Last week’s post was “One Bridge at a Time- Crossing Over Troubled Waters”. Today, the bridges we’re talking about are the ones that lead us to other people.
Joseph Fort Newton said, “people are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges”. Newton was a Baptist minister who led congregations in Texas, New York and Overbrook, Pennsylvania, about an hour from where I’m writing this.
I agree with Newton. There are a lot of people who are much better “wall-builders” than “bridge-crossers”.
I wrote about Erik Erikson last month in “An Identity Crisis & The Wizard of Oz”. Erikson’s first of eight psychosocial phases is “trust vs. mistrust” which begins with infancy. We all come into this world with different sets of circumstances. Some babies are born to families who have longed for a child and honor and cherish the opportunity to walk through life and lift that child up in love. Then there are those who are born into a family where the reality of raising a child is a whole lot more than the parent(s) thought it would be, and the child soon realizes that she really isn’t all that important; isn’t smart enough or pretty enough or quiet enough or outgoing enough. Sadly, there are so many who are born into circumstances where they’re not “wanted” from the first breath they take. There are an abundance of reasons why “we are who we are” today.
Most people have at least one story of making an attempt (crossing a bridge) to build a relationship with another person and having it fail. If you’ve moved around a lot it’s likely that you’ve had to cross new bridges regularly. You put on your best outfit, arm yourself with your best smile and start over again (and again).
For a lot of people it’s easy to build “peripheral” relationships- the ones where you “know” people, but there’s no significant connection. You never get to the part of being truly “real”. Most of us are not true loners, so we desire some sort of interaction with other humans. Those connections range from downright surface ones (hug-hug, “oh my gosh those shoes are just stunning!”) to the ones where you can be yourself without ANY editing and STILL be loved. Thank God for those.
There are relationships
where you’re on high alert all the time because one sentence, that doesn’t get the stamp of approval, sends the other person into a tirade.
where you KNOW you can never do enough, say the right thing, BE enough.
where you’ve been hurt- physically, verbally, emotionally.
where you’re always “on”, always playing a role, always watching yourself through the eyes of others.
where you never feel like anyone “has your back”, where you never really matter.
where it’s ALWAYS what the other person wants.
When all you’re in are those types of relationships, it’s no wonder you don’t want add another “bridge crossing” to your life’s resume.
When we’re very young, many of us are naturally open to new experiences; to meeting and interacting with new people; to trying new things. In spite of how our first few years of life play out, for a lot of people it doesn’t take long until the shininess of that wears off. We don’t understand why we’re on the outside looking in, why we’re not lovable, why we keep getting hurt.
We decide we need shelter from life’s storms so that we can take cover. We start to build protection.
When we build walls, it makes it much more challenging for people to reach us, to “get to us”. Wall building can be anything from walking around with a perpetual smile on our face (often that’s a mask that hides internal angst) to simply going with the flow (which often turns out to be letting everyone around us decide everything for us) to a complete shut-down.
Building walls seems so much easier than boldly braving the bridge. We build a little wall first- just big enough so that when we venture out (into the sometimes scary world) we can turn around, run fast, jump back over it, get really “small” and hide behind it. A lot of us do really well with this “level 1 protection wall” built from something like sand or leaves (sad, lonely). If we end up sprinting and jumping over that wall often enough, we end up building a slightly sturdier divider. This “level 2 protection wall” is made of a more substantial material like brick or wood (bullied, wounded). This wall still affords us the opportunity to go out into the “big, scary world” but we have to climb up and over it; no more running jumps. When we’ve had to run back and retreat behind wall number 2 long enough, we finally build the “level 3 protection wall”. This one is serious stuff. It’s an impenetrable wall. NO ONE IS GETTING IN. It’s made of steel or concrete (scarred, crushed) and reinforced with pain and abandonment.
When we get to level 3, we’ve pretty much given up on the idea of ever crossing a bridge again. We’re hunkering down for the long hall. We’ve gotten to the place where we KNOW that it’s a heck of a lot easier to hide in our safe place than venture out into the world.
I hope you have not built a wall that doesn’t give you the opportunity to see the light. Decide to give crossing a bridge one more try (please, our world needs YOU).
When you do that:
be vulnerable but don’t be a doormat
be open but don’t be a blank slate for others to write on
be outgoing but don’t be disingenuous
be fun to be around but don’t be always have to be the life of the party
be yourself, BE yourself
Some bridges are easier to cross than others, aren’t they?
Some bridges have sunshine and beautiful flowers on the other side and you can’t wait to get there.
Some bridges end at a forest, and it’s so dark that you really can’t see what you’re walking in to.
Some bridges have crowds of people happily waiting for you once you make the trek.
Some bridges have no one at all on the other side, or worse, people who are saying “why the heck did you cross the bridge?”
Some bridges are the ones you’ve admired for years but just never made the time to cross.
Some bridges are very familiar because you’ve run back and forth over them a dozen times.
Are you ready to take one more chance?
Are you ready to build a bridge instead of a wall?
My prayer for you this week is that you cross bridges that lead you to meet wonderful, new people; people who’ve been waiting for you to make that journey.
Wishing you peace,
©2015 Peace Full Home/Intentional Living