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Confessions of a Reject

May 9, 2009 | by Rabbi Yaakov Salomon

Every aspect of our lives is a breeding ground for potential rejection. We better find ways to deal with it.

I hope you don't mind if I am perfectly honest with you.

I am a reject.

There. I said it. And now you know.

As a practicing psychotherapist, I am committed to an oath of patient confidentiality. After more than 20 years in practice, I've got more secrets stashed away in my psyche than Matt Drudge and the Israeli Mossad put together. So I guess I've grown accustomed to keeping things (especially embarrassing things) pretty much to myself.

But no more.

In a spirit of spontaneous candor, I've decided to waive my own rights to confidentiality (perfectly legal) and reveal to you the story of my most recent rejection.

Curiously it happened, of all places, right here – at But only a handful of people know about it. That is...until now.

I've been writing for for the past several months and frankly, it's been a nice ride, as they say. Some good responses, interesting feedback, creative outlet, maybe even some personal growth (not to mention the inadequate pay, to boot). Sailing along, I guess.

No one on the editorial staff liked it. Not a single person.

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article about robots in the U.S. News & World Report. And I thought,"Why not write an article about the special qualities of the human condition and why robots, no matter how sophisticated, could never really be a substitute for man?" A little different. Bordering on trendy, with a dash of depth, perhaps. I wrote it. I liked it. I submitted it.

Brace yourself for the next turn of events. You guessed it.


It seems the vote was unanimous. No one on the editorial staff liked it. Not a single person. Their verdict:"Not different...not depth."

Now rejection is not a feeling that I am overly familiar with. Oh, I deal with it all the time. Rejection in others, that is, but not myself. And for those of you, who are equally new to this sensation, allow me to inform you that it is not a particularly pleasant experience.

"People ARE interested in robots."

"What do THEY know about depth, anyway?"

"They're not just rejecting my article. They are rejecting ME!"

Overreaction? Perhaps. But short-lived, thankfully. Recovery was rather swift.


Emerging from the dust of the episode was some serious contemplation about the immense power contained within this most potent emotion.

Every segment of our lives is really a breeding ground for potential rejection. Our marriage, our children, our jobs, our friends, our teachers, classmates, peers, store clerks, bank tellers, bus drivers etc. Whosoever we interact with is really a prospective rejecter. Yes, it's a jungle out there. Rejection could occur at any time.

And the response by the one rejected, runs the gamut from impervious Teflon (as in, no stick) to mortal injury. Everyone is hurt when he is excluded from a group, his ideas are laughed at, or a serious relationship is terminated. But not everyone feels discarded when he"fails" jury selection, watches his soda getting stuck in the vending machine, or is served second by the waiter. (Hypersensitive responses to those and other similar situations are better termed paranoia.)

Let's face it; none of us is going to be invited to every function in town.

But let's face it; none of us is going to be invited to every function in town. We will all tell jokes that some people will find entirely unfunny. And who hasn't raved about a movie or a book that somebody has found to be totally inane or just plain boring?


Rejection is here to stay. We had better find ways to deal with it.


Here's just one way. Focus on the positive.

One of the elements that is slowly vanishing from the American scene is sincerity. Everyone seems to be seeking sincerity, but it is not easily found.

"Do you like the way I did my hair today?"

"Sure, Jen. It's terrific! It's really ... er ... uh ... really ... eh ... YOU!

Or how about:

"I'll pick you up at 6. We can go to this new Tunisian Health Bar on the South side. It's really different. All they serve is carob dishes. Fifty-six different varieties of carob. Really cool. What do you think?"

"Sounds very special! I'm really in the mood for carob tonight."

Of course there's nothing wrong with being polite and accommodating. Some of my best friends are polite and accommodating (not too many, though). But a more"sincere" response, while still not impolite, might have been:

"Sounds very special! But I'm not so much in the mood for carob tonight."

Yes. That reply might make your friend feel rejected, but you'll score big sincerity points when you tell him that you absolutely loved the steak house you went to.


Sure. It's a trivial example. Sincerity is only faintly significant when talking about hairstyles and eateries. But the same lesson applies everywhere. Surviving the injury when the group doesn't laugh at our"favorite" joke, only serves to sweeten our pleasure when they howl in hilarity the next time we tell our new"favorite" story. In other words, the occasional and inevitable rejections in life help remind us how good it feels to be genuinely accepted, wanted and loved.

The Torah goes so far in expressing the importance of open and honest communication, that rebuking our friends when they do something wrong is actually one of the 248 positive commandments! We're not permitted to ignore a wrongdoing we witness. And which commandment do you think is written immediately after this one? Love thy neighbor as thyself. God wants us to understand that being critical, in a truly constructive way, is not mean or inconsiderate. It is an obligation! One that is an extension of the love we must feel for each other.

Acceptance is not automatic.

I must admit that the news that could do fine without my robot piece, thank you, did not create overwhelming feelings of gratitude on my part. But it did remind me that acceptance is not automatic. When they like something, they really do like it. That feels good.

What will they think of this latest creation of mine? Who knows? If they don't like it, well ... you'll never know.

But if you would like to read a great piece about robots, just write to me in response to this article and tell me why you are interested. I'll email the article to the five contestants with the best answers. The rest of you will just have to be rejected. Good luck!

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