When They Say Goodbye: Coming to Terms With Those Who Have Walked Away

It is never easy to say goodbye to people that you have lived life with for so long. It’s easy to say goodbye to people you’ve never poured your life into, but it is NEVER easy to say goodbye to people who have shared intimate moments in your life with you. 

It was not easy for me to tell my father goodbye when he chose a commitment to his sin rather than to his family. 

It was not easy to say goodbye to any of the people and churches I served in as a minister over the years that I left for various reasons. 

And it was not easy to say goodbye to friends from high school to move away and try and get my life back together after many bad choices on my part. 

Goodbye isn’t easy when it’s you walking away for various reasons from the people you have built a life around. 

But it’s so much harder to say goodbye to people you have built your life and/or ministry around and they walk away from you as though your relationship with them wasn’t even a difficult choice. As if you hadn’t shared your life, struggles, victories, and whatever else together. As if you were merely strangers passing in a grocery store aisle. 

To be honest it stings. 

It burns. 

And it almost infuriates you to the point of  wanting to call them up and give them a good piece of your mind. But you don’t because you know that won’t solve anything. It would only serve to exacerbate the situation. 

But why does it hurt so bad?

Perhaps it’s because you invest so much time into this relationship and it is returned to the check out counter like a pair of pants that didn’t fit right. 

Perhaps it’s because God has built into us this desire for connection, and when someone breaks that connection it’s as though, for them, it’s as simple as turning off the cable internet in their home, and you suddenly feel used. 

Perhaps it’s because God designed us to live in community with one another and they walk away from it leaving you feeling like perhaps you weren’t good enough to be in their community. 

Whatever the reasons, we all can relate. 

Whatever the reasons, we’ve all been there. 

And it stinks. 

So, how does one come to terms with people who walk away without what seems as even a second thought about you? 

Well, I’m glad you asked. Let me first say, it is easier said than done. But perhaps these 4 things, if put into motion, will help us when the next incident occurs (because friends, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it isn’t a matter of if but when). 

1) Cherish the memories. 

Whether that person chooses to look back fondly on your experiences together or not, we cannot let how they walked away taint those moments in our minds. If they were good times then, then they should be good times now no matter how they walked. Let them remain so. 

2) Remember: people come and people go. 

It’s true. People come into our lives and they walk out of our lives. They will come and they will go. And more times than not they will be people we have poured immense amounts of time and our lives into. And where this person has left a void, another will come along. It’s the nature of humanity to connect. And even though it may seem like a distant dream now, others will come. Embrace them. Build new memories. Who knows why God may have led people in or out of our lives. But there is always a reason. If even for a short season. 

3) Don’t quarantine yourself from others. 

The worst thing you can do when a person (or persons) walk out of your life unexpectedly is to allow that moment to come between you and your other relationships. In fact, it may be in these times that you find a new level of depth in your other relationships that you may not have had before. Don’t close yourself off from those you already know and love. Let them in and let them help you work through this time in your life. 

Who knows, they may know exactly what you are going through and have some suggestions for you! 

4) Don’t swear off relationship investment. 

It is easy to get jaded in these moments and say, “I will never let myself get that close to another person again” in an attempt to prevent further pain in the future. But that isn’t how God designed us. He made us to thrive best in a community. And community and relationships require investment of our time and of our lives. Being in community will also bring with it the risk of pain and that others may indeed use us and then walk away. 

I mean, look at Jesus. In the hour he needed his disciples most, they all walked away from him. Every last one. And of the 12, one betreayed him for silver and another betrayed him for self preservation. And yet, in the end Jesus welcomed Peter back in forgiveness with open arms and I would bet that he would’ve done the same for Judas had he come back in sorrowful repentance rather than take his own life in sorrowful depression. 

Jesus is the perfect example for what it looks like for those closest to you to walk away and how to come to terms with it. 

Perhaps your paths will cross again. Perhaps, like Paul and Barnabas, there will be a time apart and then a moment of reconciliation. Perhaps not. Perhaps you never hear from them again. 

As Alfred Lord Tennyson once said:

‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. 

1 Comment

  1. I, too, feel the pain. Love you Brad!

    Brad Bates posted: “It is never easy to say goodbye to people that you have lived life with for so long. It’s easy to say goodbye to people you’ve never poured your life into, but it is NEVER easy to say goodbye to people who have shared intimate moments in your life with yo”

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