49 BC – Roman Province of Gaul
The Roman Senate issued an order to General Julius Caesar as he looked across the Rubicon River toward Italy. He, along with his legions of battle hardened soldiers, were to lay down their weapons. Caesar was to return to Rome alone. Not being the obedient type, Caesar crossed the river separating the two provinces and marched his forces toward Rome.
While initially victorious, the now Emporer Julius Caesar’s reign would be short lived. When he crossed the Rubicon, engaged in the battle for Rome, and became victorious, he was no longer a military commander.
He became an emporer who allowed his emotions to control him. He betrayed the most basic diplomatic principles and many of those men who had given him the world.
He would soon lie dead in the chamber of the Roman Senate; murdered by a large group of senators. By the time Brutus and Cassius drew their daggers, Julius Caesar had already burned many bridges that brought him to power.
The term “burning bridges” has more than one meaning. But, the phrase we know today describes what a person can do in his or her community to damage themselves and others without even knowing it.
Every community has a network of “bridges”, or connectors that form the body of towns, personal networks, political organizations, etc. Each community is comprised of sub-parts like the medical, educational, legal, and business networks.
From the moment we can communicate as children, we are either building or burning bridges.
Human relationships are complex and oftentimes include conflict. We deal with conflict in our own way. Some folks even create conflict where none existed. They seem to have been born that way.
Building bridges through trust, gratitude, and loyalty not only benefits the individual, but everyone around them. For instance, while I may be just a little biased, west Georgia has some of the best schools, hospitals, and quality of living in the world. This did not just happen. It would take a month to list all of our community leaders who have made west Georgia a special place to live and work. They, along with thousands of others, have created jobs, improved our justice system, and made our schools the example of excellence.
It is character, not reputation, that makes the builder of bridges. Without good character, it is impossible to build. It is similar to looking across a ravine with plans to build a bridge. Yet, there are not tools, materials, or equipment to do so. The bridge will not be built.
When forging ahead with plans and projects, conflict with others is certain. However, the manner in which we deal with others determines whether a bridge is connected or destroyed forever. Here, the person’s character controls the outcome.
Sometimes, we burn bridges within our community. Regrettably, I have done so at times in my life.
But, Papa Jack Worley taught a very stubborn boy that God requires us to make amends to those we have been in conflict with. With some exceptions, conflict has two perspectives. Papa Jack suggested looking at my part in the problem and apologizing. He said that making amends is not easy. Blaming others, circumstances, and refusing to take responsibility is a much easier, but lower path to take. Making amends requires humility, honesty, and the willingness to forgive.
The above can be a tall order. But, if this can be done, the water needed to extinguish the fire is often provided to save the bridge. Even if the bridge is not saved, we have the peace of knowing we took the “high road.”
The person who consistently sets fire to relationships will eventually lose every connector needed to be a community leader, productive citizen, or the man/woman they wanted to be.
It is mysterious and surprising to see how many times someone suddenly realizes that they need help from the very person they burned a connection to.
Only then does the consequence of the charred bridge become realized.