How many bridges do we deal with on a daily basis, other than our dental bridge and the bridge of our nose? Those who know me personally, or through my writing of this Echoes column, realize I have a love affair with words, and that bridge to the affair will last forever.

The love of words comes from the work of playing around with them. We learn words by hearing them, rolling them around on our tongues and in our minds. A person who loves language can be serious or playful with it. The patterns and sounds of words are fascinating to the lover of words.

For example, during my first year of college, I learned that the word “dormitory” could be rearranged into a “dirty room.” Actually, that is what is known as an anagram, which are letters of a word or phrase used to produce a new word or phrase. And if you’re a mathematician, then you are probably aware that the letters in the phrase “eleven plus two” can also spell out “twelve plus one,” and both equal 13.

If you like, or love using words to build bridges in your life, as I do, then you’re probably what is known as either a “logophile,” or as I refer to myself, a “wordologist,” meaning I like to create things out of words. And even though I relate the words “adore, affection, and cherish,” to my wife, there are times I seem to relate these same words to creative writing.

I believe that love is the strongest bridge we can build in our lives, but unfortunately there are other bridges we also seem to build in a very strong way — some of which seem to be set in concrete and indestructible.

What are some of these bridges I, and perhaps you, have built? We build a “people bridge” whenever we make a new friend, or work with a new colleague. However, the most difficult bridges to form seem to be those between competitors, foreign nations, political parties, and even some in our own church congregations. These are the gaps that need to be bridged. We need to find ways of joining them together, as do the physical bridge builders — finding out what works and what doesn’t. Perhaps if we thought about the physical and the human bridge as one, then we might be more successful of bridging some of the gaps in our lives.

Of course, the main purpose of any bridge is to span a gap in order to connect two places. How about the bridges to our past? We have connections that reach across time, linking us to our previous experiences. These bridges can benefit us by providing access to a storehouse of pleasant memories and helpful lessons. However, these same bridges can also harm us by keeping us in contact with forgettable events in our personal history. One of the hardest things to know in life is which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn.

Prior to sharing my thoughts on burning those bridges, I would like to share a post made on Facebook by a dear friend in California while I was working on this Echoes column. It greatly enhances what I have been sharing. She said, “If you arrange the letters in ‘Depression,’ you’ll get, ‘I pressed on,’ meaning that your current situation is not your final destination.”

There are four bridges in life that I personally believe should be burned:

Bridge 1: “Wrongs done to us” bridges to the past hold us captive when they drive us to remember the pain others have caused us. If there are people who have wronged you, give them something perhaps they don’t deserve, but desperately need — forgiveness. It’s a gift that, once given, offers something in return — your spirit/your mind will feel free.

Bridge 2: “The unfairness of life.” At times, we seem to deal with bad luck. In these times, we may be tempted to act like victims, maintaining a bridge to the past by blaming others in our lives for what we’re dealing with. We need a mature perspective of the situation, which allows us to burn bridges to what seems to be past wrongs. Then we can rise above life’s problems instead of believing we’re victims of them.

Bridge 3: “Growth preventers.” Bad habits serve as bridges to the past. Sometimes we keep them because it’s difficult to let them go. However, they keep us from reaching our full potential. Breaking unhealthy patterns of behavior requires making hard decisions. We may also need to cut ties to things, people, places, or organizations when we experience a negative influence on us.

Bridge 4: “Our own stupidity.” I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life. However, sometimes we cannot seem to let go of failure. Instead of learning from our failures, we allow them to define us. By forgiving ourselves, we burn the bridge to our past failures and free ourselves to move forward. We usually are told to not burn bridges in life. This is good advice when dealing with our relationships. However, burning bridges to certain aspects of our past can be a very healthy thing to do.

So you may want to ask yourself: Whom do I need to forgive in order to burn bridges of bitterness? What past circumstances do I need to accept in order to not blame others? In what ways do I need to burn bridges to habits in order to have a healthy life? What failures do I need to forgive myself for in order to burn the bridge of regret?

Readers of my Echoes column know that I am “faith-based,” so I need to talk briefly about the following: Some picture the path to heaven as a ladder you climb. For example, every good deed you do allows you to climb up another rung on the ladder. But that is not what the Bible teaches. Read John 14:6. Instead of a ladder, visualize a bridge from earth to heaven — Jesus being that bridge you should cross. That bridge is indestructible.

Note: Being a retired English teacher, I need to keep the ink flowing. One of the ways I do this is by assisting others in writing their memoirs, family histories, and legacy letters. If anyone is interested, my email address is: amsstark@msn.com.

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