“God,” I whispered, waking in pain. “My intestines are killing me.” I attempted to dig into my stash of Tylenol #3 leftover from a dental procedure years ago. (Yeah, I know some will say they’ve expired. But I don’t believe that one day past expiration, this form of pill says to itself, “I’m expired.”) I was hoping the pain would subside. Instead, it stayed with for hours. The pain originates either in the stomach or where the transverse colon and descending colon connect. This unbearable pain in the upper left abdomen occurs almost nightly, with some nights worse than others. Intuitively, I know my colon has some serious problem (maybe Splenic Flexure Syndrome), but a cure for all my ailments is not feasible at this point in life. As such, the spasmodic cramping, gas, and bloating have become a part of my everyday living. I’ve acclimated to it. I’ve also adjusted to the notion that my body is rejecting life. It’s ironic, as thirty-plus years ago, this acclimation wasn’t always the case.

Along the path of my life, I’ve feared rejection. And the results haven’t been pretty. The fear of rejection paralyzed me, filled my body with anxiety as I rehashed my choice of words and whether or not someone was validating me. It is a terrible way to live!

When I see God, I will openly state that the fear of rejection seeped throughout my life. Even into my forties, I constantly assessed my appearance, clothing, type of watch, style of shoe, and type of laptop bag I carried. It was all in the name of achieving the right level of perfection that would magically deem me ‘acceptable.’ The performance was exhausting. Rejection, or the fear of it) wearied both soul and body. As a result, I lived a life ‘conformed’ as opposed to ‘living.’

By nightfall, I dreaded the notion of having to do it all over again. Over time, I redefined the idea of my father, “stay married, tithe, pay your taxes, lead an honest and spiritual life, and be good toward others.” I failed miserably and caused significant pain to many a man and woman to the point that I am now trying to figure out how to manage my level of sin during a life review. For too many periods in my life, I bathed in judgmentalism, pride, and hypocrisy. And worst of all: I became dull and unoriginal.

The Apostle Paul warns against passively allowing our goals to be shaped by culture. “Don’t be squeezed into a mold,” he might have said. If you do, you’ll have the same anxieties, addictions, idols, body-image problems, sexual dysfunctions, phobias, and anger problems as the rest of the world. You’ll end like me, frustrated and empty. 

The Buddhist part of me would say, “Everything is impermanent. Forget it and move on.” Or another piece of worthless tribal banter, “This is just another lesson on the path of life.” Wayne Dyer might suppose, “At that moment in your life, that person (or event) is a soulmate. Once the student learns, the student can move onward.” (Onward? To what?) in truth, rejection hurts. It’s painful. “And god damn it,” a cousin once said, “Ain’t no damn fun.”

As I work through my physical pain, I reflect on Anthony de Mellow’s words, “You were in love, and you felt rejected or jealous; suddenly all your mind and heart became focused on this one thing, and the banquet of life turned to ashes in your mouth.” That description is exactly how I felt, both now and thirty-plus years ago. The problem is that I became attached to the other person’s approval as if my life depended upon it. But, it turns out, life was given to me by God, not by earthly consent. The moment I acquired an attachment (Mr./Ms. must approve me), the functioning of the human heart and love diminishes.

I recommend several things to counter this destruction.

  1. Abandon the attachment and choose love.
  2. Understand you are not born with the fate of rejection. ‘Attachment’ comes from this world; it’s not from God. Rejection (in whatever form) is a revelation of the attachment’s falsity.
  3. Understand that God’s heart and love are infinitely greater than anything we have to have here on earth.
  4. Nothing has the power to make you happy or unhappy. Only the perception of some false reality conditions you to believe that attachment is the only choice. Let go of the ‘perfect image of life’ as you think you must live.