How Do You Decide to Dig In or Walk Out?

Aug 22, 2022

Every break-up, whether in friendships, romance, or jobs, grows from the same root. When to stay and when to go in any situation is never easy. The more personal the relationship, the more difficult the decision. Closeness facilitates or complicates clarity.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4.2 million U.S. workers quit their jobs in June as the “Great Resignation” continued. In July a Joblist report showed 26% of its respondents regretted leaving their job, and 42% indicated they were unhappy with their new position. Many others have joined the “Quiet Quitting” movement – where you go to work, put in only the hours required, and refuse responsibilities not part of your job description.

It’s been said most people don’t quit their jobs; they quit their managers. Why?

The same reason people walk away from friendships, marriages, and families.      

Misaligned expectations: The root of all break-ups.

How do you know when to say “Enough!”? Not just as it applies to the big decisions like careers, friendships, and marriages, but “I’m leaving my way of doing things.” Not because your ways are wrong, but because they’re no longer effective or appropriate. Somethings work for a while but eventually need an update or replacement. Just as new technology replaces old mechanics, sometimes our methods become obsolete.

In the First Great Commandment, we’re told to “Love God…with all our minds.” The goodness and greatness of God is revealed by using our brains to think. To investigate. Make discoveries. Wrestle with ideas. When we love God with our minds by engaging thoughtfully with matters, we’re fulfilling the first universal calling.

Sooner or later everyone must answer, “Should I stay or go?”

 As I’ve written in other posts, I offer no formulas, only principles for pondering and prayer. Here are seven questions to explore, within yourself and with someone else, for guidance when you’re deciding whether to stay or go in a situation.  

1. Are your expectations reasonable?

Can I tell you a secret? People, I included, tend to think their perspectives and practices are better than everyone else’s. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. We learn early not to say this, but it sure doesn’t keep us from thinking it.

The only way we get away from this ingrained mindset is to admit and counteract. In this area we can learn from Twelve Steps recovery programs. “Hello, my name is Stephanie, and I believe my ways of seeing and engaging with the world are better than yours. I am powerless to change this on my own. Which is why I need help.”

Deciding if our expectations are reasonable by ourselves is like diagnosing serious symptoms using only the internet. The humility of listening to others and through the Scriptures increases the likelihood of accurately assessing the fairness of our expectations.


2. Have you clearly communicated your expectations?

All teachers around the world would start dancing if telling was communicating. If only! But it’s not. Communicating starts with clarity on your side and ends with clarity coming back to you. Here’s a great place to take a cue from God: Write your expectations. If you can’t write an expectation in one or two sentences, it’s still hazy for you and will be pea-soup foggy for someone else.


3. Do you have a clear understanding of the other person’s expectations?

Ask, don’t assume. Ask the other person to commit their expectations to writing. Not only will it bring you clarity, but it can help them discover what they really want and whether it’s do-able and reasonable.


4. Has the other person had the means and opportunity to meet your expectations?

Sometimes people lack skills because of inadequate knowledge and training. All abilities come from observation or instruction, whether it’s acquired from an in-person teacher or through listening and reading. No one is ever truly self-taught. Just because it’s obvious to you doesn’t mean it’s universally understood.

If someone isn’t meeting expectations due to a lack of knowledge or ability, have they had the opportunity to grow and develop skills and chosen to not do so?  


5. Are you enduring trauma or a trial?

When problems with people are in the “normal” mode, they have a beginning and ending. They’re definable and solvable. They tend to be situational rather than ongoing. They don’t dominate your interactions. This doesn’t make them easy, but it shows they’re within the “healthy” zone of a relationship.

(It’s crucial to clarify I’m not referring to spiritual trials which fall outside the bounds of ordinary people-to-people relational issues.)

Trauma is different. It’s difficult to identify the issue. Triggers aren’t tied to a few specific situations. Solutions are fuzzy, non-existent, or ever-changing. Navigating a traumatic relationship is like trying to walk on gelatin. A healthy one will have its share of rough patches, but it’ll still feel like you’ve got something solid under your feet.


6. If you stay in an ongoing difficult place, what’s your motivation?

You’ve got to be brutally honest with this answer, especially as a Christian. Why? Because there’s a long list of reasons to remain in or walk away from a difficult place that sounds “Biblical.” Scripture, misused or misunderstood, can be an effective hiding place or tool of destruction. If you stay, are you afraid of what might happen if you leave? Hoping isn't wishing. Hope anchors in reality; wishing floats on imagination. 


7. If you go, what’s your motivation?

 If only labels determined what was inside a container. I have a friend who makes amazing vanilla. One evening she came for a visit and gifted me a bottle of her infamous liquid spice. Later, when my children came home, I explained the half-empty bottle of “whiskey” was vanilla. “Uh huh, sure, mom.” The sticker on the outside didn’t accurately capture what was on the inside.

Often it only takes sticking the label “toxic,” “controlling, “abusive,” or “incompatible” on a spouse, manager, friend, or family member as justification to leave. It’s as if those words declare, “No probing needed!” But truth always stands up to intense scrutiny and cross-examination. Invite others to poke and prod your expectations. Proverbs 15:22 summarizes a key concept scattered throughout this book of wisdom. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” I wonder how many of Joblist’s 26% of “I wish I’d kept my old job” had consulted with “many advisors.”


In Acts 15, the apostles Paul and Barnabas had a dispute so serious they decided to go their separate ways. Scripture doesn’t assign a “right” and “wrong” to either of them. Sometimes separations don’t have an antagonist and protagonist; they just have people with incompatible expectations. It’s likely people took sides in the Paul vs Barnabas fight. But neither apostle fomented separation by starting a “Pro John Mark” or “Anti John Mark” group or organization.

Neither got off mission.

They didn’t walk away from their calling.

They most certainly didn’t impair anyone else’s coming to or following Christ. And this is the greatest factor in deciding whether to pull on your boots and dig in or walk out.


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