When Courage Means Saying Goodbye


Bethany Olsen -Goodbye4

I’ve been an editor for SheLoves for more than three and a half years. When I first started reading the magazine, well before I joined the editorial team, it was at a time when I needed to drink up words of freedom and justice. I needed to see the embodiment of women leading in the church. I desperately needed to know that it’s OK to stop fighting for a seat at the table; that there is another way.

As Sarah Bessey says:

This is one more gift that the emerging church gave me more than a decade ago: when you don’t find it, you simply create it. You emerge from what currently is into what will be, as pioneers, rule-breakers. Stop waiting for permission and get on with the work that God has called you to, stop waiting for permission and be brave, be courageous, be boldly full of Love and gentleness but step out into the space to create.

That’s what SheLoves has signified to me. It began when I decided to do something that felt big and bold, something very unlike me. I emailed Idelette on January 1, 2013, in a very New Years Resolution-y sense of self resolve, asking, “What can I do for this community? Is there a way for me to contribute?” I knew that I could spend forever sitting in the shadows, not commenting, not speaking up, not sharing my voice because it’s too scary—not just with SheLoves, but in all areas of my life. But I no longer wanted to. I needed so desperately to force myself off the bench. This was a defining moment, a tangible decision to get in the game.

It was absolutely terrifying.

Since then, I’ve learned and grown so much, soaking up the vibrancy and life this space has given. But now I need to say goodbye, at least to my role on the editorial team. I’ve started grad school while working full-time. Most days I can’t even remember what day of the week it is (but I can tell you all about the evolution of management theory if you ever want a good story).

It’s time, I know it’s time, but it’s very hard for me to not equate “goodbye” with “I’ve failed.” Because of that, I’d like to edge away quietly and under the radar. Better to not even talk about it, or acknowledge All The Feelings. Better to go back to the bench and tell myself that I’m just not really that great at being in the game after all, right?

I want to slink off with an apologetic whisper: “It’s not working out, I’m sorry. I’m doing grad school and I just can’t do it all. I should have done more and been more and learned much better how to use my voice. I should have written better words, been less afraid of community, been better at leaning in despite my fears. I’m sorry I haven’t done these things, and now it’s too late, now I have to go.”

But I don’t want to do that this time. The place has taught me how to be brave, and it’s time for bravery now. So, instead I’m taking a deep breath, and choosing not to slink away. Instead, I want to say thank you to this community. Thank you for being Jesus to me, for being a community of women who are fiercely encouraging, for being Women who Love. Thank you for being the words on my screen I desperately needed when I was in my mid-twenties and so unsure of what it meant to be a woman in the church-with-a-capital-C. Thank you for sticking with me as I entered my thirties as a single woman with a failing parent, unsure of what the word “family” means anymore. Thank you for being a safe space.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this community, it’s that the world needs my voice.

The world needs your voice, too. We need to speak up and speak out and speak truth into the darkness, and we need to do it together. This place taught me that, and it’s a lesson I’m taking with me, even as I say goodbye for now.

Bethany Olsen
I'm a writer located just south of the Canadian border in northwest Washington. Passionate about connection through personal story and finding one's voice, I am continually seeking both of those things. When not writing and editing, I can be found drinking copious amounts of coffee, watching "Project Runway," or traveling the world. I blog at bethanyolsen.wordpress.com
Bethany Olsen
Bethany Olsen

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  1. “It’s very hard for me to not equate “goodbye” with “I’ve failed.”

    Woah. *taking a mental note* This preached to me.

    I need to remember this.

    You are so loved, B. I’m so grateful you forced yourself off the bench and waltzed your fine self into my world, our world. I’ve cherished our time together in more ways than I can articulate. I can’t wait to see how the next two years pan out.

    You’re a ballsy-ballsy girl.

    Cheering you on, love.


    Always in your corner,

    • Bethany Olsen Bethany Olsen says:

      You are one of those people I can’t believe I get to know because you’re just too cool for school. I’m SO glad our paths crossed, and I can’t wait to pop down to Seattle to be part of your fall welcoming committee to Washington. I love the way you question things and think deeply, and the way you make ME think deeply. You’re a keeper, Teen, and I adore you.

  2. In all the moving I’ve done throughout my life, saying goodbye with grace escapes me. It’s awkward and I stumble over the emotions. Your voice continues to inform and show the way of grace and truth. Thank you for speaking out and up and knowing that the world needs your voice.

    • Bethany Olsen Bethany Olsen says:

      Goodbyes are SO hard. I really like to pretend they aren’t happening. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  3. I haven’t been reading this magazine long, but I love it. So thanks for helping it and sharing your story. And don’t forget to enjoy graduate school and all the experiences and blessings it brings your way.

