Arrivals and Departures. Tearful goodbyes to loved ones, awkward hellos to complete strangers. Quite the collection of emotional hoops we jump through. For those of us serving cross culturally and just about anyone facing a major transition, this goes with the territory. Personally I’ve never been very good at the goodbyes, but we've had some wins in this area thanks mostly to my wife's intentionality. Research and personal experience reveal just how critical healthy goodbyes are to the transition process. Yes, even for the introverts among us who would rather board the plane and save the goodbyes for later!
Here are five benefits of healthy goodbyes:
1. Healthy Goodbyes Help Us Move On
One of the surest ways to become stuck in a new season is to be unintentional about saying meaningful goodbyes in our current season. Let's face it, goodbyes can be really hard. This is especially true when the chapter drawing to a close has been difficult and prolonged. We may be tempted to keep the farewells to a superficial level or avoid them altogether. When we choose this route, we carry unnecessary baggage into the future. We fail to move on emotionally and spiritually. Healthy goodbyes set us up for success by reducing the emotional baggage we might otherwise carry into the next season.
2. Healthy Goodbyes Help Others Move On
In a personal transition, what could it look like to prioritize friends, colleagues and loved ones who are deeply impacted by our leaving? Those who stay have just as much need to process their stuff by means of healthy goodbyes. We can help them move on when we allow them the opportunity to say goodbye, even if we don't feel a need for a particular goodbye ourselves. Healthy goodbyes help those who stay move on emotionally and spiritually.
3. Healthy Goodbyes Help us Focus on What Really Matters
When I was preparing to leave Central Asia after a 15 year tenure, a local friend approached me in order to say goodbye. As we met, this brother went the extra mile to encourage and affirm me. At the time, I didn't think our relationship was close enough to warrant such expressions of gratitude and affirmation. Now, he is one of my first points of contact whenever I return for a visit. Meaningful goodbyes build upon whatever relationship we may have with the other individual. They don't subtract from it. Why? Because the focus is on what the other person needs. I needed the encouragement and affirmation at that point in time, and this brother was sensitive and intentional enough to recognize that. I mattered to him.
4. Healthy Goodbyes Keep the Doors Open
Does the thought of returning to a particular place in your past hit a raw nerve now? Most likely those feelings will not last forever. Eventually you may desire to return to a place, even one that's filled with difficult memories. We change. People, places and organizations change. Why burn bridges at the cost of relationships and opportunities which God may have a plan for in the distant future? Healthy goodbyes help keep those bridges intact.
5. Healthy Goodbyes Prepare us for Healthy Hellos
This is the fruit of being able to move forward without the unnecessary baggage, being able to go into the next season with a positive attitude and approach to relationships. What our your expectations for the next, new season? How can saying meaningful goodbyes now set you up for success later?
These are just a few of the benefits to saying healthy, meaningful goodbyes.
One more thought. Mostly, we talk about saying our goodbyes. But have you ever thought about praying them? My wife recently read a book entitled Praying our Goodbyes. I asked her what she thought about it. She said it helped broaden her understanding of the process of farewells and outlined some really helpful prayers we can use based on the type of goodbye we are dealing with. If you're going through a significant transition and/or grieving a loss, I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book HERE.