Endings: Normal & Necessary (and Why You Should Stop Avoiding Them)

We missed a few months of blogs, so I thought we would catch up with a few weeks focused on a specific topic.

I led a training for a group of leaders a few weeks ago on the topic of Simmons Values and in particular, we were talking about Take Action. I mentioned that there are three E’s to Take Action: Execution, Excellence, and Endings. Someone said, “The first two are clear, but I get hung up on Endings. Actually I try to avoid them at all cost.” The group nodded collectively. She was right. There is a cost to avoiding endings and we tend to avoid or prolong them as long as possible. This led to about a 30 minute conversation and is the reason for this blog series. I know she’s not alone.

It’s a lot more fun to plan, dream and execute beginnings, right? A new job, new baby, New Year’s resolutions: they bring newness, excitement, and often a breath of fresh air. Who doesn’t love Spring and things moving from dead of Winter to a season of green and growing!

Endings, on the other hand, often involve change and loss. Quitting a job, the death of a loved one, ending a relationship or a bad habit, having to let an employee go, etc. These can be painful and at times, highly emotional when they involve other people. But endings are a part of life. When done well, endings often lead us into seasons of growth and new beginnings that we can’t experience until we do the challenging and messy, but necessary work of endings.

Endings are hard.

We dance around their reality all the time. Oftentimes we sound like this:

“I know this plan isn’t going to work, but I will look like a failure I pull the plug.”

“I don’t believe in divorce, but he won’t stop sleeping around.”

“I’ve led my department this way for 25 years. I know if we don’t make changes, we won't exist 5 years from now. It’s just the way we’ve always done it.”

“I’ve tried to help my daughter with her addiction, but she keeps making terrible choices. How do I stop enabling her without completely losing her?”

“He’s a nice person, but he sucks at doing his job. I just don’t want to be the bad guy.”

“Doc said I need to lose weight, but I pass the Little Debbies store on my way to work and grab a box of Zebra Cakes for breakfast every day. They will go under without my support.”


I did a fun exercise this morning and thought back through my life and the endings that have taken place. Some of them were my choice, other endings were made for me.

Endings in Nick’s life:

  • Stopped sucking my thumb & wearing a diaper

  • Quit throwing rocks at girls (aka flirting) at recess

  • Moved 5 times before graduating high school

  • Got cut from basketball team in high school during tryouts

  • Girlfriend from high school broke up with me senior year

  • Left parent’s house in Wichita, KS at 17 and went to college in Siloam Springs, AR

  • Papaw died of a heart attack

  • Had to fire an employee I tried so hard to help

  • Quit a job I was really good at to learn how to be a Chaplain at Simmons

  • Paid off student loans and debt - no more regular phone calls from Sallie Mae

  • Quit stopping by Little Debbies for breakfast every morning


As I go back to these events in time, none of these were very enjoyable. But with perspective, I am thankful that each of these endings took place. I learned something through each and they allowed me to grow and develop into who I am and point me towards who I am becoming.

REFLECTION: What are the endings in your story?

Take 60 seconds and write some down.


“Endings are a part of every aspect of life. When done well, the seasons of life are negotiated, and the proper endings lead to the end of pain, greater growth, personal and business goals reached, and better lives. Endings bring hope. When done poorly, bad outcomes happen, good opportunities are lost, and misery either remains or is repeated.”
— Henry Cloud, Necessary Endings

Henry Cloud wrote one of my all-time favorite books called, Necessary Endings. My dad actually paid me $20 to read this book when I was in college. I was broke and needed money, so I gladly accepted the bribe. The impact this book has had on my life can’t be understated. Much of what we are going to talk about are things I have learned as a result of this book.

Endings are challenging because they often involve change, grief, and emotional discomfort - all things that we are hardwired to avoid at all cost, right? But why?

Here are a few reasons I think we avoid endings:

  • We do not know if an ending is actually necessary, or if “it” or “he/she” is fixable

  • We are afraid of the unknown.

  • We fear confrontation.

  • We are afraid of hurting someone.

  • We are afraid of letting go and the sadness associated with an ending.

  • We do not possess the skills to execute the ending.

  • We do not even know the right words to use.

  • We have had too many and too painful endings in our personal history, so we avoid another one.

  • When they are forced upon us, we do not know how to process them, and we sink or flounder.

  • We do not learn from them, so we repeat the same mistakes over and over.

REFLECTION: Can you think of a situation where one of these reasons have interfered with an ending you needed to make?

 
 

The Byrds sang a song called, “Turn, Turn, Turn” in the 60’s (which will now be stuck in your head the rest of the day). The words are mainly taken from King Solomon who wrote Ecclesiastes in the Bible. What I love about this passage is how it seems to normalize both beginnings and endings.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
— Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

There is a time for everything. When we begin to appreciate the seasons of life, of relationships, of jobs, you name it - we begin to be more comfortable in discerning when an ending is necessary, or when we should continue on. As a Christian, I often don’t have the answer to that within my own understanding. I come to God in those circumstances where an ending or new beginning appears to be in front of me and ask, “God, if you had your way with _______, what would you have me do?”

One of my favorite lines in Cloud’s book is that “Life produces too much life.” There are too many opportunities, relationships, tasks, goals, etc. that everything cannot possibly be done. We have to have clarity around what our priorities are and begin to look at our calendar, budgets, and relationships and make some really hard decisions. Sometimes it’s ending something that is harmful or unhealthy. Other times, it’s ending something that is good in order to do something that is great (We’ll talk about pruning next week).

My hope in the next few weeks is to normalize and maybe better help you to metabolize endings in a healthy way moving forward. As Chaplains, we help people navigate endings every day. If you have a situation where an ending may be needed, our Chaplains are exceptional at helping you navigate whether there is hope for a change, or to deal with reality and the need for a necessary ending. We won’t tell you what to do (wouldn’t that be nice), but we can guide you along the way and provide encouragement.

The next few weeks were are going to focus on the following:

  • Navigating Hope & Endings

  • Pruning and its Benefits to Growth

  • Strategies for Executing Necessary Endings & Healthy Boundaries

  • Faith and Endings

  • Ending 2018 Well: New Years Resolution Pre-Work

“When we fail to end things well, we are destined to repeat the mistakes that keep us from moving on...Learning how to do an ending well and how to metabolize the experience allows us to move beyond patterns of behavior that may have tripped us up in the past.”
— Henry Cloud, Necessary Endings
 

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