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Author Topic: POLL: The Bridge (Fable) - Edwin H. Friedman  (Read 29777 times)
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Gender: Female
Posts: 3945

No good deed goes unpunished....

« on: November 06, 2007, 09:59:21 AM »

This was posted here a long time ago, but, someone brought it up today so I thought I'd repost it.


"The Bridge"

There was a man who had given much thought to what he wanted

from life. He had experienced many moods and trials. He had

experimented with different ways of living, and he had had his

share of both success and failure. At last, he began to see

clearly where he wanted to go.

Diligently, he searched for the right opportunity. Sometimes he

came close, only to be pushed away. Often he applied all his

strength and imagination, only to find the path hopelessly

blocked. And then at last it came. But the opportunity would not

wait. It would be made available only for a short time. If it

were seen that he was not committed, the opportunity would not

come again.

Eager to arrive, he started on his journey. With each step, he

wanted to move faster; with each thought about his goal, his

heart beat quicker; with each vision of what lay ahead, he found

renewed vigor. Strength that had left him since his early youth

returned, and desires, all kinds of desires, reawakened from

their long-dormant positions.

Hurrying along, he came upon a bridge that crossed through the

middle of a town. It had been built high above a river in order

to protect it from the floods of spring.

He started across. Then he noticed someone coming from the

opposite direction. As they moved closer, it seemed as though

the other was coming to greet him. He could see clearly,

however, that he did not know this other, who was dressed

similarly except for something tied around his waist.

When they were within hailing distance, he could see that what

the other had about his waist was a rope. It was wrapped around

him many times and probably, if extended, would reach a length

of 30 feet.

The other began to uncurl the rope, and, just as they were

coming close, the stranger said, "Pardon me, would you be so

kind as to hold the end a moment?"

Surprised by this politely phrased but curious request, he

agreed without a thought, reached out, and took it.

"Thank you," said the other, who then added, "two hands now, and

remember, hold tight." Whereupon, the other jumped off the bridge.

Quickly, the free-falling body hurtled the distance of the ropes

length, and from the bridge the man abruptly felt the pull.

Instinctively, he held tight and was almost dragged over the

side. He managed to brace himself against the edge, however, and

after having caught his breath, looked down at the other

dangling, close to oblivion.

"What are you trying to do?" he yelled.

"Just hold tight," said the other.

"This is ridiculous," the man thought and began trying to haul

the other in. He could not get the leverage, however. It was as

though the weight of the other person and the length of the rope

had been carefully calculated in advance so that together they

created a counterweight just beyond his strength to bring the

other back to safety.

"Why did you do this?" the man called out.

"Remember," said the other, "if you let go, I will be lost."

"But I cannot pull you up," the man cried.

"I am your responsibility," said the other.

"Well, I did not ask for it," the man said.

"If you let go, I am lost," repeated the other.

He began to look around for help. But there was no one. How

long would he have to wait? Why did this happen to befall him

now, just as he was on the verge of true success? He examined

the side, searching for a place to tie the rope. Some

protrusion, perhaps, or maybe a hole in the boards. But the

railing was unusually uniform in shape; there were no spaces

between the boards. There was no way to get rid of this newfound

burden, even temporarily.

"What do you want?" he asked the other hanging below.

"Just your help," the other answered.

"How can I help? I cannot pull you in, and there is no place to

tie the rope so that I can go and find someone to help me help you."

"I know that. Just hang on; that will be enough. Tie the rope

around your waist; it will be easier."

Fearing that his arms could not hold out much longer, he tied

the rope around his waist.

"Why did you do this?" he asked again. "Don't you see what you

have done? What possible purpose could you have had in mind?"

"Just remember," said the other, "my life is in your hands."

What should he do? "If I let go, all my life I will know that I

let this other die. If I stay, I risk losing my momentum toward

my own long-sought-after salvation. Either way this will haunt

me forever."

With ironic humor he thought to die himself, instantly, to jump

off the bridge while still holding on. "That would teach this

fool." But he wanted to live and to live life fully. "What a

choice I have to make; how shall I ever decide?"

As time went by, still no one came. The critical moment of

decision was drawing near. To show his commitment to his own

goals, he would have to continue on his journey now. It was

already almost too late to arrive in time. But what a terrible

choice to have to make.

A new thought occurred to him. While he could not pull this

other up solely by his own efforts, if the other would shorten

the rope from his end by curling it around his waist again and

again, together they could do it. Actually, the other could do

it by himself, so long as he, standing on the bridge, kept it

still and steady.

"Now listen," he shouted down. "I think I know how to save you."

