Burning a bridge is easy. Strike the match and don’t look back—just hope you don’t have to backtrack. Building a bridge is tricky at best and any high school science student will attest constructing a sturdy one requires wisdom. Similarly, bridges on life’s highway can be ill-designed, not to mention intimidating, but without them we are dependent on ferries which transport us to the other side at a much slower pace.
To stride forward on our journey, we must not hesitate when destiny places a bridge on our path. One bridge we can’t afford to avoid crossing is forgiveness.
Forgiving ourselves can be more difficult than forgiving those who’ve harmed us, hurt us or downright destroyed something inside of us. If we don’t forgive ourselves though, guilt and regret corrode our guts and make traversing our life course excruciating.
Sometimes we only offer pardon to others when we hear them say the magic words, “I’m sorry,” but even then, as we are assuring the offender we forgive them, we know that true forgiveness requires more than words—it takes humility and acceptance that we have more in common with the offender than we’d like to admit.
Linking our humanity to theirs forms a bridge where otherwise would exist a gap of misunderstanding and pain. Extending forgiveness to our trespassers tightens the bolts that hold the bridge together and ensures us safe passage over troubled waters.
The invisible cords of receptivity from one heart to another is truly more beautiful than The Tower Bridge in London, one of the most photographed and breathtaking bridges in the world. London Bridge hasn’t fallen as the famous children’s lyrics suggest, but one close to the home-front on the banks of the Ohio did.
Say the word, “bridge,” in the tri-state area and there are instant flashbacks to 1967—a time when phones had rotary dials, computers were exclusive to NASA and 46 people perished when the Silver Bridge collapsed.
Bridge safety standards throughout the nation became stricter as a result of the tragedy and at the direction of President Johnson. My dad was a deputy in Meigs County, Ohio, and responded to the catastrophe. He arrived to the screams of survivors being pulled from the icy water. The images still haunt him.
I’ve read stories of those who barely escaped this and other such disasters who are paralyzed at the thought of crossing a bridge. Scientists have termed this fear gephyrophobia.
Some states with extremely long bridges like Maryland offer Driver’s Assistance Programs. Phone booths located on either side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge connect people with a driver who will drive them across. For some, crossing a bridge no matter who is driving is too excruciating, so they elect to stay put or ferry over.
Life’s highway provides no surrogate drivers, but there are many guides along the route—elders, friends, and when you’re earnest, an angel or two. So, don’t be a gephyrophob. Take a big breath and whiz across the bridge to the fresh land on the other side.
Maintain your bridges. Keep them safe. Keep them passable for those who follow in your steps. Keep them strong by letting go of grievances that weigh them down.
Forgive others. Forgive yourself. Don’t look back. Don’t look down. Just keep on trucking. Keep on forging alliances and building bridges of forgiveness—one’s that don’t break under pressure—one’s created with heart that spur you on your path. Now, that’s architecture at its finest.
Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County, author of “Rain No Evil” and host of Life Speaks on AIR radio. Access more at soundcloud.com\lifespeaks.