It can seem counter-intuitive to consider quitting something an act of love. Love feels like a movement forward; quitting is a step back. How can quitting be love? Aren’t we supposed to ‘never give up’ and ‘never say die’?

Quitting something almost never feels good, for those of us who worry about the feelings of others. I mean, let’s face it: sometimes it’s just a relief. But, at the same time, we can have feelings of regret, disappointment, self-recrimination, frustration or sadness. Whether it’s a job, a cause, or even a relationship, we can spend a lot of time wondering if we’re doing the right thing, especially with all the mixed messages we get, right? On one hand, we’re supposed to stand up for ourselves and never put up with anything less than wonderful. On the other hand, ‘good’ people are those who stick things out. We’re supposed to be committed, dedicated, devoted, and self-sacrificing.

Two points I want to make about quitting:

  1. Sometimes, things have got to be quit (said badly, but you get it). When a child is growing up, we fully understand that they, at some point, have to quit wearing diapers, quit sleeping in your bed, and eventually, quit living in your house (you, apparently, have to quit cooking with cheese in order for that to happen). A person can’t move on to something bigger and better without quitting something. One thing has to end for another to begin. Parents might struggle with letting, or helping, their child grow up, but it is crippling to the child when the parent refuses to quit what needs quitting and facilitate maturity. It might feel like love, but it’s actually not.
  2. It’s okay to do something for YOU. I was raised in a culture of very strong gender norms, and it seems to me that many women of my generation, in particular, were taught that we’re not supposed to do anything for ourselves. We must sacrifice ourselves on the altar of family, marriage, work, causes, or whatever. But how is that love? Is it really love to allow yourself to be destroyed? How does that serve? Honouring yourself and allowing things to end when they’re not working, won’t work, are unhealthy for you and others, or have just come to an end is, I posit, an act of love.

I’m not talking about having a hair-trigger quitting reflex; that’s called “flight”. We can’t just walk – or run – away from our problems. Before quitting something, we need to sit with it and reflect on our motives, and on what’s really best for all concerned in the situation. But honestly, many times, we stay too long. Typically, I think, it’s because of how we want to be seen instead of knowing how we ought to show up.

Who doesn’t love a sunset?

In 2013, after two terms on Council, I decided not to run again. I love my town – that might sound odd, but I really do! – and I loved serving on Council. But I was burned out and not in a good place to effectively serve. It would not have been good for me, nor for the municipality, for me to run again at that time. I had to quit – for love. I still serve my community but in different ways. Other people have stepped up onto Council, and it has been good for all concerned. Maybe someday I’ll run again, or maybe not. But quitting, at that time, was right. I didn’t need to completely cut all ties and do something drastic like selling my house and moving away, but I did need to quit that role at that time.

I recommend a book by Dr. Henry Cloud, called Necessary Endings. In it, he uses the analogy of pruning trees. Sometimes, there might be a healthy bud, but it’s not the best, and will take resources away from the better options. Sometimes, all the tree’s resources are focused on trying to revive a branch that is sick, which only serves to make the whole tree sick. And sometimes, the branch is dead, and we just need to see it and admit it and remove it.

What are you reluctant to quit? Are there things in your work or life that you know need quitting? I’m interested in your thoughts.

In the meantime, and always, love well.