Our RaisingRices community is so blessed to be uplifted and challenged by one of our own Mary Rabe! Thank you for Mary for sharing this with us and helping us all grow! This article that we asked Mary to write about for our readers is being share with permission from Mary Rabe.
On Feeling Left Out
By: Mary Rabe
Have you ever had this experience? You’re relaxing a bit, mindlessly scrolling through social media, feeling just fine about the world. Suddenly, a post catches your eye that includes photos of some good friends, or family members, or other loved ones. The post talks about a fantastic trip or outing, or even just a playdate…that you weren’t invited to.
But other people were.
The post goes on to talk about what a great time everyone had and how much they love and appreciate each other, etc, etc, and the more you read, the less ok you feel. Suddenly life doesn’t feel so great. You feel lonely, isolated, even abandoned…totally left out. The questions start in almost immediately: “Why wasn’t I invited? Did they forget to ask, or did they purposely leave me out? Do they even like me?”
The pain of feeling let out is very, very real. Recent research has even found that the brain recognizes this pain the same way it does physical injury, like a broken arm; in fact, the part of the brain that processes physical pain is also very active when you feel ostracized, and there was even a study that found that taking a pain reliever like Tylenol reduced feelings of rejection! (http://socialpsychonline.com/2015/11/psychology-ostracism-feeling-excluded/)
I think the first thing to realize when you feel left out is to know that it is totally normal, and not something to feel ashamed or “silly” about. God made us to be social beings, to have fellowship with one another and to enjoy things with each other; losing that (or perceiving that we don’t have it) causes us pain because it goes against how we were designed.Still, we live in a fallen world, and we will face times of being ostracized (usually unintentionally, but maybe at times purposefully). When those times happen, how can we get over the pain, and how should we move on?
- Recognize and acknowledge the pain. It doesn’t do any good to stuff your feelings and try to move on; your brain can’t fully process what’s happening if you deny that you are hurting and try to ignore it. Admit to yourself that what happened hurt; then cry, journal, talk to a counselor or trusted mentor…whatever you need to do to get past the initial feelings of rejection, betrayal, and ostracism, do it. You won’t be able to move past it until you take this first step!
(One thing to note: be very selective about who you share with. Talking to just any person about the situation can quickly devolve into gossip, which is very counterproductive and doesn’t actually help you move forward. Make sure to find a neutral party to share with and work to protect others’ reputations so that the situation doesn’t end up hurting even more people).I think something that can really help in this step is to recognize that Jesus Himself faced ostracism to the extreme. He was rejected by even His very closest friends, and experienced greater loneliness than any of us ever have. We have a very empathetic and understanding Friend in Him, so pour out your heart to Him! He is the best listener there is.
“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” ~Psalm 25:16
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” ~Psalm 147:3
- Think through the situation more logically and try some problem-solving. You don’t want to stay stuck in the hurt, so once you’ve gotten past that, it’s time to try to think a little more logically. If this was a one-time occurrence, these statements usually do the trick:
“It isn’t fair to expect people to invite me to every little thing. They deserve a chance to just enjoy each other’s company.” We can’t expect to be invited along to every coffee date, shopping trip, or dinner out. Everyone has the right to develop and nurture the relationships they choose to at the time they want; make sure you aren’t placing unfair expectations on people or their time.
“I was invited to the last event, and we all had a great time. Now it’s the other persons’ turn.” Thinking back on times that you got to enjoy a special memory with the person/people can sometimes help you to remember that they do love you, they enjoy time with you, and you have had (and will have!) opportunities to enjoy their company.
“They probably didn’t know I would even be interested in that event. I’ll ask them if I can join next time.” Sometimes people just genuinely didn’t know you would want to come along, or would be available! It never hurts to tell people that you’d love an invitation next time if it is possible.
If being left out is a recurring issue, this step can be a little trickier. Here are some things to consider in this instance:
- “Am I too busy and hard to make plans with? Maybe people don’t invite you to things because your schedule is too hard to work with. If you want to be included more, try to open up your availability and learn to be flexible to make things happen!
- “Am I excluded by the same people over and over? If you consistently feel left out by the same person or group, you might want to try talking with them to see what the reason is. This can be scary; after all, nobody wants to seem “petty” or “childish” and admit they feel left out! If you don’t talk to them, though, you can’t expect them to change or to even know what’s going on! As I mentioned above, usually people are not purposely trying to leave someone out; unless you bring their attention to it, you can’t expect things to change. When you talk to them, give them a specific example of when you felt left out, and try to stick to how you are feeling rather than on their actions. “Hey, when you guys went bowling together Saturday, I felt sad to not be included. Was there a reason I didn’t get an invite?”or “I feel lonely and left out when you guys make plans together and don’t ask me along. Is there anything I can do to make it easier for me to join in sometimes?”
- “Is there something I need to deal with inside myself that makes me feel excluded when I’m really not? Sometimes we have some unresolved hurts or lies we’ve believed about ourselves that makes us feel isolated even when others don’t intend it. We are extra sensitive to being overlooked or “forgotten” due to the things we have going on in our own hearts. Recognizing this and seeking help and healing can be a huge help in stopping the ache of feeling left out all the time. Along with this thought, I think we should really consider if we are feeling left out or if the real emotion we are experiencing is jealousy. Are we upset because we want to share in the memory, or is it because we don’t have what the other people have (close relationship, more free time, money/ability to have different experiences)?
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23-24, NLT)
- Consider limiting or quitting social media. I’ve found that in my life, the majority of the times I feel left out are when I see something on social media. Sure there are a few times when somebody leaves me out in person, but usually I would remain blissfully unaware of missing out on things if I didn’t see it posted everywhere. I’m not at allsaying that social media is bad and that everyone should quit; I believe it can be used to reach others, provide some connection, and share memories with loved ones from afar. I think, though, there are seasons when it is far better to stay off of social media and avoid seeing what you’re “missing out on” than try to stay on just for the sake of having it. Do what you need to do to protect your heart.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV)
- Take initiative to be an inclusive person yourself. Something I am learning to do is to change my perspective of something painful or “bad” and to instead see the good that can come of it. Romans 8:28 tells us that God can work all things out for our good, and that includes being left out or facing loneliness.Since you’ve experienced the pain of missing out, you can be extra sensitive now to making sure others don’t experience that from you. As I’ve said before, the vast majority of people don’t try to be excluding on purpose; a lot of it is just a matter of not realizing that their actions are ostracizing. Having been on the receiving end of being left out, though, you are much more aware of what things you can do to make sure you don’t make others feel left out. Reach out to others and invite them to do things. If you get the special blessing of having time with others that someone else missed out on, think carefully before you post on social media about it. If there is opportunity to include others in something you are invited to do, then ask them to join. Being left out can ultimately lead to good things in your life; choose not to stay stuck in the pain and bitterness, and instead use it to heighten your own sensitivity to others.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV)
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4 ESV)
In a perfect world, being left out wouldn’t be an issue. We would all understand each other’s motives and see past the actions to the heart behind them. We would accept that we can’t be part of every special time and memory, and we would strive to enjoy fellowship with everyone we can. I am sure this is what Heaven will be like: everyone loving each other, enjoying perfect fellowship together, with no more misunderstandings or hurt feelings at all. Won’t that be beautiful? Until we reach that awesome day, let’s work together to navigate the tricky world of relationships with God’s love, understanding, and patience.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18 NIV)
Mary has so much wisdom and a beautiful heart for others, thank you for sharing your wisdom with us! Check out Mary’s blog HERE!