  4. I’ve also had to say good-bye to a job that I loved, and you totally nailed it when you wrote, “it’s very hard for me not to equate ‘goodbye’ with ‘I’ve failed…” Thanks for being brave, and encouraging us to do so, too. Good luck on your next chapter!

    • Bethany Olsen Bethany Olsen says:

      Thank you Leah! It’s so hard to say goodbye to GOOD things. I’m sorry you have had to say goodbye to a job you loved. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s such a gift to have had these experiences in life that it’s hard to say goodbye to.

  5. Thank you for being brave, Bethany. Thank you, too, for all the love you poured into the SheLoves community. May this next season be rich and rewarding, and may it bring you ever deeper into the love of Christ and more into the fullness of who you are created to be.

  6. Thank you so much for your example here Bethany. Perseverance is such a core value (maybe an idol at times?) for me, so when I need to move on, failure is implied the temptation to slink away is SOOO strong. The approach you’re modeling is so much healthier for everyone involved. Every blessing on you and your courageous voice.

    • Bethany Olsen Bethany Olsen says:

      Oh, you hit the nail on the head. I’m very much into persevering until it kills me… which totally makes it harder to move on because of course when you’re to THAT point, you really aren’t nailing it anymore. Thanks for the encouraging words!

  7. pastordt says:

    You go with everyone’s gratitude and blessing!! Brave girls, unite!!

  8. Roos Woller says:

    Wow Bethany I am so proud of you and yes you are brave. If there is one thing I have learned its that change is enavitable but we can chose how we are going to approach and handle it and you have done it beautifully.

    • Bethany Olsen Bethany Olsen says:

      Oh Roos, you are one of my heroes in life. I love the way you see the world, and the way you’ve challenged ME to see the world. And there’s some Martha-Stewart-Cookie-Recipe gratitude floating around there too, in a big way. 😉 Love you, and I’m glad that as you said, this is not the end.

  9. Bethany, you’re so right about creating that opportunity and owning who you are. What beautiful courage and dignity. Thank you for being an example to us.

  10. Helen Burns Helene Burns says:

    Congratulations on following your dream into new adventures and thank you Bethany for all your have sown into the soil of SLM… your ‘fruit’ is beautiful. Be blessed in all you do in this next season of life. xo

    • Bethany Olsen Bethany Olsen says:

      Thank you Helen. I don’t think I’ve expressed this, but the way you love the SLM community is just incredibly beautiful. I’m amazed that you take the time to know so many names and stories. It’s people like you that make this community so special.

  11. YES! The world needs your voice and I can’t wait to keep hearing it and hearing what God does next in your life. This place has been all this for me too and I am thankful for “meeting you” here. Blessings, sister!

    • Bethany Olsen Bethany Olsen says:

      Thank you Nicole! And I wish you the best as you join the editorial team! I’m just sad that I won’t get to know you as well as if I were still on the team. But I will cheer on your writing from afar!

  12. fiona lynne says:

    I’m so excited for this new season for you! I’m so glad you were brave that January, because otherwise I’d never have got the joy of meeting you, of reading your words. Your voice matters. The world is a better place when Bethany Olsen speaks up. Love you x

    • Bethany Olsen Bethany Olsen says:

      Awww Fiona. I’m SO glad I’ve gotten to know you too. I feel so spoiled because I’ve gotten to have face time with you so many times, and I’ve gotten to see your kiddos! You have brightened every work trip I’ve gotten to see you on, and I hope there are more to come!!

  13. Yes! This community has been my on-ramp for brave truth-telling as well — truly a supportive “family.”
    I’m so thrilled for you, Bethany, that you are following your calling by laying a great educational foundation for it!

    • Bethany Olsen Bethany Olsen says:

      I love that! The “on-ramp.” Such a good description. Thank you for your kind words, and here’s to the continuing online community!

  14. How I’m going to miss my Tuesday editor! But you need to dedicate yourself to grad school now, and one no is connected to a full-throated yes to that educational endeavor and, as such, it is a good thing. You are stretching into new spaces, new seasons. No need to ever apologize for that, friend! I’m so excited for you to fully embrace learning, working, loving your family well. You have our support, admiration and love wherever you go! You are a woman of valor!

    • Bethany Olsen Bethany Olsen says:

      “one no is connected to a full-throated yes.” <– LOVE that. I'm a total fan-girl about you, and I hope our paths cross again in-person. In the meantime, I'm cheering you and your book on, and I can't wait to read it when it comes out!

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