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Goodbyes hard but importantcomment (0)

November 3, 2011

By Jean Roberson

I’m not good at goodbyes.”  

But how many of us really are? Some of us want to avoid them, while others cannot stop saying goodbye. Still others feel so awkward that they withdraw and become almost unresponsive.

Goodbyes and endings are painful. They are uncomfortable. Whether you are saying goodbye to a child, a friend, a church, a particular leadership role or an organization, it is difficult. So we avoid goodbyes or handle them with little focus.  

Are there any goodbyes you would like to repeat? Are there any you thought about later and wished you had said something more or something different?  

It is ironic that we are not good at goodbyes, because they are so important.  

I read one time that all the good work you do in a role can be wiped out completely by the nature of your goodbye. Take the woman who served faithfully and well in a leadership role, but when it came time to leave, she could not walk away. She became defensive and controlling, and after leaving, she continued to call to try to find out what was happening. Though she accomplished a lot, her legacy was the controlling, busybody nature of how she left.

We also can look at the leader who knew her time in leadership was coming to a close. Rather than embrace it and prepare for the transition, she chose to procrastinate and ignore the approaching end of her time. So, when she left, no one was prepared to step in and lead. No one knew what to do. As a result, the ministry suffered and was unable to continue. Her goodbye left a lot of anger and hurt.

So if goodbyes are so important, then why are they so hard?

Perhaps we need to change how we think of them. Instead of a dreadful moment to get through, a goodbye needs to be a microcosm of what we accomplished and what the relationship means to us. Our leaving a role or organization has to solidify all the good that has taken place. It needs our utmost focus.  

When we are leaving, it is important to have a plan for the timing and the transition. We need to speak with honesty and avoid the anger and conflict that so often accompany transitions. It must be handled with professionalism and care, because it is the moment that solidifies the work that has been accomplished.

A Takeaway Value …
Consider the roles you are leaving in the next year. Plan for the transition as though your legacy depends on it, because it does.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Jean Roberson, MSW, LCSW, is a ministry consultant for national Woman’s Missionary Union. She serves as team leader for the adult team and director of Christian Women’s Job Corps/Christian Men’s Job Corps and International Initiatives.

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