason for this grace response is that God will treat us the way we treat others. If we are unforgiving and if we despise our spouse for not being what we want, we are inviting God to refuse to forgive us and to despise who we are. Since we are all imperfect it is very dangerous to engage in despisement of others who are also imperfect.

I counsel couples who are planning to wed, to realise that they may both change in the months following the wedding – if not even in the first week. They both need to be sensitive to this process and to see that they bring themselves to God so that God can teach and heal them, perfecting who they are. They both need to be ready to love and forgive each other, even when the frog stays a frog, or the princess proves to be unworthy of that role.

For those who have chosen to make Jesus Christ their role model there should be no Un-Charming Princes and no tainted Cinderella’s. That is, of course, unless they are still a ‘work in progress’. And I guess, we are all works in progress, eh?

This post is part of a series on the Un-Charming Prince:

Un-Charming Prince – That’s Me!

Most husbands and wives come to the sad realisation that their spouse is less than they hoped they would be.

Just a few weeks ago I saw a young bride shaking her head toward her loud-mouth husband who was obviously performing below what she had hoped and expected. I have worked with men who have, similarly, shared how their wife has not been the person they thought she was. I have talked with men and women whose parents and friends tried to warn them about the person they were marrying, but they would not listen.

Eventually, even the giddiest emotional ride or the most determined intention to see only delight in our spouse must yield to the reality that the spouse is made of the same mud as the rest of us. We are each human and therefore imbued with weaknesses and limitations that only the most disciplined and blessed have moved past.

Susan and Me

My Susan made a number of assumptions about me that proved to be disappointments for her. She wrongly assumed that I, being the son of a builder, would be a good handyman, like her dad. My failure to reach this expectation was a sore point for her for years. She bought me handyman books for Christmas, chided me and even went off to do a handyman course of her own in frustration.

Another sore point for Susan was that I was all talk and no action. I was a wonderful dreamer, but not a person who knew how to bring reality to the very things I could conceive. This was more than a frustration for her, as it caused her pain that our economic circumstances could be so much better if I only pursued just one of my dreams.

At the same time I had my own suite of disappointments with Susan. She was more angry and demanding than I ever expected. She also became focused on things important to her and I had to compete for her time and attention. We ended up in more of a battle of wills than I ever expected.

So, I was an Un-Charming Prince and Susan was a Tainted Cinderella. This kind of situation is not uncommon. I suspect it is almost universal. And it is part of the process of the maturation of a relationship, where people learn to love and accept each other, not because the other is ideal or perfect, but in spite of the fact that the other is neither ideal nor perfect.

Needed Keys

The Keys to working through the ugly realisation stage in a relationship are to apply forgiveness and to commit to love the other unconditionally.

I refer to ‘forgiveness’ as the Repair Mechanism for marriage. However, it may also be valuable to put on the table the issues that are challenging each other. This is a tough thing to do without speaking from hurt feelings, desire to change the other, manipulation or the like. Nonetheless it can be very powerful, if done with a good heart.

If you are facing the ugly realities of an Un-Charming Prince or a Tainted Cinderella seek to apply forgiveness, grace and unconditional love. Once you have done that successfully you can look at bringing problems into open discussion, if you need to.

Coming Up

In a future post I will tell you about my own process of dealing with the hurt feelings I had from Susan, when I realised she was not all I expected her to be. It was vital for my own freedom and the development of our relationship. Look for a future post called ‘Un-Charming Prince – Forgiven’.

This post is part of a series on the Un-Charming Prince:

Un-Charming Prince

What does a woman do when she wakes up one day and realises her Prince Charming is a dope? Or maybe he is irresponsible, opinionated, ineffective, vain, shallow, insecure, unreliable or otherwise less than charming. What does a wife do when she discovers that her hero is, in reality, an Un-Charming Prince?

I have seen at times the look of exasperation in the eyes of a young bride. I have heard the sighs of resignation. I have heard the sharp words or the hurt rebukes of a wife feeling sadly done-by as her husband heads off on some irresponsible or self-indulgent endeavour. My own sweet Susan expressed those very things herself, as she confronted my irresponsibility and general failure to be what she had hoped.

The process I am describing is, in fact, to be expected in every marriage. We all see in our beloved a range of things which are born of hope more than reality. We impose upon them our own biased view of who they are. We even overlook the evidence of their shortcomings. We may think that those things are just incidental glitches in an otherwise idyllic person. Or we may think that once we are married those negative qualities will smooth away. “She only needs someone to love her”, or, “Once I get him away from his friends he’ll be a much better person”, are the types of thoughts that can beguile us about our future spouse.

The initial phase of marriage is oft referred to as the ‘Honeymoon Phase’, where everything is seen with rose-coloured glasses. The ‘In-Love Phase’ is full of hopeful expectation. The ‘Honeymoon Phase’ is sweetened by new levels of relationship and intimacy. But eventually both the In-Love experience and the intoxication of the new intimacy must yield to the growing body of evidence. The weaknesses of the spouse continue to show up and the accumulating evidence becomes increasingly compelling. The small annoyances begin to loom as proof of deeper problems.

Just as the husband often proves to be an Un-Charming Prince, the wife equally proves to be other than her husband once hoped. As and when this happens, don’t be alarmed. This is an important step toward maturity and toward the deepening of your marriage and your joy. I don’t say that to be condescending, but I speak from sound personal experience. So in a few days I’ll share some of my own journey with you, in order for you to see that the ugly realisation of an Un-Charming Prince or a tainted Cinderella is a step toward greater blessing. Keep an eye out for further posts referring to the Un-Charming Prince – that will point you to my further discussions on this important issue.

This post is part of a series on the Un-Charming Prince: