How To Say Goodbye

'Bye Bye Ship' photo (c) 2010, Paulo Ordoveza - license: I’m not good at saying goodbye.

I had a close friend in high school, and I was about to leave and go to United States. On the last day that I spent with this close friend, I didn’t know how to end the day. So I suddenly bolted for the restroom and said, “Bye, I have to go the bathroom” — and that was the last thing I ever said to him in person. I have not met him ever since that day.

I’ve been reading a book on communication skills. In the book were detailed explanations and tips on how to meet people for the first time, how to resolve conflicts, how to listen, how to validate people, how to be assertive, how to speak to your spouse and your children, etc. But there’s absolutely nothing in the book about how to say goodbyes. I think that is a glaring omission, because I have come to see goodbye not only to be a common thing in life, but also an important thing.

Just recently I had to say goodbye to a great group of colleagues. It was so hard for words to come out of my mouth.

But I think sometimes it’s actually harder for the person at the other end. It’s hard to hear someone saying “goodbye” to you. It’s hard to accept that finality of a farewell. When Jesus said his goodbyes to his disciples, he knew that any goodbye was hard to take. So he actually prepared the disciples for the goodbye by telling them ahead of time (and many times) that he would die and rise again (e.g. Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:17-19). It was super-hard for the disciples to accept that, especially Peter (Matthew 16:22-23).

Like Jesus taking a process to say goodbye to his disciples, there’s a sense that I’ve been saying goodbye to my children ever since they’re born. Every day I’m releasing the grip on my children bit by bit, and letting them control their destinies more and more. There’s a sense that, even now when they’re very small, I’ve already started preparing them for that day when we say our goodbyes. It is good that I can keep this future goodbye in mind, otherwise I would not be properly preparing them to find their own paths in the world. Even though my control over them is lessening every day, my prayer is that they would be ever more influenced by God’s truth communicated to them every day through my instructions and my actions and my examples, so that they will walk on a right path and on a godly path that glorifies God. I believe we need such a long process of goodbye to ensure we’re saying our proper goodbyes.