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Originally published on August 17, 2010

I've come to believe that as parents, we often have far more to learn from our children than they do from us.

Our older son Joshua - now four and a half years old - is reserved, thoughtful, and gentle by disposition. These days, he lives to experience new and exciting things like riding the subway in Toronto for the first time, discovering the magic of helium balloons, and meeting new characters and worlds through trips to our local library.

When I watch Joshua in silent slumber, it takes a good deal of restraint not to interrupt his sleep by kissing his softer-than-marshmallow cheeks. Ditto that for his younger brother, of course.

Despite the enormous love that I have for Joshua, there are times when I'm short and impatient with him. If, for example, I've had a rough day and he and his brother are making it painfully difficult for us to get them ready for bed, I sometimes end up hollering and threatening some form of punishment.

Our younger one tends to shrug off my occasional outbursts of frustration. He'll even provide objective commentary, saying something like "You angwee at me? Noah angwee at you because... because... because you angwee at me!"

But Joshua, our highly sensitive and gentle son, will more likely retreat to his mattress, bury his head in his pillow, and remain still. This makes me feel horrible, to see how my lack of patience hurts him. I feel terrible for not having more self control, for once again breaking my vow to never to raise my voice with our boys.

There have been a couple of times when I have taken him into my arms, told him that I'm sorry for yelling, tried to explain why I lost my temper, and told him that I love him more than anything, and his response has been to cry - not with sadness, but out of relief. I could almost feel a wave of healing energy travel through his little body, restoring peace that came from knowing that he was still deeply.

I've experienced something similar with Noah when he has felt particularly rejected by me or Margaret. I remember feeling the relief that accompanied his whimpers as I held him tight. I guess deep down, even rugged little boys are highly sensitive.

Sensing the palpable relief that our boys feel whenever our love for them is reaffirmed in their hearts is all the proof that I need to believe that by nature, one of our greatest emotional needs is to feel lovingly accepted.

I believe that the truth for all of us is that rejection hurts. No matter how we respond outwardly to various forms of rejection, inwardly, each episode of rejection creates a new wound that requires time and care to heal.

When freshly rejected in one of the many ways that we can feel rejected by another, I think many of us are conditioned to retaliate. Sometimes, we retaliate by trying to return the hurt. Sometimes, we retaliate by silently attributing rejection to the other person's lack of maturity or outright idiocy.

Clearly, there are times when we shouldn't fret for long; sometimes, there's nothing more to contemplate than to realize that someone is engaging in ill-intentioned, toxic behavior, and though in need of help in some form, doesn't deserve too much of our consideration.

But generally, I think there's a lot to be gained from thinking about why someone has rejected us, and to avoid vilifying that someone to make ourselves feel better in the moment.

When we vilify someone who doesn't accept us for some reason, I believe that we dampen our natural instincts to crave and give love. By turning rejection into an us versus them scenario, we walk away from our best selves.

Outwardly or silently labeling someone who rejects us as being a jerk might be comforting in the moment, but ultimately, I believe taking on this mindset hardens us and leaves us less willing to give fully to the next person who could be a wonderful, life-long friend.

Rejection always hurts, even when we do our best to pretend that it doesn't. There's no quick fix for it. The passing of time, thinking about deficiencies that we have that might have contributed to us being rejected, perhaps talking it through with a trusted friend - all of these things can help. And as we heal, if we can avoid covering up our hurt feelings by mentally trashing the person who hurt us, I believe we preserve and even grow our capacity to authentically connect with others.

I have our sons to thank for helping me recognize that rejection hurts every time. By embracing this truth and remembering that vilifying others only hurts my potential as a human being, my hope is that over time, I can become better at healing with grace.


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Thank you for sharing this.

Dr. Kim,

Rejection is something different to every person. That is because we have Love Languages: ways our hearts are filled with love, emptied or pummeled.

They are Quality Time: Just sitting in the garden with my Dad swatting skeeters off his back and talking about the plants and animals.

Physical Touch: A hug or a scalp massage.

Words of Affirmation: You look good today and thanks for helping me with the shopping.

Acts of Service: Doing things for other people.

