Leaving, departing, separating, moving on, moving ahead, and moving away is part of life. We leave the womb, the hospital and home. We advance in grades and eventually graduate. We leave teachers, mentors and classmates. We change jobs. We change churches. We meet new people, grow apart from others and lose some to death. We say goodbye to people, pets, places and things.
- Are you good at saying goodbye? Who taught you how to say goodbye? What puts the “good” in
bye? Describe your best farewell.
Our ability or inability to let go is largely related to our personality. Specifically, our ability or inability to change. Change is stressful to almost everyone regardless of personality. Most adapt to the everyday hellos, goodbyes and developmental milestones because change is part of growing but it doesn’t mean everyone is comfortable with change.
We are born with a default setting to be either an initiator of change, eager to change, resistant or unable to change. Each has value and purpose. And each can be healthy or unhealthy in saying goodbye. Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
A Time for Everything
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
and a time for peace.
God has made everything beautiful in its time.
Individuals unable or resistant to change preserve traditions. They provide consistency and stability. They are loyal and faithful. They put time and effort into mending broken relationships. However, they are also vulnerable to abuse by remaining loyal to unhealthy relationships. It doesn’t make them responsible for the abuse nor does it mean they want to be abused. It simply means change isn’t easy for them and they value relationships.
People who initiate or are eager to change see change as an opportunity. They also value relationships and enjoy making new friends. They may be very good at helping others adjust to change. And are called to create new ministries in communities of faith. They may be effective at saying goodbye. However they may be impulsive and too quick to abandon relationships.
CAUTION: Toxic people have difficulty making healthy changes and saying goodbye. Toxic environments breed toxic habits and attitudes which become poisonous. Don’t tell a toxic person you’re leaving. They won’t take it well. They are extremely fearful of change and any perceived loss of control. They react with violence and destruction.
You will need help, a safety plan and protection to get away. Toxic people make toxic relationships. Both the victim and the abuser are toxic and need professional intervention.
So what is a healthy farewell? Healthy people in healthy relationships have healthy farewells. A healthy farewell is the healthy conclusion to a healthy relationship.
- How do we know if our relationship is healthy?
A relationship is healthy when both individuals feel loved and supported. They know they are loved. Love is the key ingredient in a healthy relationship. A relationship without love is not healthy.
The most beautiful expression of love is grace, mercy and forgiveness. Healthy people are able to resolve their differences or agree to disagree. Resolving conflict is the gateway to a deeper long lasting love.
Healthy people respect each other. They appreciate one another’s gifts and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. They communicate. They spend time together. The relationship works. It is functional.
- If a relationship is healthy, why say goodbye? When is it time to say goodbye? How do you know?
Remember, just because a relationship becomes dysfunctional or encounters conflict, doesn’t mean the relationship must end. Conflict is normal and all relationships are dysfunctional because we live in a sinful fallen world. Everyone falls short Romans 3:23. Therefore our relationships fall short.
Dysfunctional relationships can be improved with intervention. But toxic relationships MUST end and both participants need intervention.
Our relationship with God is the only relationship that is always functional. Even when we fall short, God provides perfect love that heals all wounds and repairs all hurts. We never need to say goodbye to God because we will never find ourselves at a crossroad with God. Because of our baptism we take God with us everywhere, even into the darkest places of our life. Our relationship with God never needs to end.
As previously noted, there are natural farewells such as when we get married, send our children to school, start a new job or move away. It is time to say goodbye when we find ourselves at a crossroad and our paths must go in different directions.
Like Jonah, Joseph, Moses and all of Jesus’ disciples we may be called to leave our family, friends and community to bring the good news to others.
- Describe an unhealthy parting.
A bad breakup leaves the relationship worse than before they met. The participants are abusive, angry, resentful and cruel. Bad breakups go on too long. They guilt each other into staying together when their paths no longer meet. You know it is a bad breakup when you want to throw a party when they finally leave.
Unless the relationship is toxic, it is not healthy to just disappear without saying goodbye or letting someone know how much they meant to you. Severing a relationship doesn’t make it easier or healthy. It just ends it.
Seek help if you have trouble saying goodbye especially if your relationship is unhealthy.
Prayer: God should be involved in all of our relationships form start to finish. Healthy farewells require prayer. We must be in constant prayer before, during and after our farewell. We pray for our old and new relationships.
Remain Positive: Saying goodbye doesn’t mean there is something wrong with our current relationship or community. We don’t need to look for reasons to end the relationship. Pointing out their flaws when we’re getting ready to leave is cruel. Everyone is flawed.
Healthy people don’t blame their departure on someone else’s weaknesses.
Read 2 Corinthians 12:9
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
When Jesus told his disciples to “shake the dust off your feet” of the towns that didn’t welcome them it was a call to leave the negative energy behind Luke 9:5. It wasn’t permission to gossip about them to everyone else.
Separation anxiety and abandonment issues cause unhealthy people to spend too much time comparing new to old relationships. They make the old the villain and the new a hero. This is particularly true for people changing churches. While their new church may be a much better fit for them, it doesn’t make their old church unhealthy for others.
Celebrating the Tears: Goodbyes hurt because the pain is a testimony of the love we have for one another. Being sad doesn’t mean we are making a bad choice. It simply means we are grieving.
If it isn’t difficult we probably stayed too long.
It is important to share our feelings with those we are leaving. In each of Paul’s letters in the New Testament, Paul graciously pours out each Church‘s strengths. Remember to always build one another up.
Stay in the Moment: It is important to focus on who you are with at the time. No one wants to hear about how great or terrible the “old” boyfriend or girlfriend was. If you really like the way your new partner treats you, focus on what you like about them not what you didn’t like about someone else. And thank them for the things you appreciate.
Time: Time does heal all wounds. Grief takes time. It sends us on an emotional roller coaster. Time doesn’t give closure. We may never stop missing the people we’ve lost and it is extremely important to know that the bible doesn’t encourage closure in this world. We yearn to be reunited because Jesus conquered death on the cross and we are promised to be reunited with our loved ones again.
During our journey for love, we are called to make an honest assessment of unhealthy attitudes, beliefs and habits (sin) blocking our relationships.
Sometimes the most peaceful and loving resolution is a healthy farewell. Until we meet again.
Homework: Make a list of the people in your past that you have said goodbye. Make a list of the things you liked about them. Talk to God for these people.
Make a list of the important people in your life now and what you like about each. Talk to God for these people.
“God be with _____, hold him/her, love him/her and give _______ your grace. Thank you for our relationship. Thank you for their gifts of … Amen”