On (Almost) Never Burning Bridges…

Sometimes you get the best light from burning a bridge.

Don Henley

A wise person once said, “Never burn bridges, you never know if you’ll need to cross them again.”

This is generally good advice, especially with relationships because you never know who someone might be to you one day. This goes along with being kind toward and considerate of those you meet along your path. Even as often as paths diverge, they often do converge again.

Think of two friends, walking along the road, sharing their story together for a time. At some point, they come to a fork in the road and grow apart. This does not necessarily mean their friendship did not have lasting value, but that they simply took different paths in each of their own lives. This does not mean their time together was meaningless because it was not shared forever but very much the opposite. Each of their lives were enriched by each other for the time they shared their journey on the same road together. Perhaps, they’d meet again one day when they might share another part of the road together once again. More still, the roads on which each of the friends is traveling may even be parallel and intersect on many occasions.

Often—as roads tend to do—there are bridges to cross. These are challenging times that one must traverse to get to the other side of a raging river or precipitous drop. This can come in many forms. Perhaps it’s a big life change such as move to a new place, changing jobs, or entering or leaving a relationship. Maybe it’s a smaller choice. Either way, you must cross the bridge to move forward and continue your journey.

Travelers know that sometimes the way forward involves going back the way they came. The smart thing to do is leave a trail for yourself to know how to get back in case you need to turn around and trace your steps to a point from which you can take a different path. If you happened to cross a bridge, it only makes sense to leave it intact should you need to cross it again one day. Therein lies idea that you should “never burn bridges”…well, almost never.

There are times when it makes sense to burn the bridge. There are times when you should cross and never look back. There are occasionally bridges that must be burned. The thing is, you must judge your circumstances and decide for yourself which ones those are. Traditionally, burning bridges helped keep enemies at bay. Burning bridges can keep bad situations from following you and holding you back.

Here some ideas on when bridges might need burning:

⁃ Toxic relationships

⁃ Unhealthy or unreasonable working conditions

⁃ Unethical behaviors

⁃ Circumstances causing you to be untrue to your self

⁃ Trauma-inducing experiences

What else might belong on this list (for you)?

If you must burn a bridge, make sure you’re not still on it.

No one will be able to tell you what’s right and what’s wrong for you but you. The hard part is not always knowing which is which until later, but you have to trust in your ability to move forward. Uncertainty will always be part of trudging ahead and though it may feel comforting to think you can always go back, sometimes you simply can’t—and that’s okay.

In summary: In life, there are roads. The roads can diverge and converge again. There are bridges. Sometimes, going backwards is necessary and leaving bridges intact is prudent. Other times, going back is not an option. Some of those times, you might even have to burn a bridge to move forward.

One last thing: If you must burn a bridge, make sure you’re not still on it.

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