Spiritual Directors International

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Practice Challenge - Finding Light in Rejection (Plus a Funny Story)

Guest Author: 
Steven Crandell

We all have faced rejection - the job we didn't get, the school we didn't get into, the relationship that ended when we wanted it to continue. We all have experienced the "no" that struck us a smarting blow because we wanted to hear "yes" so much.

This practice invites you to unpack the experience of rejection in a spiritual way.

  1.  Open yourself to spacious stillness
  2.  Imagine an experience where you felt acute rejection, give this some space and do it in a way that acknowledges and lets go any self-judging. Just be present with what happened and how you experienced it as best you can.
  3. Instead of running away from the pain, face it as an observer. (We are both witness and participant to all we experience.) Accept what happened without judgment. Imagine you see it happen as calmly as watching a leaf fall.
  4. Give yourself permission to ask questions of the experience -- in much the same way you might ask questions of someone you companion -- not leading questions, but opening questions -- see if you can focus on what you learned rather than the pain or the perceived loss or the mental anguish or the self-criticism. As a witness of your own experience, what do you notice? What arises within you? What does Spirit say to you that might release the light inherent in any experience.
  5. If you wish, and it feels appropriate, say this to yourself out-loud as you open your hands in front of you: "I accept what happened. I no longer hold onto it nor seek to evade it. I simply let it go with thanks. For I know it affords me the chance to learn. And I welcome that learning today and every day. Each time I recall this experience, may I remember to acknowledge it, let it go and invite any learning that may come from it.

~                                  ~                                     ~

Now here's the little story:

A philanthropist and a nonprofit executive walk into a bar. 

The philanthropist sighs and says she has money to give, but no nonprofit will agree to carry out her intent as she envisions it.

The executive director commiserates, saying he has a program that really helps the community, but he can’t find the right donors to provide the money his nonprofit needs to keep operating.

The bartender approaches and waits for them to stop talking. Then he asks if they would like a hammer.

They look at him incredulously.

“What about a pair of pliers?”

They shake their heads.

“How about a crescent wrench?”

Irritated, they both say, “No!”

The bartender pauses and wipes the bar thoughtfully. It’s a slow evening.

“If you don’t want a hammer, pliers or a wrench, what do you want?”

“A drink would be nice,” says the executive director.

The bartender takes their order and swiftly fills it. His customers take their first sips of micro-brew. The philanthropist catches the bartender’s eye and asks, “What was all that about the hammer, the pliers and the wrench?”

The bartender smiles. “I have a little Internet hardware business on the side. Most people come in here for drinks, but I ask them anyway. I know chances are slim for a sale. And I get rejected a lot, but I almost always learn something.”

“What have you learned?” says the executive director.

“The only real mistake is to stop asking.”

“Why is that a mistake,” says the philanthropist.

“If I don’t ask, I can’t listen to the answer. And the listening is the best deal-making strategy I’ve ever found.”

“I thought everyone tells you no,” says the ED.

“They do.”

The philanthropist shakes her head. “Then how do you make deals?”

“By finding out what they do want. By having a conversation. There was this guy. He didn’t want a hammer or a drill. But when I asked him what he did want, he told me he needed a birthday present for his ten year-old son. So I suggested he take him to the Lion King.”

“Did you get a commission?” says the ED.

The bartender smiles. “I got something better - a relationship. Turns out the kid loved Timon and Pumba. Dad was a hero. Three months later, I got an order for 200 carpenters’ tool kits. The guy ran a construction company that built high-rises.”

A silence falls over the three people.

The bartender straightens. “Anything else?”

“Have you ever considered a career in fundraising?” says the ED.

“I’ll have a screwdriver,” says the philanthropist. “And two more beers.”

(Here's where the story was originally published:  https://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-crandell/a-philanthropist-and-a-nonprofit_b_5631828.html )

Blessings to you all and sincere wishes that you may let go all burdens of the past so that you may engage with (and if possible, enjoy) what is now.


Steven Crandell is SDI's Director of Content & PhilanthropyAn author with experience directing strategy and messaging for nonprofits, philanthropy and business, he now guides SDI's storytelling and education. He has responsibility our website, our blog, social media, our webinars, "Connections" and "Discover" our free quarterly and monthly newsletters. ( Sign up here: http://www.sdiworld.org/content/subscribe-discover-listen .) He also works under the direction of Executive Director Anil Singh-Molares to facilitate our fundraising.



Denise 's picture
Submitted by Denise (not verified) on

Brilliant Steve!
I will certainly pass this along . We are just finishing a book study on rejection.
I Love the challenge and the story too.
Grace blessings,

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