I have learned a lot in the last couple of years about rejection and friendship. Some of these were hard lessons that I would rather not have learned.
At our former church, I was secure in my friendships. I was involved in many peoples’ lives and moved among several different social circles in the church. I also had several close friends, some in leadership with us and others not involved in leadership.
When we left the church, we attempted to leave with as little disruption as possible. This required not challenging the false accusations against us. We cared about the people we left, and we had no desire to leave with an ugly conflict.
I naively thought that in doing this, we would be allowed to move on and still retain our friendships. I worked hard to affirm the relationships that were important to me, not wanting to be responsible for their demise because of our departure.
Little did I know that friends would simply walk away as if they had never known me. I also didn’t realize the stigma that would be attached to continuing to associate with us. After the initial hurt, I became accustomed to the ongoing rejection, at times laughing at the extent people went to to avoid us.
No longer was I invited to group activities or family events. The few people who maintained relationship with me did so with private lunches in obscure places. Tiring of the role of outcast, I have often been tempted to withdraw from these remaining relationships. They are the relationships I struggle with.
Honestly, it is emotionally draining to spend time with the people from that church. There is the constant tension between what really happened and what I know they’ve been told, an ongoing restraint to not set the record straight, to not speak critically of what they are involved in, a major effort to not react negatively as they talk about their pastor and church.
It is easier to not be around them. I have begun to withdraw more. I commend the tenacity and boldness of the friends who continue to attempt to stay connected with me. I don’t believe friendships are to be forsaken, but it has been difficult to stay in these friendships.
After a couple of months of quietness, I heard from several old friends in the last couple of days. I’ll be having coffee with one this afternoon and drinks with a couple of others this evening.
I know avoidance isn’t the answer. My plan was to continue extending friendship, even in the face of rejection. I hope that I can still do that and that I will respond to my friends in love and wholeness.