The Fear of Being Rejected or Ridiculed (Catagelophobia and Gelotophobia) (four of nine)

The Fear of Rejection or Ridicule

The fear of rejection is a powerful deterrent to sharing your faith. Thinking someone will ridicule you for standing up for your faith can paralyze evangelism efforts.

These fears take on two forms.

  1. It comes in the form of bullying or teasing.
  2. It is experienced by being ignored by another or ostracized by one or several people.

God's finger upon a person

Everyone feels rejected at one time or another. Prolonged or constant rejection, in either form, is a serious problem when it happens in a close relationship. Feelings of rejection are commonly associated with loneliness, low self-esteem, acts of aggression (passive-aggressive behavior), and depression. The fear of rejection or ridicule can lead to insecurities that manifest themselves in overachieving or social sternness. In the Church, it often produces defensiveness displayed by legalistic behaviors and beliefs.

Not only has everyone felt rejected, everyone needs to be accepted and to feel a sense of belonging. Rejection and ridicule violate these needs. The need for acceptance and belonging are so strong that people will do almost anything to conform to peer pressure. Complying with immoral demands that otherwise would not be acceptable, just to feel accepted by a group, is the result of the fear of rejection and ridicule.

The Fear of Man

The Bible calls this a “fear of man” (Pr 29:25-26). The fear of what others think of us, or to do whatever it takes to get another’s attention or acceptance is a snare. In the Ancient Near East, a snare (Heb = Mokashe) was a noose designed to catch wild animals by their neck. The book of Proverbs uses “Mokashe” metaphorically as something that allures. It distracts from the true purpose of life and trips up a person who is attempting to walk in God’s path. Ultimately, the snare is a death-trap destroying the one it catches. It will hang you like a noose.

King Saul gave his daughter in marriage to David hoping to snare him (1 Sam 18:21). The king knew enough about David’s sexual weaknesses that he thought a woman could bring him down. Fears derail good thinking in an otherwise intelligent person who is trying to develop their faith. Faith and fear can’t co-exist. One will win out over the other. Either fear will drive away faith, or faith will drive away fear. Trusting in God means you believe that God won’t treat you like others in your past who have rejected, disappointed, or worse—ridiculed and shamed you (Job 6:20-21). Seeking affirmation and identity from anyone other than God inevitably leads to great disappointments (Jer 2:36-37).

On the other hand, placing hope in God’s forgiveness and acceptance never disappoints (Isa 49:23). When God’s opinion is the foundation for self-esteem, another’s opinion becomes less important. When our security and identity are found in who we are in Christ, we don’t need to seek those things from others. Rather, those we were trying to please will look to us as people possessing the most important opinions. Isaiah said kings and queens will serve the one who hopes in the Lord. God’s conditional promise is that anyone who calls on him for salvation will not be disappointed (NIV “shamed”). God equally blesses those who trust him (Rom 10:10-13). There is no room in the Church for rejection or ridicule of anyone.

A relationship with God neutralizes the power of manipulative people in your life. If there is no need to fear what God thinks of you, then there is no need to fear what anyone else thinks of you either. A sinner who has rejected God and his ways has reason to be terrified of others. They know they are facing God’s wrath (Isa 33:14). But the one who trusts in the Lord will live in peace and security (vs. 15-16) knowing they are accepted in Christ (Rom 15:7).

Is God holding you back?

Ultimately, the effect of fearing human rejection and ridicule makes a person think God himself is holding them back from being who and what they think they should be. God becomes a stumbling block to self-fulfillment (Isa 8:14-15). Placing too much value on what others think eventually cause a person to deny Jesus Christ. Out of a fear of rejection and ridicule from others God ends up being denied and ridiculed. They have allowed the fear of human opinion to dominate their feelings (Mt 10:32-33, 1 Jn 2:23). Rather than properly fearing God and acknowledge Jesus before others, they are condemned.

It doesn’t take a lot of human strength to honor God in the face of ridicule when God is your source of strength (Rev 3:8). Keeping your eyes fixed on God and what his Word says will save you from the snare of thinking another’s opinion of you is essential for healthy self-esteem (Ps 141:8-10). There will always be those who deny God, scoff at death, and refuse God his rightful place in life. These people attempt to influence others hoping to justify their own false beliefs. They think they have found a refuge in falsehoods (Isa 28:13-15). When you encounter this attitude in others, don’t fear what they think of you. It’s a divine test for both of you to see if either of you truly trusts in Jesus as the rock of your life (vs. 16). Trusting in Christ means you will never need to be overrun by the fear of rejection or ridicule.

Living with a secure and clear-headed self-esteem is one of the many blessings of being accepted by God through the blood of Jesus Christ (Rom 12:3). Finding forgiveness in Christ is at the heart of the Gospel and is the foundation for knowing who you are.

However, sharing your faith in God’s salvation with another may cause rejection or ridicule as it did with Jesus (Jn 10:20, Heb 2:10-12). Jesus warned that people would not only reject and insult you but hate you for offering to them the grace of God exclusively found in him (Lk 6:22). The rejection of the Gospel may feel like you are being rejected, but it’s actually a rejection of God (1 Thess 4:8). There is a special blessing in this type of suffering for Christ’s sake (Rom 5:3, 1 Pet 4;12, Rev 1:9). The long-term blessings of facing rejection and ridicule (persecution) for the name of Jesus Christ significantly outweigh the fearful feelings of being rejected and ridiculed by human beings.

Personal Time: Read a number of the Scripture references. Which verses provide you with the comfort that God accepts you? How do these verses develop your self-esteem? When people ignore you or deny the reality of your experiences with God where do you go for assurance? Consider the privilege of sharing in the sufferings of Christ who faced more rejection and ridicule than any other person, yet continued to love and forgive. What supported him as a human being when he was persecuted?

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