When Things Fall Apart: a Guide to Walking Away Gracefully

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Dearest readers,

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I last posted! I’ve been away from the internet for about two months now due to a summer camp job, and today I’d like to talk about some things I learned through this job.

Up until this week, I had been on top of the world with this job. I was getting to serve children with chronic medical conditions, I was making friends (which meant a lot after my crazy moving process over the last year), and I really felt like I was making an impact.

This summer, I have seen countless beautiful and pure things that felt like gifts straight from God. I watched a six year-old girl with no mobility below her shoulders catch two fish while operating a fishing pole with her mouth. I watched two eight year-olds perform on stage for their peers in an act that they self-named “The Wheelchair Sisters”–their physical variance suddenly becoming a sisterly bond and something to be celebrated rather than something to be ashamed of. I watched eight diabetic tweenage girls artfully arrange their glucose meters in a heart shape for an Instagram picture and debate which filter to use. I got to hold the hand of a nine year-old girl with cerebral palsy while she belted out “a Million Dreams” on stage with more emotion and feeling than I can put into words. Perhaps best of all, I had eight little girls gathered around me before bedtime one night while I told them a fairytale story, and I saw eight pairs of bright eyes drawn into the beauty of pure, sweet imagination, completely forgetting their medical conditions for a few precious minutes while they giggled uncontrollably.

Well, this week, I had to quit that job.

I made the decision to quit, packed, and left all within about one hour, and none of my friends even knew I was leaving. I didn’t say goodbye to anyone. I didn’t get to tell certain people what they meant to me. I didn’t get to stand in my beloved Arts & Crafts building (where I worked) and look out over all the glitter glue stained tables and children’s drawings tacked up on the walls and think about what I had accomplished.

Everything and everyone that I had poured my entire soul into for the last two months was snatched away from me within the span of a few heartbreaking days.

How did this happen? Without giving too many details, people let me down. Coworkers, supervisors, managers…no one wanted to address the immorality happening behind-the-scenes among counselors in my cabin. When I tried to stick up for what was right, nobody backed me. I was simply told to hang in there, and when I requested a new cabin, it was refused.

I didn’t write this article just to vent, though…I wrote this because any of you might be experiencing a similar situation at school, work, or otherwise. I want you to know that you’re not alone–that there are other people out there trying to do the right thing, too. I want you to know that there is always hope, and there is always a reason to stay on God’s path, even if no one else stands up for you. I want you to know that choosing to walk away from an immoral situation is not the same as running away. I want you to know that having grief over things like this is okay.

To start things off, I recently found this quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which says:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak.
Not to act is to act.

Let’s be real, here…we’re not always going to be the protagonist, hero, or person otherwise in the spotlight. Often, we’re just someone on the sidelines, and that’s perfectly okay. However, you still have power as a bystander.

Take the example of Beauty and the Beast…when the townspeople get angry at the Beast and mob his castle, you wouldn’t call them the “bad guy”, right? Gaston’s still obviously the villain and the driving force behind the evil…but the townspeople had the power to decide for themselves what to do. Instead of reasoning out the situation for themselves, they chose to be followers going along with the loudest voice, and because of that, helped carry out Gaston’s plan.

At best, a situation works itself out to a pleasant conclusion without the help of followers–but at worst, a situation ends in disaster and the followers who did nothing are just as guilty as the ones instigating the harm.

I want to empower you, dear reader, to take action when you see evil happening around you, even if it isn’t affecting you directly. This could be as simple as reporting unprofessional or harmful behavior–it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to get up in a bully’s face. Even if it’s only in a small way, you always have the ability to be someone’s cavalry: the reinforcement that keeps them going and saves them from giving up or giving in.

Next, I want to talk about when people let you down. Specifically, when authority figures let you down. Personally, I was raised in a household where we respect authorities–from parents right up to public officials. Especially in certain situations, like extracurricular groups I’ve been in for years, classes run by family friends, or summer camps like this one, I find myself simply expecting managers, teachers, and overseers to have my best interests at heart. Sometimes, it just seems logical that when you need them, powerful, kindly, benevolent people will come through.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to discover multiple times in my life that the people you look up to don’t always come through–and that’s okay.

