Some of my goodbye’s have not been good. I remember a season long ago which was more about leaving than arriving–running away from what was behind more than running towards what lay ahead. Sometimes goodbye’s are just thrust upon us, suddenly or slowly. There are funerals, injuries, and job changes. Doors close and others which are open we may choose not to enter.
We all face necessary endings, but with them come opportunities to end well.
One such opportunity lies before me this summer as I move into a new role and new town. So today I invite you to listen in as I remind myself of the how-to of a good goodbye. My comments below are based upon the R.A.F.T. process developed by David Pollock.
After many extremely bloody battles, Lincoln wasn’t lost in blind idealism when he said, “Do I not destroy my enemies by making them my friends?” Confronting unfinished business is a huge part of leaving behind what needs to stay behind and not sipping poison into the future, hoping it will harm those who harmed you. In a one-on-one situation, there’s a chance it could go about as well as pushing a string, making more of a tangle. Even then, however, you may be able to discern whether someone is unwilling or just simply incapable. Understanding this difference can help you move on. Like the song says, “You gotta know when to hold ’em/know when to fold ’em.”
Goodbyes bring opportunity to say what should probably be said whether you’re leaving or not. In some cases, it may be important to define a relationship–setting expectations about what the future will hold together. Sometimes those expressions can surface gratitude, the fuel of joy and contentment, even amidst unwanted change.
It may be a man thing, but I hate prolonged “goodbying.” When I’m ready to leave an event or someone’s house, I don’t think handshakes and hugs should start a new conversation. At certain crucial moments in my life, however, I have taken my time—even seen a virtual script before me of what needs to be said. Sometimes it takes courage to “read the script.”
4. Think destination
On the front end of our move this summer, the leaving part is present and concrete while arrival side of the equation is future and abstract. That fact contributes to the difficultly of departure. You mainly see, touch, and feel what’s being left behind. One reason why vision is so powerful is how it aids us in embracing a preferred future with hope and expectation. Vision uses words to paint a picture of possibility–words intended to hit you in the gut and capture your imagination. Goodbye is really a conflation, that is, several words blended into one. “Goodbye” is short for, God be with you or even God be with you until we meet again. It has the hope of a future, sooner or later built right in.
“We grieve, but not as one’s who are without hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).