Giving of gifts: Giving of yourself, money or posessions.

Joshua's Love Language is "Words of Affirmation". When you yell, he feels hurt deeper than Noah. As children get older, you can watch them to see what love language they have by how they interact with you.

To the child with Quality Time as a Love Language, solitude hurts.

Physical Touch: Abuse or lack of touch devastates.

Words of Affirmation: Living without kind words makes life one dimensional.

Acts of Service: Loneliness

Giving of Gifts: Hurt.

Dr Gary Chapman has written many books of Love Languages. He helped me get myself untangled.

In Christ,


Dr. Kim,

Your boys will always know the deepth of your love for them, and I know that love was not the point of the writing you just shared, but it is completely apparent that love is the foundation of all you do. I just love your heart, your sensitivities to your children. The world would be a much better place with more nurturing fathers like you. Stay Blessed.

Dr. Kim,
Thank you for sharing this very timely and needed discussion on the rejections in our life and how we are to "return not evil for evil" in our responses. I have seen personally how deep grudges have been embraced by hurting individuals and how decades passed by without allowing that Grace of God to flow, to heal, and to allow God to restore value to our relationships again.

I have chosen to align myself with uplifting friendships and gain much personal wisdom and maturity in doing so! Rejection is unavoidable at times, and yet I know from personal experience that God ultimately works all things out in His time. He is a God of Mercy and full of Love when we need it most!


Dear Dr.Kim,

Everytime I receive your news letter, it fills by heart with such a spirit of purity and integrity. I have not had the privilege of meeting you but I CAN FEEL your qenunine warmth and caring.

About your subject of "rejection." I find that there is many ways to approach a problem...we can either trim off the leaves that will regrow an lay the axe to the root of the problem.

I find that the root to most peoples problems is their lack of awareness as to WHO THEY REALLY ARE at the core of their being...the awareness of their own specialness and the fact that no one can ever take their place. The fact that you can have two twins so identical that their parents cannot tell them apart and yet they will have different finger prints is a hidden mystery.

When God declared that He will make us in HIS OWN IMAGE I personally beleve that what He was saying is that THERE IS ONLY ONE I wll make JUST ONE YOU. It is then silly to try to compare ourselves with one another when our glory lies in the fact that we ALL ARE SOMEONE DIFFERENT AND THEREFORE HAVE SOMETHING SPECIAL TO GIVE AND BRING INTO THIS WORLD THAT NO ONE ELSE CAN BE AND GIVE.

Bless you and your lovely family,

Your true admirer,

Bracha Ahuva Judith

That is so beautiful.. What fortunate little ones you have. You are teaching them it's ok to be wrong, even if you are the Daddy....

thank you for sharing this. it is a common thread we all have. something i did learn too late for my own children, but in time for my grandchildren was to make sure my facial expression reflected how i felt when they greeted me. a huge, warm, soft smile that conveys my love and happiness at seeing them. always. this alone gives them the self confidence to approach me with anything. they know they are loved. i just wanted to pass this on.

Thanks for sharing this topic on rejection. I enjoy reading it and it's true that every human wants to feel accepted and loved. Often that when one vilifies another person, it's a defence mechanism to protect oneself from getting hurt. However, like you've put it, talk to someone and express the hurt and eventually healing take place and we can move on in life than suppressing the multiple hurts of being rejected.

Hi, Dr. Ben.
I am finally writing to tell you what a joy your pieces are to read! I especially liked this one with the wish to kiss permanently to your son's cheek -- I'm glad I'm not the only one to feel this way! Makes me happy every time. Thank you very much for sharing this.
Regarding the rejection, I am blessed to have a very short temper - one quick explosion and then I usually make a very silly face or give a hug to indicate my displeasure at the particular thing that was just done, but not any displeasure with the person him/herself. A lucky way to be, I think. It is truly sad that many people hold on to their anger and grudges when forgetting 'offenses' and being happy are so much simpler, and nicer, and healthier...
I will continue to read your newsletter with interest and appreciation. Thank you!