That doesn’t mean that you should respect them any less. It simply means that you can’t put them on a higher mental pedestal than the one that really matters: God.

Yes, humans can be kind, good, and wise supervisors and managers–but they will never be perfect, and you can’t expect them to be, or you’ll only be let down. This might sound miserable, but it can actually serve to point us to our Savior, who will never let us down, always hears our prayers, and has the perfect plan for our lives.

So, what should you do when people let you down? What should you do when all your friends are suddenly followers going along with something immoral, authority figures aren’t helping, and you just don’t know what to do? Today, I want you to know, dear reader, that it’s okay to walk away. Walking away from something dangerous is not the same thing as running away in fear. You should never be ashamed of your choice to get out of a bad situation, and I beg you, don’t spend precious time wondering what might have happened if you had acted differently. I made the mistake of wasting mental energy on that this week, and I wish I hadn’t. One of my favorite books of the Bible, James, talks about double-mindedness like this in a really poignant way:

 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

James 1:5-8

If you feel that God is leading you to walk away, don’t bother second-guessing it afterwards. Spending time wondering about what might have happened had you taken different actions does absolutely nothing for you–it’s literally spending energy on emptiness.

Honestly, I probably spent too much time this week wondering what could have happened if I had stuck it out in this job. The truth of the matter is that God obviously wanted me to get out–and who am I to question His plan? There’s probably a really good reason(s) that He didn’t want me to be at camp this week. I have to rest in knowing that His plan is bigger and better than anything I can wrap my head around, and I didn’t run away in fear–I chose to walk away in confidence.

Am I heartbroken over leaving my beloved camp? Absolutely. However, I can still look back at my memories of the people I had the privilege of serving with joy and love. I may have had to walk away, but I still get to be proud of the impact I made. Even though this was my first time working at camp and I didn’t know anybody at the beginning, I was still able to find ways to love on people. I got to make dozens upon dozens of cookies for my coworkers, lend them a listening ear when they needed to talk, and come up with jokes to bond over. I got to serve countless beautiful children, whether that meant giving them a fourth helping of mac & cheese, searching in the Arts and Crafts supply room for ten minutes to find that perfect giant purple pom-pom, singing “Let it Go” with them for the fiftieth time, or comforting them when they missed home. 

Your impact goes far, y’all–farther than you can imagine. There were days at camp when I honestly questioned whether I annoy people, and whether anyone actually likes me…but the number of people who wrote me this week, of their own free will and accord, just to say hi and make sure I was okay, made me realize that even though I had to walk away, my time at camp was not spent in vain.

On that note, if you are one of those people and you happen to be reading this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m truly sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye to you–I wish with all my heart that I could hear your voice again and hug you, and thank you for a summer of truly gorgeous memories.

I’ll be honest…the first day or two after I left camp, I was in complete and utter shock. I couldn’t believe that I had made a decision so quickly, and I felt like I was grieving a loss. That’s the last point I want to leave you with, dear reader: it’s okay to grieve when immorality ruins the things you love. It’s natural, and it’s important to let those emotions run their course so you can bring them to God in prayer. In the midst of all my tears and hurt that first night home from camp, I stumbled upon a random quote thing on Facebook that said: Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith…it is the price of love.” That little quote by an unknown author hit me so hard that night. I am incredibly thankful that I had enough good times at camp that losing it broke my heart. Tiny things add up, my friends: giving smiles across the cafeteria for no reason, having heartfelt conversations in rocking chairs, and simply calling a person by name and asking how their day is going while refilling water bottles. As sad as I am to have left without any real closure, I am incredibly thankful for those who had an impact on me, and for all the good, pure laughs and smiles we shared.

As I said at the beginning, I didn’t mean for this to be a venting post. No matter what you’re going through, I hope that perhaps this article helped you to know that you aren’t alone–there are others out there trying to stay on God’s path for their life, too, and it’s okay to be let down by the world. Truly, the only thing to do when sinful humans disappoint you is to look upwards, and lift your eyes unto the stars that were sprinkled in place by the One who is always there for you, who will never let you down, and who is always applauding you for doing what He would want you to do.

 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18

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Author: heritageforher

Mother/Daughter team to be an encouragement to all women.

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