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When To Burn Your Bridges

Written by | January 10th, 2009

Many times in life we are faced with circumstances that put us in a position that require us to break ties with a current employer, spouse, friend or business partner. When those times come about, our first instinct is to cut the ties and cut them clean leaving a trail of destruction behind us. In other words to burn our bridges.

We have heard it told many times that we should never burn our bridges. This comes from the idea that when the times have changed we may find ourselves in need of our past relationship and if we had severed all ties cleanly and “burned our bridges” coming back later wouldn’t be an option. Consider the married couple that has children and gets divorced. Presumably the couple had issues that couldn’t be resolved, but that doesn’t mean they cannot get along and rely upon one another amicably. In the end, when one parent has troubles, they can rely upon the other for support in managing problems related to the children. In this way, the children are benefitted and the children are not put at odds between parents. Clearly this is one of those instances where burning your bridges wouldn’t be advised. If for no other reason than to allow your children to grow up well adjusted and with two loving parents.

All isn’t roses when we end a relationship. There may have been personal tensions and problems. We may find ourselves in a position where we want to tell our boss just where he can stick his job and how far to stick it. Oh how overwhelming the drive can be, but in this instance, it is once again advisable to retain an amicable separation. How many times have people went out on a whim, desiring a better job, more pay, etc. and thinking they found it, told their boss “take this job and shove it” .. there was even a song written about it. Deep down, I think we all have a secret desire to inflict some sort of retribution on those who held us back or treated us like so much trash. This desire, no matter how good it might make you feel is typically not the best use of energy. Consider what happens when you find out that the greener pastures were astro-turf. Crawling back to your previous employer after burning your bridge isn’t a desirable experience and it certainly wouldn’t endear your ex-employer to give you your job back. Clearly, it is best to leave under positive terms, at least this way if you ever do need them for something else, they will be more likely to provide it.

After all of this, you have to ask yourself if it is ever appropriate to burn your bridges behind you. In a word yes. However it isn’t in the manner most people would imagine. In the 70’s I made a life change. I decided that I would put away all of my sinful ways and follow Christ. This was a particularly easy transition, the benefits were outstanding, the life I left behind was corruptible and I was headed down the path of unrighteousness … but I made a huge error in judgment. I didn’t burn my bridges behind me. This meant that when my Christian walk became tough, I could turn around and head back to where I came from … and I did. Even in 1990 when I turned back around and crossed the bridge in the right direction, I once again failed to burn that bridge and found myself headed back across it by 2002. It is now 2009 and although I don’t generally make resolutions, I have decided that 2009 is the year that I officially burn my bridges to my past sinful life. I have wasted many trips across that bridge to my past and while the trek back is easy, cutting ties to the past isn’t. How many times have we as Christians turned around and went back to our old ways … the answer is crystal clear … far too many. The good news is that even though we turn back, God will never burn his bridge to us and we are free to cross it. My 2009 resolution to burn the bridges to my old life will undoubtedly be painful and hard, but it is necessary. When I am faced with a remnant of my old life, I must have the resolve to turn away and keep from rebuilding those bridges. You are invited to join me, to burn your bridges to your past ways and live life in the fullness of Christ. Together we can support one another on our Christian path.

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5 thoughts on “When To Burn Your Bridges

  1. markross

    Yes indeed…
    I have said many, many times, that "we are all free to live the life that we feel is best for us", however, I do (firmly) believe that there is (just about always) a way of doing so with integrity.

    Whenever there is another person involved, then consideration for the other person's feelings really should be brought into consideration. One reason is out of pure respect for that person, the other is, as you say, the greener pastures may not be astro-turf. In this case, a person's impulses allowed their moment of gratification to destroy any hopes for a future with someone that they later realize they loved very much.

    Even if your intentions are not to return to something you left, you still have to live with yourself, and often, your actions can later be more painful for you then to the person that you have hurt, or loved.

    K, I have also heard you say, in the past, "some people can not see beyond their own selfishness". Again, I reiterate, people should be able to live the life that they feel they would like to live; that in and of itself is not selfish, however, to blatantly disregard another person's feelings, financial stability etc.., is "extreme" selfishness, recklessness and self-centered.

