Graceful Exits


How many times have you heard the saying, “Christians are perfect, just saved”?  While true, it sometimes seems to me a cop-out to excuse bad behavior in believers.  That includes leaders in every form of ministry.

No doubt, one of the toughest duties any of us must face in our roles is extracting ourselves from a situation.  Whether a volunteer needs to be let go or we need to conclude a relationship with a vendor, any sort of transition concluding a relationship seems to be where we leaders tarnish God’s glory the most.  Because of the difficulty, we justify our rude, harsh or hurtful behavior with the need to terminate things as they presently are.  And who can blame us?  There seems to be little, if any, pastoral or lay training for leaders in how to appropriately handle these situations.

I would challenge each of us, including myself, by saying that is not God’s best for his people.  Here are some thoughts on how we might make these transitions a bit less damaging and much more God-glorifying:

  • Be honest — Proverbs 24:26 (NIV) tells us, “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.”  Even if it means admitting your discomfort with another person or prefacing your remarks with “I am sorry, but there is no easy way to say this,” people will be much more willing to deal with what you must tell them if you are at least being forthright.  People can respect honesty.  Following the easy path of being avoidant and deceptive can not only sour people’s view of our own integrity, but question the value of following God.
  • Be biblical — Jesus set forth the recipe for godly confrontation in Matthew 18:15-17 (MSG) “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.”  While we can find this process personally painful and slow, it is the wisdom of God.  Doing things the Lord’s way in such a situation preserves the other person’s reputation and self-esteem, confronts wrongdoing without dysfunctional avoidance, protects the community of faith, and affords the opportunity for repair.
  • Be compassionate — Once again, we find wisdom in the Book of Proverbs 15:1 (NLT) “A gentle answer deflects anger,but harsh words make tempers flare.”  In our pursuit of expediency, we can be honest in very unkind ways, making brutal comments, being nastily abrupt.  While it may seem obvious in theory, Jesus’ admonition to, “Treat others just as you want to be treated,” (Luke 6:31, CEV) seems to completely vacate our brains when we are transitioning out of a relationship.

While wiser leaders of leaders than myself could write much more detail and exposition on this topic, if we merely began putting some real effort into being intentional about these few verses, our parting relationships with others would drastically improve.  We leaders pass up a huge opportunity to glorify God when we part company on bad terms.  Pray about making more graceful exits and see yourself flourish more as a leader.

Recommended Reading — Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward by Dr. Henry Cloud

Photo Image Courtesy of 123RF

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