(Cover art courtesy of Thomas Nelson)
Taken from The Greatest You: Face Reality, Release Negativity, and Live Your Purpose by Trent Shelton Copyright © 2019 by Trent Shelton. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. http://www.thomasnelson.com.
The first question to ask is this: Is this person draining me? Let’s talk about that a little. When someone is draining you, he or she is killing your emotional energy. A draining relationship is one where, no matter how you’re feeling before you’re with that person, you feel worse afterward. This is not always easy to diagnose. For example, you may laugh a lot and feel in high spirits while you’re together, but at the end of the night or the next morning, you feel worn out or depressed or even a little ashamed. Does that happen a lot when you’re with this person? If so, that person is draining you. Or maybe you spend time with someone who has deep heart-to-heart talks with you, where you get into a lot of heavy stuff, but these conversations always leave you feeling less optimistic about life. The intimacy of these conversations might be exciting, but that person is draining you.
People who drain you might not even realize they’re doing it. They might not be actively trying to hurt you, but they’re still hurting you. For whatever reason, that relationship is toxic for you, and you’re not going to be able to grow as long as you stay in that toxic environment. It’s like my gardening story. The soil I was putting the plants in wasn’t “evil” soil. It was just the wrong soil for those plants, and unless I changed the soil, my plants were going to keep dying.
So, the first thing you need to do when you’re considering burning a bridge is determine whether you’re being drained or not. If you are, then it’s time to burn that thing down. That’s what happened to me when I was in the middle of my battle to stick with football. I had a bridge to a group of people who I spent a lot of time partying with. By “a lot of time,” I mean just about every night. I had a great time while we were at the club, but I slowly realized that this bridge only led to one thing: more partying. I was valuing things I should not have valued and making things a priority I should not have been prioritizing. I was expecting to move my life forward by doing the very things that were holding my life back. Many times, I would wake up the next morning feeling awful about how I was living my life, and I’d tell myself that I needed to do something better with it. That cycle was draining me, but I couldn’t see it for what it was back then. It really wasn’t until my son, Tristan, was born and I realized that I needed to be a better man for him that I could see what this group was doing to me. I was never going to grow as long as I kept going out with these people, so I finally convinced myself to burn that bridge.
Another question to ask yourself when you’re looking at your bridges is, where does this end up? This is a question a lot of us never think about when we’re considering our relationships. We give too much credit to the early moments. Those early moments give us an emotional high. But where do you see it going? What’s the endgame? What’s the final page of the story? Often, the damage a relationship is causing us happens slowly and you won’t even notice it until it’s too late. Maybe that guy you’re seeing treats you pretty okay. You don’t fight a lot, and you’ve got a decent rhythm going. Except there’s that thing about his always putting down your dreams. You tell him about some ambition you have for your career or for something to do on the side and he patiently explains to you why that’s a bad idea. So, how do things end up if you stick with him? They probably end up with you realizing ten years from now that you regret not going after bigger things when you had the chance. Is that something you really want?
Let me go back to that group of people that I needed to cut myself off from. One of the things that convinced me to do it was taking a look at the future. I imagined myself with these people three years, ten years, twenty years down the line, still drinking too much, still taking way too many drugs, still wasting my nights on empty pursuits. When I took an honest look at where I was going with these people, I realized this group wasn’t going to evolve into something more nurturing and productive; it was always going to be just what it was. And once I saw where that was going to end up, I knew it had to be over. I had to do way better than that for my son.
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