    Of course when, and if young children are brought into the mix, naturally that consideration needs to extend exponentially.

    "Deep down, I think we all have a secret desire to inflict some sort of retribution on those who held us back or treated us like so much trash"

    Yes, I think that this feeling is only natural; we tend to wish ill on the ones that have really hurt us, even when we say otherwise.

    This is where the moral of forgiveness is "so" important…
    In The Bible, seven (7) is suppose to be the number of perfection; in The Book of Matthew,
    Matthew 18:21, Peter asked Jesus, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" 
    Matthew 18:22, Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

    So we must find a way to forgiveness, "not" for the individual that hurt us, but for our own hearts; so that we can heal and move on.

    When I think of the need, and desire to forgive; one person (in my life), really comes to mine; so far, I am on my 770th time, and still working on it.

    As far as my professional life, I do believe that the same principal holds true; we are entitled to leave, anytime that we so desire. However, when leaving a job, again, we should also do that with integrity. Even if you are at the point to where you feel that you can not take one more moment at a position, it is likely best to leave early, or walk away from that initial moment of spontaneity, re-group, then come back; then in the best way possible, explain to your employer that this is no longer working out, and you feel the need to move on.

    Admittedly, I have likely moved on from jobs more then the average person, however, to this day, I have never gone back to a job that I have left. I have always believed in going forward. We often go backward because it is a comfort zone, but often the real treasure is gained in the future, not in the past.

    Even the positions that I have left, with animosity, I can now say that I have fond (and grateful) memories from each position.


  2. KEB Post author

    And therein lies the crux or the whole matter … when you want to burn your bridge because of whatever reason, it is generally because of animosity from the experience you are leaving. Forgiveness is the starting point of exactly what I am talking about.

    Just because you never intend to back up and just because you have not done it to date, does not mean you never will. That option should always be there where other people are involved.

    On a spiritual level, things change. We should burn bridges to our past. Living our lives with the understanding that we can revert back to our old ways is counterproductive and can hurt our christian walk. In that instant, when you feel compelled to return to your old ways, you should come upon those barriers you have erected to prevent returning to that old life.

    Consecration and sanctification …. separation and removal from those things that compel us to return to our old lives is of paramount importance. It isn’t easy, but the rewards are great.

  3. markross

    Absolutely, when we are living it, day to day, the pressure or animosity tends to build up, even perpetuate; so, after a separation from that very thing that was causing these feelings, you tend to see the good that came from that experience. I think that is the sign of a wise and mature person.

    So, when does a wise person become a fool? Often when we return to that same thing that was causing that very problem, or feelings, in the first place; then we are subjecting ourselves to that same pain, all over again.

    There are certainly times when forgiveness will lead to a resurrection of the past, however, more times then not, we left a certain circumstance for a very valid reason.

    Over the last few years I have learned that we can often back away from something, without walking away from it. So, these things (even Biblically speaking) can be very subjective.

    From a secular point of view, you certianly have to rationalize the pros and cons of your decision, while trying to refrain from doing something that you may totally regret. From a Biblical point of view, it is always best to seek God and his wisdom with all matters that are a burden on your heart.


  4. markross

    In the past, I have certainly stepped back from situations, and refrained from saying something, knowing that it would only exacerbate a situation.

    I have done this with jobs, knowing that I may want to use that person/position as a reference.

    That being said, I do not bite down on my anger or feelings, just in case I "may" need something from someone later in life, however, I will try to say what I need to say in an articulate and least offensive way possible. I have always believed that it is not what you say, but how you say it.

    On the flip side, I never had a problem using the words, "I'm sorry" either; if I felt as though I was at fault. For me, it actually feels good admitting that I was wrong, when/if I am made aware that I was.

    I think we all have met people that would rather die then admit any wrong doing.

    And vice verse, people that do not speak their minds, or stick up for themselves, can be seen as having no fuzz on their kiwis; ultimately, some people may try to take advantage of those people.

    Conflict never feels good, but it is sometimes necessary.


  5. markross


    Excuse me, I realize your post was about "not" backsliding : )

    Sometimes we can step back from something, without stepping away from it completely; I suppose we all need to know our limits and boundaries.



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