In the pursuit of romance, it’s inevitable that there must be rejection. It’s unavoidable reality that sometimes one person will like another, but the feeling won’t be mutual. The ladies may have to do the most rejecting since our Christian culture typically expects women to be recipients of romantic interest. But as I discussed in I Like Him…What Should I Do?, women may take initiative to express romantic interest. So, guys, you too may need to be prepared to reject. If the day comes that you have to reject someone, how should you do it? I believe skillful rejecting is marked by two characteristics.
When you really, truly know that you don’t have interest in someone, it’s best to make that inescapably clear. If you give an uncertain rejection, that may only leave the person you reject thinking that maybe, just maybe, you first response won’t be your last. A woman I know was once asked out by a young man that she honestly didn’t want to go out with. She responded to his invitation by saying something to the effect of, “well, I’m really busy, so I can’t go out.” Guess what happened? A few weeks later he was back again, asking her to go out. After all, busy now doesn’t necessarily mean busy later, right? Now, ladies, some men will read between the lines of a wishy-washy rejection and understand you’re not interested. However, it’s not unreasonable (or unusual) for an answer such as “I’m busy” to be taken at its own words and interpreted as not final, especially if the guy is quite taken with you. To say, “he should have gotten the point!” is to pass off a responsibility to be clearly honest. The following are examples of rejections that aren’t firm…
“We’re too far apart (due to school, travel, job, whatever).” He thinks: If geography weren’t a problem we could be together. Distance cannot stop our love!
“I don’t want to date anyone right now.” He thinks: Once she wants to date someone, she’ll want to date me. Ask again later!
“I’m focusing on [job, ministry, a commitment].” He thinks: Once she becomes more interested in dating, she’ll want to date me. Ask again later!
“I want God to show me who I should date.” He thinks: She just needs to understand why I’m The One. I can help her!
And I’m sure you can think of others. So how does a person reject firmly? Here’s the key: A firm rejection clearly states that you’re not interested in the person himself or herself. That means clearly expressing that you don’t want to go out with him or her for no other reason than you simply don’t want to go out with him or her.
“Whoa, Justin, that feels harsh!”
It might seem that way. But if you aren’t interested in someone and never will be, it’s better that he or she understand that now. Yet those words can be painful. That’s why the other characteristic of skillful rejection is
Have you ever heard the expression, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it?” That expression captures the essence of grace in rejecting. In rejecting, grace is the delivery of the rejection in a manner that is as kind as possible. It means even though you have to give the person an answer that is disappointing and perhaps painful that you do it in a way that is as kind and painless as possible. Here’s an example of a rejection that didn’t have any grace whatsoever…
I once heard a woman tell a story of how she asked a guy if he wanted to go out with her. His response?
“F**king hell, no!” He then literally ran out of the room. Not joking.
People, never reject like that. Even if the person showing interest in you is as appealing as a puke-covered cactus, don’t reject without grace. Why? Even the puke-covered cactuses are made in the image of God. Grace in rejecting is part of loving your neighbor as you love yourself. It’s giving hard words to a person in as soft a way as possible, knowing you would desire the same if you had to hear them. Rejecting with grace allows you to reject the romantic interest without rejecting the entire person. At the beginning of my dating endeavors, I asked a young woman to go on a date with me by sending her a 1200 word letter. (No, you don’t have to tell me what I did wrong. I figured it out later.) In truth, the whole thing was awkward enough that she could have given me a harsh reply or just ignored me. Instead she made a considerate response that made her lack of interest clear while maintaining a kind tone. To this day, I respect her for the way she rejected me.
Understand, grace doesn’t mean lacking firmness. Many wishy-washy rejections come from wanting to be kind and sacrificing firmness in the process. But it’s both possible and important to include both firmness and grace in a rejection. What does that look like? Try something like this…
“I’m really honored by your invitation, but I know that I don’t have feelings for you like that. I want to be fair to you by saying that clearly now. But thank you for the compliment of asking me.”
Exactly how you should reject and what you should say while doing so is an art. There’s never one clear way to go about it. You may not have an opportunity to practice rejecting often (and be thankful for the attention if you do!), but I believe that how you reject comes out of how you live overall. If you practice living with personal confidence and love for others it becomes natural to reject with both firmness and grace.
Now, if you ever express interest in someone and they reject you without firmness or grace, you don’t get to stand on a soapbox and criticize their poor rejection skills. Take rejection, even badly done, with your own measure of grace. Be willing to take the answer, however it comes, and carry on.
What about you? What have you experienced in rejecting or being rejected? What else should people should know about rejecting? Let us know in the comments section!
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