Speaking to a group of students at then Bethune-Cookman College at the invitation of the founder and president Mary McCloud Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
What a powerful statement to be made to students and others who had been denied opportunities in the South due to racism!
Mary McLeod Bethune had experienced rejection herself but chose to make herself an example and an instrument of transformation so others could experience the joy and happiness of education.
She secured her education, then opened a school for girls in Daytona Beach with an investment of $1.50 and taught not only reading, writing and arithmetic but also about life and happiness and how to deal with rejection.
For we have all experienced rejection at one time or another or one form or another. It may have been something very minor or it may have been so devastating that it affected our entire lives and all our relationships.
Perhaps you were not chosen to play on a sports team or you were teased during your school years. Perhaps you were not given a job you applied for or you were laid off from your job for no good reason.
Perhaps your experience was even more painful, like finding out you were an unwanted child, growing up without ever feeling love from your parents, growing up in a home where your parents divorced, being the object of abuse (verbal, physical or even sexual), having a brother or sister favored above you, or dealing with the pain of a divorce.
Maybe your rejection experience centers on being denied entrance to your preferred college or not receiving an audition. Rejection is painful and sometimes heartbreaking.
Jesus knew rejection throughout His life. The people of Nazareth, His own hometown, rejected Him (Luke 4:26-30). Still others wondered about Him because of that hometown. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked (John 1:46).
People rejected much of His teaching. Many questioned the origin of His teachings and did not accept Him because He was born poor, the son of Joseph the carpenter. In Matthew 21:42, Jesus talks about the stone the builders rejected. Jesus understood rejection!
Remember the last few hours of Jesus’ life before His crucifixion. Many people and groups rejected Jesus, including those closest to Him. Judas betrayed Jesus and identified Him in the Garden of Gethsemane for those who came to arrest Him.
The disciples all ran away in fear when Jesus was arrested. Peter, who said that he would never desert Jesus, ended up denying Him three times (John 18:15-27). The high priest, the chief priests, the elders and scribes rejected Jesus and wanted Him put to death.
Yet, as we remember Jesus, we know that His experience of rejection and crucifixion on that wooden cross did not end the story. God had the final word – a word of life and love.
And, for those who place their faith in Jesus, you can be happy because of the hope that the sun will rise. With the right attitude, combined with praying and right living, the right outcome is guaranteed.
Nothing or no one can make you unhappy or inferior without your consent.
Choose to be happy!
*Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net. Website: WTRMinistries.com