I would like to recommend a book which helped me raise my 5 children by giving me (in cartoons and in practical stories) alternative ways to express my own expectations, frustrations etc. My vows not to say or do "what my parents" said or did were broken more than once ! this book was terrific and empowering and I have given it to many parents over the years: "How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen and How to listen so Your Kids Will Talk" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

Dear Dr Ben Kim,
Your writing always fills me with joy and hope, and gratitude for the fact that there are people like you who share your wonderful spirit. Thank you so much!

Read Dr. Gary Chapmens book The Other Side of Love - Handling Anger in a Godly Way. I have been able to let go of anger and hopefully will be able to model a Godly way of handling anger in the future - for the sake of my sons and husband (me too, because I have always felt guilty about getting angry)

It is important to have self respect, self love. If you're being rejected and emotionally abused - removing yourself from the situation is important, essential and necessary. Granted, many of us do not have that sort of self esteem, and remain in emotionally abusive situations because of this. I agree with forgiveness. I disagree with this articles shortsighted perspective - it was written from the perspective of a parent hoping that their child would not think of them as a jerk for rejecting them. Not from the perspective of a normal human being. No sane person will think of someone who's emotionally abused them and rejected them for years, with fond, gentle, fuzzy feelings. There is only one Ghandi. Only one Martin Luther King. Only one Jesus. It takes great self esteem to not allow yourself to be treated with disrespect, and to remove yourself from situations of rejection.
To the person who wrote this article - you can't tell people how to feel 'silently' inside, and what the ensuing outcome will be - not sure why you think that you can - but no.
Rejection will never make a person feel cozy and happy inside. Not on this planet at least. The most we can hope to do is have enough love for ourselves to remove ourselves and move on, and wish the person who's rejected us, the best.

I've been sulking and angry all day after being disrespected (rejected) by someone I have a professional relationship with. This is my first visit to your blog. Can't wait to see what else you have to say.

Hey, this topic won't be complete until such time as we do some serious remembering of our rejection of others, not just their rejection of us and, oh boo hoo, how bad it made us feel.

Every situation is different. For me, the rejection I can't stand is applying for a job and then getting a B.S. form letter saying this or that.

Personal-type rejections don't bother me a whole bunch now that I am older (middle aged). You can't like everybody and everybody can't like you, that's it!

Sounds like you're raising your children well. Hurting, then apologizing, is a better situation than tripping all over yourself to never say anything wrong to them. It is good for them to be on the receiving end of an adult's apologies. They see that adults need to behave humbly sometimes instead of just barking orders at kids all the time.

I think for the best part many psychologists would say is for the person who has experienced rejection is for them to develop self worth by doing something which affirms their personal pride, like developing a skill and gaining proficiency at something. Also to gently remind themselves that "they are worth it" by buying the self things on occasion, remembering to love the self and doing things that remind the person that they matter. Also engaging in some kind of creative pastime or just being creative, the person can find their identity through their work and to esteem the self.

Spot on. I needed that today. Thank you for bringing perspective to a hurtful situation.

I also have to remember that I can't know everything that a person is dealing with, and that there may be more to apparent rejection than meets my eye.

Whatever the situation, I'm grateful for the reminder to cultivate healthy emotions.

Dear Dr. Kim,
As a newcomer to your articles, I am thoroughly enjoying your wise thoughts and perspectives.
This article on rejection is so well spoken and a much needed message, however, there is an aspect that I wish you had touched on;
When the anger of rejection is turned, instead, on oneself. Although it is good to evaluate the reason for rejection and make changes in one's life, I have seen some loved ones turn a toxic blame on themselves and never really work through the real issues, thus spending much time in depression. Perhaps the real issue is the internal suspician that there is something inherantly wrong with them. There is a need to learn to love oneself for who they are, accept themselves, faults and all and by all means, recognize that other's are full of fault too and not always right in their judgements.
I would love to hear your perspective, Dr. Kim on "When one turns anger inward on themselves". I believe it is the source of much depression out there.

