For most of my life I have been ruled by fear of rejection. I remember being paralyzed in elementary school when they were picking teams for kickball at recess. I wanted to be picked first, but kids picked their best friends first so I was left somewhere in the middle or end. Sometimes I wouldn’t even play. In junior high I was afraid to ask questions in many classes because I didn’t want to look dumb and be made fun of. As a result my grades were average because I didn’t ask for help. And I won’t even go into how many countless opportunities fear of rejection stole from me in college, my career and potential relationships. Lets just say the words painful and regret come to mind. Can you relate?
You may be wondering how this relates to a funeral? Great question and this story will explain how. I remember being at a loved ones funeral several years ago. I looked around and it was a big church with only about fifty people in attendance. I was hoping more people would come to my funeral. The pastor got up and shared some obscure story about the man that further validated my suspicion that the pastor didn’t really know the deceased. I couldn’t help but thinking this guy lived into his seventies and this is it! Only 50 people say you are important enough to take off work and be inconvenienced for an afternoon.
I remember reading a book that stated at most funerals 10 or less people actually shed more then a few tears and actually cry. And the number one factor determining whether or not 50 % of the people go to the gravesite is the weather. So this man lived his whole life and the weather can sway someone that easily? Sadly, I don’t think I went to his gravesite so I fell on the bottom half of the 50%. If he got another chance I wonder what he would do different. Do you think he would have let fear of rejection stop him? I mean, where were all the people he was afraid of? Where were all those he didn’t want to fail in front of or be rejected by? What about going for it in his career? Would he have chosen to go to school and do something other then manual labor all his life? Possibly?
At some point in the funeral I came to a conclusion. Do I want a church full of more then 50 people I have loved and who have loved me? Do I want more then 10 people to weep because of the impact I have had on their lives? Or do I want to continue living my life out of fear of not wanting to be embarrassed or out of my fear that compelled me to always please others? I thought, “I don’t care what they think of me anymore. “They” or the fear of being rejected by “Those people” has controlled me long enough! I think of a man named Oral Roberts who built a place called the “City of Faith” in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The city consisted of three skyscrapers built with the vision to bring all the healing power of God and medicine into one community to bring God’s best to all people. I bet when Oral arrived in Heaven God DIDN’T say; “Oral, I just wish you would have had a little more faith and and took a few more risks.” No, I bet He said “Well done; you believed me for everything and entered heaven having spent all his opportunities here on earth.”
I see the great men and women throughout history have one thing in common. They refused to allow the opinions of others, perceived or real, control them. And at their funerals families, communities and nations weep at their departure. I want to be such a person! How about you?
Shawn Maguire is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has over two decades of experience helping people heal from their past wounds and creating lives worth celebrating. He is the owner of New Vision Counseling where he works with a team of highly trained and compassionate therapists whose mission is to change the world by caring for one person at a time.