Necessary Endings – The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward
By Dr. Henry Cloud
–Review by Douglas Balzer
Hopefully, the name of Dr. Henry Cloud is a familiar name to you. He is a clinical psychologist who has been contributed significant works such as Integrity, Boundaries, and Nine Things You Must Do (these are my favorite titles). So, due to my familiarity with Cloud, it was a natural fit for me to examine this book. It is especially timely as I am presently making some “necessary endings” in my life. Maybe this is what attracted me to read this book at this time. Clouds approach to writing for me is engaging, and it is hard to put the book down once I start.
In this book, Necessary Endings, the premise is endings are a normal part of life. Endings matter and are present in all areas of our lives. Learning to recognize endings is critical. In our personal lives, relationships change and sometimes need to come to an end, personal dreams and aspirations come to an ending, and as life progress through its stages needs to come to an end, death. Endings are a necessity for life to thrive in areas of existence. So, Cloud writes what is needed is to learn the ability to do endings well. Without this ability, we flounder and fail to reach our goals and dreams or recognize when it is time to them pay forward to the next generation to pick up and carry on.
Cloud, I have found, likes gardening. It is evident in the metaphors used to express his thoughts in order to connect us, as the reader, to the deeper meanings he projects. For a rose to grow to fulfill its full capability, entering into its full beauty, the gardener must know how to care properly for it, pruning the rosebush intentionally. Now, if the Gardner is doing the work correctly by trimming the rosebush will include, healthy buds or branches that are not the best ones, sick branches that are not going to get well, dead branches taking up space that healthy ones need to thrive. I was reminded of Jesus sharing the parable of the vine and the branches.
Like rosebushes, our lives also need the same three types of pruning to be healthy. Pruning is the central theme of Necessary Endings: removing whatever it is in our personal life whose reach is unwanted, redundant, damaging, inflicting unnecessary drain on our souls. The recognition we are limited is a reality to be realized and respected. Life requires our resources, our time, money, energy, talents, but those things that are not working to achieve the vision or passion of our lives should be pruned according to Cloud.
Of course, Cloud presents steps to follow. The first step to moving forward through endings is identifying what you really think about endings and then assess where your internal resistance is.
The second step is to make endings a normal occurrence and a normal part of life, instead of seeing them as a problem.
Following up these two steps up Cloud gives three organizing principles, the goal of these principles is to help us establish in our lives that endings are necessary and normal.
Accept life cycles and seasons. Life is composed of cycles and seasons; nothing lasts forever. It may seem fatalistic, but it helps to know all things come to an end.
Accept life produces too much life. Life produces more relationships than we can nurture or manage; more activities than you can keep up with; more products than we can focus on; more strategies than we can execute.
Accept That Incurable Sickness and Evil Exist. Accept that some people are not going to change, no matter what you do, and that still others have a vested interest in being destructive.
It becomes clear that once we recognize that endings are normal, identify the internal maps within us that keep us from executing the endings we need to execute. So, Cloud gives us the following as some common belief systems that can inhibit us from embracing endings:
You have an abnormally high pain threshold.
You are covering for others.
You Believe that ending it means “I Failed.”
According to Cloud, people who successfully navigate life have one thing in common: they get in touch with reality. As well as those who are not able to abandon things are often those unable to face reality. There is clearly a difference between real hope and false hope. Where false hope is present no foundation, no grounds for it to based upon. It creates an anxiety-ridden soul. The issue with false hope is it is based on our desires, not in reality. The key question is this: What reason, other than the fact that I want this to work, do I have for believing that tomorrow is going to be different from today?
Often the issue that makes endings difficult for us is the people involved. How do you know when to invest the effort with a community, a church, family, or an individual to work on making things better and when you should tell them that you are done talking about it? If people show no evidence of listening to you remember Jesus said,”If people are not listening to you, stop talking to them.” Essentially, call an end to it because you are wasting your time and you don’t have time to waste. Life is short, don’t waste it.
Cloud recommends we recognize that there are three types of people we are dealing with regularly and we should be discerning, as well as decisive. Some people you can work with, some not.
Cloud has determined there are three types of persons fall into these categories – wise people, foolish people, and evil people. It is important to identify them accurately and quickly.
Cloud states that identify the wise person are evident by the way they take the truth when it presents itself, they see the light, take it in, and make adjustments.
Now, the foolish person when truth presents itself, will reject the feedback, resists it, works to explain it away, and does nothing about it.
Finally, the third group Cloud refers to he calls them “evil.” Now, these people are the ones who will hurt you intentionally because they want to. You need to protect yourself, your family, church, business, and everything from an “evil” person. Here is where most people go wrong by giving “evil” people the benefit of the doubt or second chances. According to Cloud when a person with malevolent intentions makes themselves known believe them and get them out of your life or at least take protective actions to have an offense when they attack your life.
Now, we must be honest that many of us have some internal resistance to change or growth that hinders us from moving forward. A reason for this is that we have incompatible desires or values. We want more multiple things that cannot happen at the same time. We may want more time with friends, while we also really want to work on our marriage, we want to save more money to buy that new car. We have to grow up and be awake to the fact that part of maturity is getting to the place where we can let go of one desire in order to have another. The immature mind “wants it all,” it is what keeps people from ending anything when they need to let go of something.
The truth is endings can be and are difficult, even painful, and sometimes are cause for grief and a deep sense of loss. We must face the grieving process that is a mental and emotional letting go or end. We face a new reality brought on by an ending, whatever it may be, this means we must feel and process the feelings and the emotions associated with the ending and the change brought on. This grief helps because it has movement to it; it goes forward. When we don’t face our grief, we can get stuck in the past, hanging on to false hope or staying angry at something that has happened in the past. Some people go decades, even lifetimes wasting their lives by not engaging the process of Necessary Endings.
As I conclude, this review the most important reasons for Necessary Ending is moving beyond sustainability to growth. If we are doing anything by definition that cannot continue, because the source itself is being depleted or damaged, an ending is not only necessary it is critical and urgent to bring it to an end. It may be messy, extremely messy but in that case, there must be an ending. The big question we will have to face is whether it will be a voluntary or involuntary ending.
Cloud’s encouragement is for us to embrace the reality that endings are a necessary part of life. If we are willing to make the embrace, it will enable us to move forward in a healthy way of living with endings and new beginnings, into the wonderful new things life has for us.