I recall the many times in frustration I also hollered at my children, threatened them etc. as a young parent, until I got it through my head they are little people -
I would not holler at big people, so when I started to actually talk to them about their behaviour when it was out of order, it started a life long relationship of communication without anger, or blame...they are they, and we are we, and hopefully as they grow older and mature, they will treat us in our fraility in the same reasonable manner...
a point can be made calmly, in fact more so, in my humble opinion, as a raised voice,
and a face contorted in anger can be a an unpleasant thing to experience...and remember...The world can be an unpleasant from time to time - but home should be sanctuary...Great GrandMother.

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.

In the past week, I have heard and listened to this quote twice. It seems to what is being felt with your son's tears is that unspeakable love, maybe not relief........

Your are showing your son that you are human and flawed and he completely accepts your for who you are and in fact will grow and flourish tremendously from just who you are.

Interesting your story as you relate it is not remotely about rejection but about love.

I used to take rejection personally and feel hurt, but not any more.
A Toltec wisdom book opened my eyes.
It is about Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about `me`.
Nothing other people do or say is because of you. It is because of themselves.
So I say: No, I don`t take it personally. Whatever you think, whatever you feel I know is your problem and not my problem. It is the way you see the world. It is nothing personal, because you are dealing with your belief system and with your self, not with me.
There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally, you become immune. You wan`t need to place your trust in what other do or say. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. When you refuse to take things personally, you can hardly be hurt by careless comments or actions of others.

Really wonderful article

however I do hear an alarm bell going off!

You assume your youngest son is less sensitive
than your oldest son,

BIG mistake, I suggest you talk to him,
let him be heard about how it is for him....
unfortunately he doesn't have eldest son's
mechanism that you respond to...

Hi Maureen :) I think Dr. Ben was only stating that the younger son was able to respond differently in these situations than his older brother but that, ultimately, they are both sensitive... like us all! However, it is terribly sweet that you point this out.

The Highly Sensitive Person
by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D

I really appreciate how you go to the heart of the matter!! Even many preachers don't go that deep!! We would all do well to learn as you are learning some of the most important and valuable lessons in life while raising children. I feel akin to you in that I sought to learn many of the same lessons while raising my children, all the while not understanding how my own mother could not comprehend these delicate pressure points of life and how they effect us.

When you transitioned from showing anger toward your son to him feeling rejected..I was surprised at the jump. Although I agree with you that when we react in anger toward our children that they will feel rejected by was not very clear to me that was what you meant. I do understand now. But can you explain it a little better?

I am struggling to overcome some of my own sense of rejection tendencies while taking care of my aged mother who, has absolutely no understanding of these very very important and delicate life lessons. In watching her abusive ways..I am befuddled.

Thanks again for sharing your life lessons with us, Dr. Kim! :D

A scripture that comes to mind is "Out of the heart's abundance the mouth speaks"......
How important it is, especially as adults, that we consider our words before we say them...whether those words are to a stranger or to a loved one. Even more so toward our loved ones though..because we tend to allow ourselves to become careless....yes, of course we are imperfect and will have to apologize from time to time...but nothing is more taxing to me than hearing "I'm sorry" over and over again..when the person could simply have checked his speech before saying those very things he now is apologizing for.

I can't hardly wait for the day your children grow up and are able to read about their father's unconditional and never-ending love for them.

What a blessing!

Dr. Kim,

another poignant article.
I often, now that my children are grown, think about the times I was unfair. I always immediately told them I was sorry when I had spoken without thinking of their sweet, tender souls.
Now that my children are grown, with children of their own, they understand, I hope.
Remembering my own parents, the times I was scolded unfairly, are not the things I remember as important.
I remember the silly,laughing times more than anything else, and my memories are filled with love.

We humans are resilient, I believe. Children as well. The love times far outweigh anything else.

Thank you for sharing these human elements with us, your faithful readers.


This is the second time I've read this and felt compelled to re-read! I just thought I would take this opportunity to tell you how moved I was by this essay. When we simply take the time to feel what another might be experiencing, we grow in that moment. Connecting on this level is always by choice but what we gain in character and relationship is priceless...


Dr. Ben:

Thank you for sharing this. It was timely for me, as just today my own 4 year-old dealt with rejection at the playground from some older kids. As her mom, this was painful for me to watch, and I myself questioned how to best help her through the situation. As it turns out, she became my teacher.

