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Time To Quit

My first-grade daughter came home with a big announcement.

Holding up the bag of green grapes I’d packed in her lunch, she declared, “Just so you know, I only like red grapes now.”

“Well, that’s ridiculous. You’ve always liked green. You can’t just quit liking them.”

“Yes, I can,” she said, “They don’t taste good in my mouth anymore, so I quit.”


I place enormous value on grit, determination, and follow-through. I strive to exhibit these traits, and I’ve tried to instill them in my children.  However, with the clarity of hindsight, I can see the many times my refusal to quit has been to my detriment. I’ve stayed in unhealthy relationships and stagnant jobs. I’ve worn blinders in faith spaces because I didn’t want to disrupt my own comfort.  I’ve lingered in places where I no longer belonged and clung to emotions far past their expiration date.


For those of us who grew up with the “never give up” motto, choosing to quit is scary. We have a stay-at-all-costs mentality, feeling like a failure when we don’t see something through to the bitter end. What I’m learning, however, is that there is a fine line between heroic perseverance and headstrong stupidity.


It’s simple when the decision to quit is made for us. A season ends organically, and all parties move on peacefully. There may be sadness, but we communally concur these transitions are part of life. We understand the timeline and know when to let go. Other times, we must make an active decision to quit, but the reasons are obvious. There is danger or we have been wronged. It is certain that leaving makes sense.


And then - there are those gray situations when we must quit even when the path forward is unclear; even when others are bewildered by our choice; even when we are leaving a person or place we once loved (or still love).  It’s difficult to leave before the ideal moment, before we have closure, before we have promise of sure-footing on the other side. We can no longer make adjustments, and the contortion required to stay is too great. We may not know where we’re going, we just know we can’t stay here.


It’s painful to leave a space or relationship that once fit us perfectly. Perhaps the situation has changed; perhaps we are now different than we were when we chose it; perhaps we can no longer pretend to be unaware.  Even when we can’t articulate the precise reason, quitting can still be the best choice.


When we hear the word quit, we are quick to assume defeat. However, quitting can also signal victory. It could be that we are ending our participation in a situation, relationship, belief, or space because we have gathered new information or have found the courage to name something we’ve known for a long time. We can quit groups that no longer align with what we know to be true; grudges and hurt feelings that hold us back from healthy connection; spaces that diminish people or shrink God. We can quit refusing to accept help; longing for something that will never return; silencing ourselves when we ache to speak. When we let go of things that are out of sync with our values, we will likely find energy to promote the things that are.


While there is, of course, a time for perseverance and tenacity, very often the bravest thing we can do is pack our bags and leave.


Recently, I found my daughter, now in college, with a handful of green grapes.

Turns out, she has quit disliking them.

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