Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Building Fences & Bridges

By Janina Gomes

Not all relationships will turn out good. Life has its ups and downs and this includes the way we relate to others. But as we grow older we come to realise that some will walk with us for a short distance; others for longer, but very few will do so all the way. We form our own equations. With some we share familiarity and exchange confidences. With others we are cordial and polite.
    Real life is full of exploitation. What this does is to sour relationships and create resentment and bitterness. When we have learned to protect ourselves in such situations, we may have perforce had to build fences. These fences protect our integrity and individuality and help us to live life the way it was meant to be lived, on our own terms.
    The protective fence keeps marauders at bay. Like a line of control, the fence may help us stave off intrusions. However, when there are fences, it is important to also build bridges. These bridges are built through give and take. They in no way undermine our integrity, but help to meet with others; sometimes even antagonists, half way. When we build bridges, we in no way surrender the values for which we stand. We do not forfeit our individuality and are not hammered into submission, not at all.
    Bridges preserve mutuality without sacrificing our own interests. They help us cross troubled waters and to offer our friendship when it would be beneficial to both. Think of the lovely village cottage. It is fenced in to prevent animals and strangers from trespassing; at the same time, it is connected with the outside world.
    Bridges help us to build connections and establish connectivity, both important in all personal and social transactions. In our professional lives too, we cannot work alone. We are part of a team. Where the team spirit is weak, the stronger have the upper hand. It is part of growing and human maturity, to come to a stage where we can be ourselves, still interacting with others, but shunning people who will not allow us to grow.
    It is often made out as if only bridges are necessary in life. But fences play an equally important role in our spiritual lives. Sometimes we have to hem ourselves in, like the flower buds that need the right moment to bloom.
    Fences can be built without creating hostility. They help us create our own boundaries. These boundaries are not only important, but often we need them to survive. There will always be transgressors. But, as we learn from experience, we get better at discerning which relationships are bringing us closer to God and which ones come in the way.
    There could be times when we foolishly allow people to walk all over us. We learn to deal with this shortcoming and become our own persons. In a hierarchical society like ours, where the male tends to dominate, the onus is usually on the woman to build fences. Building fences and bridges could come more easily to women who are by nature wired for compassion and understanding.
    A bully, when confronted the right way, may actually give in and come to round seeing things from another perspective. When confrontation or discussion does not work, distancing oneself remains a good option. We cannot always find an outer environment that is peaceful, but we can certainly create an inner reservoir of peace, which will remain with us, whatever the circumstance.

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