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Topic: Rejection (11/15/04)
TITLE: Selectively Mute
By Melanie Kerr
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I have a confession to make. Probably for the first thirty years of my life, lots of people might have thought I was a selective mute too, for all the talking I did. Some people put it down to the fact that I came from a large family. There are only so many words to go around and I was not aggressive enough to claim my share. Other people put it down to the name I was given. Melanie is a Greek name that basically means "dark and mysterious", from the Greek word "mela", which means ink. "Dark and mysterious" just about summed up how everyone saw me. I was no open book, easily read, but some ponderous tone, with the pages still firmly stuck together and a cover that made no promises of treasure within.
I have always said that I was shy, but that is not entirely true. I was a member of the village dramatic society and progressed up the pantomime ladder from general chorus (child) through to the general chorus (adult) and up to the lofty heights of main character, delivering lines in a loud clear voice. I could sing, give speeches, recite poetry and improvise in drama. What I could not do was answer the simple question, "What do you think?"
After a while, my friends just gave up asking for my opinion. I was just the appendix in the gang. I was present in the body, but apparently serving no useful purpose.
I came to Christ when I was eighteen. Some conversions are dramatic and the changes are radical, but despite my encounter with God, I didn't really change much at the start. I was still being "dark and mysterious" with just about everyone. I wanted to speak. Somewhere inside of me there was a noisy person trying to get out. I would stand next to a group of people and listen to the conversation. In my head I was making witty remarks and expressing radical thoughts. In the real world I was just standing there saying nothing at all.
The pastor of my church finally set about digging an answer out of me.
"You are not shy, are you?" It wasn't a question, but an observation. I agreed that I wasn't shy. "You just don't talk."
He mused to himself not really expecting me to participate in the discussion, much like Sherlock Holmes trying to work out why the dog didn't bark the night of the murder. Suddenly his eyes lit up, and he hit the proverbial nail on its proverbial head with his proverbial hammer.
It was all down to the fear of rejection. What if people didn't like what I said? When you start expressing opinions left, right and centre, what you are sharing is the essence of who you are. What if people don't like who you are? What if when you open up and pour out your insides at their feet, your feelings, your dreams, your hopes and your fears, they just walk all over them and treat them as nonsense - what is left? Isn't it better not to risk that kind of rejection?
It was so simple. I feared being rejected so I gave no one the reason to do so. In never giving them a reason to reject me, I had never given them the opportunity to get to know the real me either.
I came out the closet! The noisy person inside broke out. It didn't happen over night, but it did happen. I have to admit that I still fear being rejected sometimes.
In thinking about rejection, consider Cain and Abel. God accepted Abel's sacrifice, but rejected Cain's. In rejecting Cain's sacrifice, God was not rejecting Cain too. However, Cain did not distinguish between the two. The rejection of the sacrifice, in Cain's eyes was the rejection of himself. In school, I teaching Religious Education, I come across the forceful rejection of any notion of a spiritual dimension to life. I sometimes forget that it is RE that they are rejecting, not necessarily the RE teacher. There is a difference!