The #1 Reason Closure Is a Lie

I noticed a whole bunch of social media posts over the past few weeks with a similar theme: “Goodbye, 2015. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” Every year I hear a similar tune – the future is bound to be better than this.


I’m someone who loves a good symbolic fresh start, so I appreciate the hopefulness the new year can bring, but I’m wary of the “closure” some people automatically feel when a new calendar page is turned over. We all want closure in order to feel better about past hurts, so of course people will seek it anywhere they can find it. Think about a failed romantic relationship – rejection is a hurt that can cause lasting damage, so we all want to get over the pain as quickly as possible. But if this “closure” works, how do you find it and triumph over those lingering hurts?


I’ve heard people say that closure is a lie before, and there are a few reasons they give for saying so. First, many people think the mere act of seeking closure shows you aren’t mentally ready for closure. In fact, that’s one reason…


Reason #3. Closure sometimes is a hidden excuse to stay in a cycle of “why?”

When we aren’t ready to let go but circumstances are forcing us to do so anyway, we say that we’re stuck in limbo until we “get some closure.” Once I interviewed for a job I thought I was a shoo-in for. I had all the relevant experience, I thought I had a great first interview, but they never called. They never even emailed to say “no, thank you.” For two weeks I waited for a response – even an email saying “we went with a candidate who had more experience than you in area X” would have sufficed. I passed up two other interviews, thinking that they weren’t as good as this other potential job I wasn’t even getting called about. Waiting until closure is just a justification to stay put.


Reason #2. Closure is a lie because no one else can give you closure.

Thinking back to the romantic relationship example, we often seek closure in situations when someone else has done us wrong, hurt us, or let us down. We want to understand the reason, the downward spiral we didn’t see coming. We even tell ourselves we want to look back and see what we did wrong so we don’t make the same mistakes again. Yet two things are true: First, you don’t need the other person to accomplish that kind of evaluation. You can do it yourself, without involving them. Which brings me to the second truth: that the other person may not know the real reasons why, either! Often people don’t truly understand their own motivations, so they’ll make up something that sounds about right, but it may just leave you with more questions. You often can’t get closure entirely from someone else.


But the #1 reason closure is a lie is that closure isn’t a state.

The mental image that “closure” conjures up is shutting a door behind you, right? So you’ve moved from one place to another, and now you are standing on the other side with your past on the other side of that closed door? But closure isn’t a place or a state. It’s an action. You can’t “reach closure” or “get closure,” because it’s not a noun. It’s a verb.


When we say we’re “seeking closure” in order to “move on,” we’re actually doing the opposite: we’re trying to move backwards. We’re trying to get back to the way things used to be. The search for closure is a stalling tactic to stay in this familiar place for a little longer.


What closure entails is a journey. And, like all journeys, it’s unknown and rocky and you don’t know who’s going to be there with you. That’s the bad part. But the good part is that, like all journeys, you get to pick the path.