Many times a day I think about them—the people I used to feel close to, the ones I once felt at home with, those whose presence I used to find comfort in. They are family members, lifelong friends, co-workers, neighbors, former church friends. My mind shows me their faces and lists off their names, and I begin to grieve the loss anew as I remember what once was but no longer is.
I think about the massive and quickly widening space between myself and these people; the great distance created by silence or hurtful words or simply by me knowing what I now know about them. I rewind through the social media skirmishes, the cold family gatherings, and the incendiary verbal bombshells we’ve exchanged this year, and I survey the bloody fallout.
And I’m keenly aware that I am likely burning bridges between us in these days.
Simply by my steady volume, by my refusal to nurture falsehoods, by my insistence on calling out hypocrisy, by my intolerance to hatred—I am probably forever altering the connection between us.
I’m going to have to risk this.
I’m going to have to be okay with the burning.
It isn’t that I find any satisfaction in the separation or the slightest joy in the severing of ties—not even the cheap high of a middle finger flip, mic drop as I walk away. It’s simply self-preservation.
I am speaking unapologetic truth about the things that matter the most to me.
I am enduring the collateral damage of full authenticity.
I am clinging tightly to my integrity and my sanity—even if I have to let go of these treasured relationships to do it.
I’m holding onto my soul at any cost, because in the end it is worth more to me than even they are.
More than appeasing someone else or accommodating their prejudices, I need to be able to look myself in the mirror and to sleep at night.
A part of me still looks for common ground with these people, still longs for restoration, but honestly it is growing smaller and smaller as I see how far apart we are, as I find how fundamentally differently we see the world, and as I hear the sound of my own clear voice ringing out. The more they dig their heels in, the less and less interested I become in making an uneasy truce with the things that turn my stomach and break my heart—even when those things come from people I love and respected. There isn’t time for that.
And so yes, if saying that Black Lives Matter, and affirming the Muslim community, and condemning treason, and standing with my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and calling out men who boast of grabbing women by the p*ssy, and demanding care for sick people—if these things ignite the bridges connecting me and these people, so be it. I’m not reveling in it but I can live with it. I can still even love some of them, but I will simply love them from a safe distance.
I know that in the space made as these tethers burn away, there are other beautiful things being built: connections with people who too are willing to sacrifice comfort in order to resist unacceptable things, a different tribe formed in the affinity we have for all people, a more expansive community of faith with a far bigger table.
Most of all, a truer, stronger version of myself is being formed in the crucible of this new distance—one that refuses to waste a single, fleeting second being silent in the face of a hatred that compels me to speak.
Yes, I suppose I’m burning some bridges.
It happens when you find yourself on fire.