Relationships can be tough sometimes. Wait, what am I saying? Relationships for some people are tough most of the time. Whether it be a relationship with a spouse, a child, a close friend, or an acquaintance. No matter the relationship, for many, disagreements end in arguments, and for some, end in a days, weeks, months, or years without talking. When that happens in your relationships, what do you do? Are you passive? Are you aggressive?
Check out the story of the two brothers and ask yourself what do you typically build?
The Two Brothers
Once upon a time, two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labour and goods as needed without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.
One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox. “I’m looking for a few days work,” he said. “Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there. Could I help you?” “Yes,” said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor. In fact, it’s my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll go him one better. See that pile of lumber curing by the barn? I want you to build me a fence – an 8-foot fence – so I won’t need to see his place anymore. Cool him down anyhow.”
The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.” The older brother had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day.
The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, and nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer’s eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge – a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work – handrails and all – and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched. “You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.” The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other’s hand.
They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. “No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you,” said the older brother. “I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but I have many more bridges to build.”
Everyday we have the choice of building fences or bridges. One leads to isolation and the other to openness.
So, when times get tough with a loved one or a friend, what do you build? Are you isolating more by building a fence, or do you try to build a bridge to mend the relationship? Are you putting up walls, or knocking them down? Our pride and ego tell us to build those fences and walls, but love needs to influence us to build a bridge and remove the barriers between us and the ones we care about. Don’t let your pride or ego isolate you from your loved ones and friends. In the short term, you may believe you’re doing the right thing or “winning the argument,” but in the long run, your heart is the one losing.
Be like the carpenter and build a bridge. I have to say that carpenters seem to be very smart people.