As two older girls (ages 6 and 7) approached the play equipment, my daughter (never having met them before) smiled and waved and invited them to play with her. They waved back, but exchanged "eye rolls" with eachother. After asking her age, they taunted, "why would we want to play with a four year-old?" From then on they would do subtle things to make her feel rejected. For example, when she said, "let's go swing!" I heard one say (knowing there were only two swings) "let's get the swings so she can't!" I was sadly reminded of how early in life this kind of behavior can begin, and especially saddened (and angered) that my daughter's kindness and innocence was met with this reaction. Being so young and naive, it seemed that she was relatively unaffected by their remarks. I was ready to say to her, "why would we want to play with anyone who doesn't want to play with us?" But she just kept extending her kindness to these kids who didn't deserve it. Her actions helped to soften my thoughts. Surely the girls' behavior was (in part) the result of ways in which they themselves had been treated; others' behavior is always more about them and their circumstances, and less about us and ours.

Truly, as you said, we lessen our potential as human beings by villifying others (as I was ready to do). If we can just remember that everyone we meet is facing some kind of battle, and then muster the grace to forgive the behavior and not take it personally. I think the more we can practice this in our lives, the easier it becomes - and the quicker we can heal and recover from the rejection. Also when we forgive others - we allow them a chance to heal too.

This article was extremely useful...helped me think through some things. Thanks

This evening, my mother and I talked at length about how life and family have molded each of our characters. It amazes me how one cannot know details of one's parents, but can evolve so much like them from their imperfect commitment toward one's growth.

My mother "wore the pants" during my childhood, whilst my step-father was somewhat of a manlet... due to how he was raised. Now, several years divorced, my mother explained to me that he could not keep a job because he simply was "under the radar." He was/is very book smart with degrees in business fields, but lacked the action hero essence that his bosses and colleagues possessed and needed from him to be in that circle. He lacked that same essence in other arenas as well. The leadership influence that his sons craved was found elsewhere because his beta sons could not say no to the fortitude of "fitting in," which oftentimes leads to serious mischief. My half-brothers are embarrassingly afraid of me but would call on me to fix problems that got out of hand. I was their reliable defense.

The highest complement I have received in my family was when my youngest step-brother said the he wishes I was his father.

The presence of an Alpha influence is exhilarating to betas. You may not like (or ever meet)your sons Alpha friends/girlfriends as they transition in needs. Influence and availability may redirect them in situations that you wish they had the wisdom or strength of character to dismiss.

A great role model parent does not have to be politically correct at all. They have to be a pillar. In control. Consistent. A hero. No hero that we have grown to love was perfect. Even if Dad is not always like someone else's Dad, there is no substitute for a child's confidence in his Pa. As a child, I gravitated toward my Mother to handle the hard stuff because I knew my step-father was weak. If not for my Mother, I may have gone outside of the family to handle my problems. She was my weapon of choice. I became strong, like her. To me, real heartache was her disappointment in me.

Consistency and inconsistency in word and deed are influential to young people's character development. Your influence equals their influence.

You were bold to publicly display family politics, which should be a personal topic. It led me to reflect on things you might not want to read. I understand that some of your readers may cry and not get out of bed for several days if they read this adverse response.

New Age parenting is garbage. It has become mainstream only in our part of the world, though originally a spawned by-product of damaged people trying to heal themselves vicariously through creating an unrealistic world within the home that is incongruent with the world that actually exists. Instead of preparing young people with the wisdom to differentiate between good people and predators, and cope with disappointment, stress, and loss, children now grow to face challenges and consequences as teens and young adults ALONE with no one to turn to except the coin toss of strong role models and sometimes unforgivable solutions that exist outside of the home.

Insightful post!!!

Thank you for the post (re-post?) on rejection - it has healing merit for me, even though my orientation to the subject is a little different.

