Breaking or burning a bridge is an idiom that describes straining, stressing, disconnecting, or breaking a deep or shared bond you have with others. So…
About burning bridges – dont’!
Yesterday, while helping a friend, who is 86, she said something that brought back sad memories and a difficult lesson. Naito said,and I paraphrase, “Never burn your bridges. Never! Even if people are A_*, don’t burn them. You never know what tomorrow holds. That’s what helped me do so well in life.”
Yes, she is loaded. That’s why she said – helped me do so well.
Then, she pointed to Alex* who connected us and said and I paraphrase, “And that’s why he is alone. He can’t put up with anyone or anything and he tells them to go f..* themselves. That’s why no one wants to talk to him.”
And she was right. Alex, is doing well for himself and though he turns 66 today, he has an estranged relationship with many and is alone. And truly, its sad. Yet, I nearly took this path myself.
First, Lot’s Experience
Much can be learned from Lot, Abraham’s nephew. He is the first person I spotted in the bible who burnt his bridge and ended up stranded. How do I know he burnt his bridge with his uncle, Abraham (Abram then)? The answer is:
After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, when Lot and his daughters escaped and his wife turned into a pillar of salt, why did he not return or think of returning to his uncle Abraham for help? – (1)
When you are in trouble and have no where to go, who do you reach out to first? Family! If you can’t or feel afraid to, then, “Houston – we have a problem!” and most likely that problem is a burnt or broken bridge.
If this is the case then, you probably didn’t resolve a conflict well, ended your last conversation poorly, did something stupid, or didn’t care about how the other person felt because you were set on accomplishing or achieving something. Perhaps the hope was to return and wow or prove someone wrong.
But the gap created by a burnt bridge, builds in unhealthy thoughts, emotions, and imaginations in-between that hurts the other party but alienates you more than anything else. Without realizing it your ego builds in fear and regret which become revealed when you fall or realize you need help and only the people you hurt can help you. That’s when you realize the importance of not breaking bridges. Only humility and a very real, I’m sorry, followed by a healing conversation, and time is what is required to reconnect separated souls.
In Lot’s conflict with his uncle concerning grazing space for each of their flock, and after Abraham gave Lot first choice, Lot looked up (greed), chose for himself (no consideration for his uncle), the best land (dishonor) toward the East and separated from his uncle in the heat of things leading to a burn bridge (2). As it says, “They separated themselves from each other (3)” not their one’s flock from the other – each other.
Though my motive wasn’t similar to Lot’s, I would say I followed a similar path that strained my relationship with a close cousin because of misunderstood and miscommunicated intentions and actions. It cost me a lot and when I was almost homeless, I realized there was nowhere for me to turn to but to her or another cousin I had almost burnt a bridge with as well because of poor communication.
Lessons from my experience in 3-bits
Unlike Lot, I reached out to one of them. If not for them, I wouldn’t be bouncing back from hard emotional, spiritual, and financial times. Since that time, I have enjoyed introspecting and learning the missing piece of the puzzle of my life which is – family, friends, and preserving relationships. Something, I never saw around me or learned growing up. Truly, truly, from my heart, I can say now with joy and thanksgiving that,
“It was good for me that I was afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes (4).”
In the place of afflicted, other bible translations use humbled and suffer. As a whole they tell me that I was afflicted, suffered, and was humbled through these experiences.
I guess I learned the lesson!
So, I agree with my friend – Naito. The most valuable lesson I have learned, and now share with you in 3 easily readable and manageable bits, is this:
Never burn a bridge. Never, under any circumstance, break or burn a bridge with any person even if they act like jerks and you have to separate from them. We have all been jerks at some point in our lives. So give other people a break. Instead, let people be people.
And if you have to separate from people, it is wiser to be strategic in your separation, rather than spontaneous in your answer. It will keep you from being alienated and serve you well in the long run.
After all, you don’t know what the future holds. Plus, people can change and often do change. You did! What makes you think others can’t!?
NB: Strategic in your separation in the sense that you understand our common humanity, but have to carefully let go temporarily of a deep/shared connection with someone else without hurting them.
Not spontaneous in your response in the sense that in your anger, you should try not to shut someone out, shut the someone down, or shut down the conflict all together with things still unresolved, hence building unhealthy emotions in-between, and burning a bridge which may take months and if not, years, a humble heart, and a painful experience to bring you full circle.
The best way for me to end this post is to refer you to a social experiment that was done in NYC. Watch the short 3-mins video here, go to time 0:55 to 1:02, and listen to the gentleman’s brief response.
I hope this blesses you.
One Love, One Spirit
Endnotes: (1) Genesis 19; (2) Genesis 13:5-11; (3) Genesis 13:11; (4) Ps 199:71 KJV