All my life, I heard “Don’t burn your bridges!” (Okay, so early on I actually heard “Don’t burn your britches!” . . . but I digress.) The idea, of course, is that you shouldn’t make decisions that don’t allow you to back up — to reverse your course if you are wrong.
Looking back on my life, I can see a lot of bad decisions and more than a few burned bridges. The decisions about education and career and those far too many cars I’ve bought through the years don’t seem to be scorched by a burned bridge. There were always alternative paths, ways to realign my life, after I made a poor choice.
The smoke still rises, however, from the bridges burned around relationships. I set a torch to some of those because it was “the principle of the matter.” I hoped by saying that that others would see me as noble.
In truth, in most cases, I did set a good boundary. I said “no” appropriately. I did the right thing. Until . . . I burned the bridge. And by doing that, I ended the possibility of future friendship. I destroyed the possibility of reconciliation.
So now, in moments where memories flow, I mourn the finality of burned bridges and quietly ponder rebuilding.
I have to admit that I was entertained. One of my colleagues from the university posted on social media about an email exchange between him and one of his undergraduate students. In succinct form, he told how he had instructed the student on the need for him to address professors with their earned title, rather than their first name.
Now, I have an opinion on all of this and a preference, but I was genuinely interested in the responses. I found there was a mixture of everything from “I earned my doctorate and you will call me Dr.” to “I prefer you address me by my first name.” And what was extremely interesting to me was the fact that all of the positions were accompanied somewhere in the reply line by valid reasons for the position. “Valid,” meaning trustworthy, of value, supportable.
That was extremely interesting because, as I mentioned, I have a very clear position on all of this. Sort of. Generally, I tell my students — and others — what my preference is and then I let them do whatever makes them feel comfortable. So some call me “Dr.” (even though that is only appropriate in an academic setting when you have a juris doctorate), some call me “Professor,” some call me “Mr.,” while still others call me “Joey.”
All those names are good. I answer to them. In fact, I answer to just about anything due to some hearing loss and tinnitus.
But I long to be called by another name. And that’s one that can’t be set or earned by me. I have to grow into it.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9
For some time, I’ve been holding on to some expectations. I’m releasing a few of them as of today.
[Photo Credit: Artists in Christian Testimony Int’l]
When we coach people in leadership, we urge them to set expectations for their followers and to patiently assist them in owning those expectations. Sometimes what we fail to tell our leaders is that, after a measured degree of diligence, it’s okay to let those expectations go and to stop setting themselves up for disappointment.
And, if the leader’s heart is right, it’s okay to kindly, but firmly move on.
Moving on could mean a lot of different things. But when that time comes, the leader must own the consequences — both bad and good.
Are you facing an expectation that appears hopeless? Have you done all you know to do to help?
Then let go. And smile. You’re free of that one. It’s time to plant a new seed in fertile ground.
What if you only had 10 minutes to share the most important message of your life?
What words would you choose?
How would you cut through and set aside all of those badly chosen words that have stacked up over a lifetime?
Where would your heart need to be to bring that message?
Where would your courage come from?
What if the message wasn’t received well?
Take the 10 minutes.
Choose the words now.
Take responsibility for the badly chosen words.
Open your heart.
Reach deep within for the courage.
Trust God to translate in His good time.