I am convinced that no one gets ghosted more than college campus ministers. And I am confident that no one knows how to ghost a relationship better than college students.
Each fall, we begin doing our primary outreach on campus geared toward reaching first-year students. We have tons of community-building events before the launch of services on campus, to which many new students attend.
After the first or second service, we begin to see students pull away and disengage from the ministry. And in many cases this is more than poor attendance, these students have decided, we suppose, that this group or church community is not for them for one reason or another. They are done, even to the point that when they see you on campus, they do not even speak to you or acknowledge your existence.
After talking to a few of my colleagues on campus, I realized that this is not just happening to me, it's happening to my colleagues as well.
Because I love my students, those who stay, and those who go, I wanted to speak to this issue and help you better navigate the ending of relationships. Here are a few of my thoughts on the matter.
When we end relationships poorly, we give others the space to create a narrative that may be inconsistent with our real reasons for leaving.
When we walk away from the relationship without explanations or communication, we inadvertently leave the other party with a ton of questions. To bring closure to the myriad of reasons for your departure, they may create a narrative in their mind to help explain why you abandoned the relationship.
The danger is that this narrative that they create may be utterly inconsistent with your reasoning and rationale as to why you left the relationship. This fabrication may be unhelpful to your future endeavors. It is especially harmful if this person has asked upon by other colleagues to give an assessment of your personality, work ethic, or level of commitment.
However, if you share your reason for moving on with the other party, you can be confident that they know why it is that you left. With this information, they are less likely to create an alternative scenario, even if they disagree with your rationale for leaving.
When we end relationships poorly, we forfeit any value that might have been useful in future endeavors.
While talking to a colleague of mine, they mentioned that they had a student who they work with for several months, which ended the relationship without warning. Some time passed and the student randomly contacted the professor seeking to receive from them a letter of recommendation.
The professor respectfully declined to write the letter. My colleague went on to say that if things ended differently, he would've been more inclined to help the student with their future endeavors. In the end, it was the unfortunate ending that drained any remaining value that could have helped.
When we end relationships poorly, we lose out on the opportunity to preserve a relationship that only needed clarity to thrive.
Every imperfect relationship doesn't have to end. Sometimes all a relationship needs to thrive and grow is a conversation. Often the other party may be unaware of a perceived grievance or an issue in the dynamic of the relationship that they would be more than willing to correct if given a chance.
If we ended the relationship without voicing our concerns, we lose out on resolving issues and strengthening the bond of relationships that could benefit us a great deal in the future.
When we end relationships poorly, we rob the other party of the chance of reflection, growth, and improvement.
Now, hear me out because the benefit of this point does not necessarily go to you, but it does make a positive impact on our culture in general. In some companies, when people resign, they are given an exit interview.
These interviews are used to help Human Resources locate where improvements in the work culture or even the system may be needed — thus giving them a chance to improve.
When we end our relationships abruptly without explanation or warning, we rob others of the opportunity to change for the better. If we are brave enough to share our issues, discomfort, and grievances, we give the other party an opportunity to self-reflect.
Even if you have no desire to continue the relationship, you are potentially saving the person coming behind you from enduring the same grievances you suffered. You may not be the one to benefit, but you can be the one to contribute to the future well-being of another.
Sometimes it is mutually beneficial for parties to part ways. But if at all possible, we should do our best to end well. You never know when you'll need to pull on the past to push you into a preferred future.
I'd love to hear you thoughts, feel free to comment.