As before, this was written before 2003-03-06 and is disappearing from my Web site.
"Don't say good-bye," one says to another, "but see you later."
In practical terms, there is rarely any difference between these two partings. People frequently say good-bye to those they will see the next day or the next week. Only in cases of finality does good-bye take on the meaning of not seeing a person again. The connotation of finality actually has nothing to do with the words themselves, which are a short form of "God be with ye;" people once said it "God by you." Still, this phrase of parting has taken on a number of meanings, from "I'm never coming back" to "Go away." It is often used as a parting, whether the person saying it is the one leaving or the one remaining, whether the parting is for a few minutes, hours, or for life.
Still, what difference is there between saying good-bye or saying see you later?
This differentiation may have started with romantic movies where the heroine stresses herself because she can't bear the thought of never seeing her love again, crying, "Not good-bye. Anything but good-bye." But surely this began earlier than that, because the underlying sentiment is part of human nature, and human nature hasn't made any fundamental changes in the past six thousand years. Humans are finite beings whose lives begin and are over like the mayfly's. To stave off feelings of helplessness and ignore the fact of impermanence in relationships like all other things, we try to deceive ourselves with our words.
Thus, by saying see you later instead of good-bye, we attempt to prevent somehow the passing of a relationship out of our hands. Words are normally powerful, but in this case, the difference in our words is nothing more than vibrations in the air and an indication of where our hearts lie.
Where our hearts lie is not a good place. In this futile attempt to forbid unpleasantness to enter our lives, we show our lack of trust. By this, we show that we do not trust people to be faithful to us, and we show that we do not trust God to take care of all our needs, including our relationships. We should abandon acrobatics in our words and exercise trust: in God first of all, in our friends and relatives thereafter.
Because, when you think about it, there's not much difference between see you later and good-bye. One might easily say see you later, leave, and not come back. Whether by plan or by happening, people do leave with see you later and are never seen again. Using three words instead of two did not prevent it.
So use whatever parting you want. I know I will.
NB: While I still agree with this sentiment, I have had trouble putting it into practice in recent years. Since 2008, I have tended to avoid saying good-bye on most occasions. So, I was probably right about a lack of trust. I need to improve on this. --16/7/15