My first experiences in this world were perceived as rejection. I was an infant. It never occurred to me to question the veracity or emotional health of the sources. I just assumed that there was something so wrong with me that i could not be loved - not by my parents - nor God. Only one person, my Grandma, made me feel safe, but we moved 3 thousand miles away when i was 6 yrs old.... It has taken 60+ years, and lots of prayer and wise council, and i can honestly say i have been delivered from the demon of internalizing every rejection that comes my way now, BUT, i have not healed of the wounds and i am finding that to be very difficult to sit with - the only solution is to incise them and relieve the infection, before it finds another outlet. It'd like sitting on an unstable powder keg that's gonna' blow. When even the slightest bit comes to the surface, i feel like i'm gonna be turned every which way but loose, no chance for survival.

As maybe you might imagine, this has had a devastating impact on my health at every level - mentally and emotionally i have been able to rise to a decent level of functionality, but physically, i have many issues.By the way, i think a kid must have to be pretty secure to feel they can reject the rejector - retaliatory action should always be discouraged when we are feeling the sting of rejection

sorry - but as i was editing my previous comment i hit save instead of preview and i wasn't finished - please don't post the incomplete one - but i'm sure you got where i was going with all this. what you said that really hit me was, "When I take him into my arms, tell him that I'm sorry for yelling, try to explain why I lost my temper, and tell him that I love him more than anything, he often cries. Not with sadness, but out of relief. I can almost feel a wave of healing energy travel through his little body, restoring peace that comes from knowing that he is still loved more than anything." About the crying wasn't sadness it was relief. Yes, I understand.

I so do agree with everything in this article. Our kids teach us more than we can imagine and expect of them. Rejection hurts and does this always. We do no need to become harder or less vulnerable because it is not natural, it brings us away from our main purpose to evolve as humans, to find out who we are and how to connect with others. I share absolutely your philosophy, Dr. Ben Kim. I believe we are constantly looking to be accepted and recognized by others, the whole life all of us we are seeking that unconditional love that could only be compared with love of our mother, and father of course :), our parents.
Thanks for sharing

This re-post could not have arrived in my inbox at a more crucial time (due to ongoing family circumstances). Thank you, Dr. Ben.

In my family, rejection was used regularly as a way to control a child’s behavior, which has caused lasting damaging to those affected. In my husband’s family, rejection is still used by key members in a retaliatory way if they themselves experience rejection either real or perceived (i.e. “You’re rejecting me? I’ll show you rejection!”). Sadly, in the case of my husband’s parents, the rejection is mainly perceived. As an example, they consider healthy boundaries that my husband and I have gently tried to establish as a form of rejection.

Based on these experiences within our families, my husband and I have both learned to self-protect by distancing ourselves. We realize this is a coping mechanism that alleviates our psychological pain for a while, but we understand that it doesn’t contribute to a resolution of the problem and almost certainly impacts our ability to heal and grow. In fact, our need to self-protect due to two recent painful incidents has sadly contributed to a certain degree of estrangement from my husband’s parents. We’ve closely examined our own behavior as well, yet we can’t figure out when self-protection is the healthy response or when it might be its own form of rejection in disguise.

As Dr. Ben suggested in his post, we don't “trash in our minds” the family members who’ve hurt us. However, we also haven’t been able to create a larger healing space that could include these same family members. The theme of rejection in our families is so entrenched and fraught with defensiveness that we’re afraid of making things worse by discussing the topic openly. Dr. Ben also made the following statement in his post (although we’re not sure, from his perspective, if family members can be included in his statement):

“Clearly, there are times when we shouldn't fret for long; sometimes, there's nothing more to contemplate than to realize that someone is engaging in ill-intentioned, toxic behavior, and though in need of help in some form, doesn't deserve too much of our consideration.”

If anyone out there has been able to successfully resolve family dysfunction by directly addressing rejecting behaviors, I would love to hear how you accomplished it. Thank you, Dr. Ben, for choosing to highlight (again) a very important topic.

Thanks so much for contributing to this conversation, Gina. It's wonderful that you and your husband are supporting one another in being aware of this type of energy. - Ben

Very well written Dr. Ben! I love how as a manly man you can bear your sensitive heart and share what we may be hiding deep inside and bring it into the light. Your sons and wife are blessed to have you.
I also really appreciate your website and Blog articles I’ve read through the years. Keep up the great work.

Thanks so much, Linda, I appreciate your kind note. - Ben