I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Diane Morris Jones’ reflection on being a bridge builder.
Am I a bridge builder or a wedge driver in my relationships? The time and energy of a reflective process of distinguishing between the two can be insightful. Discerning whether we are a bridge builder or a wedge driver—in our thoughts, in our feelings, in our behaviors—is an awareness practice that invites us to open our hearts and look closely at our intentions.
I so desire to have close, authentic relationships and work hard to create and maintain meaningful friendships. What about the insecurities though? I often wonder, “Why am I the only one reaching out?” or “Why does she not call and check in?”. So, at times I will withdraw and try to pretend it doesn’t matter. The truth is, it hurts. As I reflect on the longing for the deep mutual connection, I discover my withdrawal is a type of shield to protect my heart. A shield that doesn’t work. A wedge, if you will. I then decide to choose a bridge instead. To use the withdrawal, not as a way to disappear, but to find another perspective on which to see in a grounded confidence – to reach out in a clear, authentic voice of love and empathy and vulnerability. A bridge that takes a lot of courage, step by step.
On an elementary level, a bridge is something that connects two things that are apart. A wedge is something that drives two things apart.
A bridge is a structure built to span a physical obstacle such as a body of water, valley, road or rail without blocking the way underneath. It is constructed for the purpose of providing passage over the obstacle, which is usually something that is difficult or impossible to cross.
A wedge is 1) a piece of a substance such as wood or iron that tapers to a thin edge and is used for splitting wood and rocks, raising heavy bodies, or for tightening by being driven into something, 2) something causing a breach or separation or something used to initiate an action or development.
What are things we can do to build a bridge in our relationships that are struggling and/or to create healthy, lasting relationships? Some examples might be a call, a text, any form of communication, a prayer, an act of kindness, a walk together, a courageous conversation and/or looking for the best in another.
What are some things we do that drive a wedge in our relationships that are struggling and/or that undermine healthy, lasting relationships? Some examples might be judgment, blaming, pulling away, choosing not to communicate, withholding love and/or contemptuous conversation.
The idea of small acts of kindness is appropriate here in that it can be small actions that are bridge-building acts and it can also be small acts, or maybe lack of action, that can cause wedges in relationships. At times, a small action can be a huge step!
One significant bridge building memory for our family was Mother’s Day in San Diego, CA several years ago. Justin and Jill were both in college and somehow we were able to have a family vacation together for a week. As I sat alone, out early by the ocean to embrace the sunrise, listening to the waves hit the sandy shore and watch the whales jump, I began reflecting on my role as a Mother. I don’t know if I would have reached the depth of my feelings and the ability to express them to Justin and Jill without the calm, reflective qualities of the water, and the way it drew out the depths of my soul. Regardless, I am grateful for that moment. Over several hours on the beach and journaling, I wrote Justin and Jill a short letter and read it to them that afternoon…expressing my love, my desire for a communicative relationship, and to ask for forgiveness when I might have “missed them”. I shared that maybe I didn’t know well how to express my tears, my frustrations, my hurts, my fears. What I recognized is I wanted to be more intentional in my communication and be vulnerable as a Mom and wanted to invite them to be open and expressive with me as well. We could circle back and clarify the unclear messages at times when needed.
I recognized this would be somewhat new territory for us and wanted to name it with them so that they could help me. If they wanted the same, we could help one another. The deepening call to the soul of water is powerful. The intention to build a bridge is courageous and vulnerable work.
Our relationships are fluid and dynamic. Often in counseling we are working through various scenarios involving relationships. Recall Viktor Frankl’s famous quote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.“ I would also say that in that space—especially in relationships—we have a choice to reach out in a loving, kind and caring way, or act in a way that is unkind, un-attentive or uncommunicative. The questions to ask ourselves for our growth and our freedom is what are the things we can do to be a bridge builder in our relationships—with others as well as the relationship we have with ourselves? What are the things we do that create wedges in our relationship—with others as well as the relationship we have with ourselves?
My husband, Roger, has penned this lovely poem that reflects his heart on the topic of bridging relationships. Enjoy!
The Bridges by Roger C. Jones Bridges, including of the Golden Gate, Brooklyn and Madison County, are designed to connect people. Yes, I know that some people use bridges for things like bungee jumping or fishing, yet that’s not what this poem is about. You might say, well, bridges can be meant for the passage of goods from producer to consumer, etc. Fine, but not the point here. Oh…there’s the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, but let’s stay on track. What if the bridge is that phone call you made to me when my mother had passed? What if the bridge is one of us saying I’m sorry for the harsh comment I made? What if the bridge is a timely text citing “You’ve got this one, friend!” What if the bridge is getting out of my comfort zone and reaching out to a stranger in need? These bridges connect people, and those are the bridges this poem is about.
Dianne Morris Jones is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator (CDWF), a Spiritual Director and the author of STOP BREATHE BELIEVE: Mindful Living One Thought At A Time and
I’m Fine, a real feelings journal. Dianne counsels virtually and facilitates Contemplative Photography groups in Dallas,TX. DianneMorrisJones.com