I am often wary of cliches. For one, they remain an individual’s personal opinion on a subject matter, and as such are subjective. Secondly, there’s a tendency for people to pass them on from generation to generation without giving that extra little thought to their veracity or applicability to their personal lives. That is not to say that cliches or quotable quotes as we like to call them should be discarded. Not at all. They remain vistas of knowledge and insight for not a few people. However, they should not be swallowed hook, line and sinker as many tend to take them, rather they should induce thought and should be open to discourse and debate where necessary. The idea of not burning bridges because one never knows when one might need to use them again is one of the sayings I find debatable…maybe even false.
We have been told never to burn bridges. Never completely shut people out, they say. Never totally severe communication lines, in this life you never know when you’ll need the next person. The one who hurt you today may just be the reason you smile tomorrow. You never really know, so never shut anyone out. You have to be smart. You may keep them at a distance, but to slam the door in their face forever? That’s just plain unwise. Foolish. Silly. A decision you might regret sooner or later. But, I do not subscribe to this school of thought. Sometimes, I think one needs to not only shut certain doors, keep them under lock and key, but also throw the key to Hades.
As we grow older there’s only so much baggage we can carry around without toying with our sanity. The older we get the more we realise it’s a dog eat dog world. For a long time I must admit that I was naive. I believed everybody, or at least most people wished the next person well. I felt the idea of haters, backstabbers and fake friends was exaggerated. And yes, sometimes they are. But, I have also learnt that on my side of the divide, I was merely living in an idyllic world which assumes there’s really no reason for anyone to cause their neighbour harm. Soon enough I would understand that I have been a tad childlike in my expectations of people and life in general.
When people say “Never burn bridges, because you never know when you’ll need to use them again” it sets my mind wondering…what if someone has proven time and again that they cannot be trusted. When a supposed friend stabs you in the back, what should be your reaction to that act of betrayal? When the one whom you had placed on a high pedestal unveils how “dirty” and undeserving of your high throne they are, what are you supposed to do? Do you suck it all up and maintain the friendship just in a bid not to burn bridges? I think not.
Lolade says “Burn bridges and never look back when you have to” that way you are sure to keep your circle intimate and tight – a recipe for sustained sanity and a life devoid of heartbreaks. The argument for not cutting people off totally itself comes from a place of selfishness. If the reason you’re still keeping someone you hardly care about or have a grudge against around is to be able to go to them when you’re in need, then it simply means that you are not a true friend yourself, but are only interested in what you can gain from the other party, which is far worse than cutting them off in my opinion.
So, yes as I go through this journey of life, I find that I am less and less willing to accommodate “bad people” in many forms. Could be disloyal or selfish friends, backstabbing co-workers, seemingly repentant exes (how this particular one annoys me!) or parasitic acquaintances. For a while now I have resolved to only give my time, energy and love to those who are absolutely deserving of it. No use pretending. There’s no point forcing friendships and faking smiles when one clearly feels otherwise. The act of pretence is tiring, energy-draining. I have never been good at it as one who wears her heart on her sleeves. But, as time passes and the vicissitudes of life takes it toll, I have become even more inclined to express my feelings about certain situations more often by action, and sometimes by words.
Someone may wonder what the place of forgiveness is in all of these. Am I saying there’s absolutely no room for forgiveness when I am wronged? And I say, of course, there’s plenty of room for forgiveness. But then again, I believe that forgiving a person doesn’t translate to being chummy with them. Oftentimes it’s best to take people as they are when they have shown you their true selves. And really there are over 7 billion people in the world, and over 170 million in Nigeria alone. You can’t possibly burn so many bridges to the point where you have no one to talk to or associate with at the end of day, contrary to a popular Yoruba proverb.
Nevertheless, severing ties with people whom you have had some kind of relationship with should be a last resort, and is hardly tantamount to childish behaviour like keeping malice or speaking ill of them. No. It simply means you are no longer open to any semblance of friendship or close relationship with such a one.
I am all for tolerance and accepting people for who they are within certain limits. However, you have to trust your intuition sometimes and know who has a place in your life, and who doesn’t even deserve to know anything about you. As a believer in fate, if I cut someone off and for some reason beyond my control have to deal with them again, then it was meant to be that way. I wouldn’t feel guilty about the step I chose to take at the time I took it, as long as it was borne out of a clear conscience.
So yes, I burn bridges. I burn them and never look back. Sometimes.