Building Bridges

Bridges can be very difficult to build. I’m not sure of the engineering that goes into it, but I know I have trouble with anything beyond basic algebra. In fact, I’m honestly astounded that I scrapped by with a C in my high school physics class. Therefore, bridge-builders deserve to be recognized.

It’s a fact of life that bridges are necessary. They help people get from one place to another. They give people options and help avoid traffic. They make it easier to connect and they make it easy to experience new places and the cultures that go along with them.

Metaphorical bridges do much the same thing. One often hears the expression “Don’t burn any bridges.” This generally means that one should avoid making trouble and aggravating a particular person or group of people. This idea is very similar to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” We see this in the story of the Good Samaritan. A traveler is beaten and robbed and left for dead. He is avoided by a priest and a Levite (considered outstanding citizens), but is helped by a Samaritan (considered to be scum by the Jewish people of that time). In the story, it is the Samaritan who is the bridge-builder.

Another obvious example of a bridge-builder is Martin Luther King Junior. Again, the hero of this story is a minority, considered to be inferior by the white majority. He successfully exercised the novel idea of peaceful protest. The reason this was so successful and noticeable is because it didn’t force people to pick a side or fight one another. Again, bridges were built.

I think the reason the government is in such turmoil is because it’s being run by bridge-burners. Politicians and perhaps people in general seem to have forgotten about something I like to call compromise. I believe this is also part of the reason the divorce rate is so high. I won’t go into it here because it’s not really my business, but (NEWS FLASH), marriage is about compromise.

Something that the younger people in my parents’ generation and certainly a lot of people in my generation seem to have forgotten is that you can’t always get what you want. Something I’ve seen a lot in sports is that kids will get trophies even if they didn’t win a tournament or something. If you lost, you shouldn’t get a trophy. You can’t always win. It’s not how the world works. If parents teach their children that they can always have their way and that they will never lose, they will never learn how to compromise. Quite frankly, without compromise, nothing would ever get done.

Of course there are some cases where compromise is just not an option. Ironically, I’ve seen people try the hardest to compromise in these cases. In the past couple of decades (the length of my life so far), I’ve noticed that people absolutely adore the gray area. I’m a child of absolutes. There is black and white, right and wrong, correct and incorrect in many cases. The trick with this is that people need to realize that disagreement isn’t evil. One also has to realize that what is 100% correct in one person’s mind is 100% incorrect in another’s and vice versa. At this point two people at a disagreement will reach an impasse. There can be no agreement and no compromise. This absolutely does not have to end badly. One does not always have to prove that what they believe is right. It’s enough to know that you are right. It can be a lot easier to convince someone that you’re right if you do it subtly. Just be nice. I promise it works.

The fact of the matter is you can still meet in the middle. You can still get along just fine without agreeing. Chances are if you don’t agree on matters of religion, you can agree on matters of politics, or if you don’t agree on matters of what is enjoyable, you can agree on matters of money. It is almost always possible to find a middle ground and that is how you build a bridge. If you are unwilling to find a middle ground, you will eventually find yourself bitter and alone.

The best thing to do is to find a neutral territory and meet there. If two people agree that a particular video game is fun and nothing else, they should play that game. In cooperating or even in playing against each other, one will discover strengths, weaknesses and personality traits in the other person that would have gone unnoticed when the two were at odds. Often, they will discover that they are similar in many subtle ways and this can also bring people together.