And he explained his plan.

But the other wasn't interested.

"You mean you won't help? But I told you I cannot pull you up by

myself, and I don't think I can hang on much longer either."

"You must try," the other shouted back in tears. "If you fail, I


The point of decision arrived. What should he do? "My life or

this other's?" And then a new idea. A revelation. So new, in

fact, it seemed heretical, so alien was it to his traditional

way of thinking.

"I want you to listen to me carefully," he said, "because I mean

what I am about to say. I will not accept the position of choice

for your life, only for my own; the position of choice for your

own life I hereby give back to you."

"What do you mean?" the other asked, afraid.

"I mean, simply, it's up to you. You decide which way this ends.

I will become the counterweight. You do the pulling and bring

yourself up. I will even tug a little from here." He began

unwinding the rope from around his waist and braced himself anew

against the side.

"You cannot mean what you say," the other shrieked. "You would

not be so selfish. I am your responsibility. What could be so

important that you would let someone die? Do not do this to me."

He waited a moment. There was no change in the tension of the rope.

"I accept your choice," he said, at last, and freed his hands.

--From "FRIEDMAN'S FABLES" by Edwin Friedman,

published by Guilford Press

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.” - Maya Angelo

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Posts: 3729

« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2007, 10:26:57 AM »



I did not read that before. What a great story/metaphor. This is one that should be shared over and over.

How many if us have had that battle? How many of us have been on that place on the bridge?

How many if us refuse to let go or understand that we even have choice?

Thank you Elphie for sharing this again.

You are a true gift lady, a true gift.



There are two ways of spreading light, be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. E. Warton

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Posts: 2367

« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2007, 10:46:14 AM »

Thanks so much for putting this here.  I find that it means different things, I find new meanings the further I get in my recovery.  Now I've got to learn how to print this stuff out, and/or cut and paste.  My home computer keeps telling me I am out of memory and I don't think that's a good sign.

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Posts: 146

« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2007, 10:48:40 AM »

Yes I do remember reading this about 8 months ago when I was going through my worst times...it really helped. And I even have it saved to my desktop!  smiley

Excellent post.


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Gender: Female
Posts: 3945

No good deed goes unpunished....

« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2007, 10:55:39 AM »

This was one of the pieces that truly helped me be ok with my decision to end things...let go of the rope...

Glad to be able to share it.

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.” - Maya Angelo

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Gender: Female
Posts: 3945

No good deed goes unpunished....

« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2007, 12:12:39 PM »

Just a bit of a review and info on the author...

Synopsis - Friedman's Fables

Dr. Friedman has woven 24 illustrative tales that offer fresh perspectives on familiar human foibles and reflect the author's humor, pathos, and understanding. Friedman takes on resistance and other "demons" to show that neither insight, nor encouragement, nor intimidation can in themselves motivate an unmotivated person to change. These provocative tales playfully demonstrate that new ideas, new questions, and imagination, more than accepted wisdom, provide each of us with the keys to overcoming stubborn emotional barriers and facilitating real change both in ourselves and others. Sure to intrigue and inform, this book belongs in the resource library of public speakers, teachers, trainers, and clergy, as well as general readers.


Edwin H. Friedman (1932/n-/1996), a family therapist and ordained rabbi, was born in New York City and worked for more than 35 years in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Well known in the fields of mental health and pastoral education, Dr. Friedman brought his unique blend of systems thinking, motivational style, and common sense to his highly regarded work as a consultant and leadership trainer to diverse professional and government organizations.


“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.” - Maya Angelo

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Gender: Female
Posts: 4443

« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2007, 12:43:37 PM »

Again, you have offered up something to think about.

Very powerful. It is a good illustration about letting go and taking your own life back.

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Gender: Female
Posts: 2367

« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2007, 01:07:24 PM »

I looked up the author and found reference to the book.  I'd be really curious to see if the other fables are anything like "the bridge".  Also, he has a book about leadership that looks pretty good.


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Posts: 48

« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2007, 01:52:34 PM »

Oh my god - oh my god...

That's me - on the bridge!

I wrote my dBPw a letter two weeks ago - told her if she didn't commit to therapy I was divorcing her.  She agreed to go - but is dragging her heels.

That's me - on the bridge!  with no help on its way...

I COULD let go of the rope -

I SHOULD let go of the rope -

It would be so simple...

It would be so sane!

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Gender: Female
Posts: 3945

No good deed goes unpunished....

« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2007, 01:56:18 PM »

It is ok to let go of the rope...

If they wont help save themselves and if you know (and you do) that you'll get pulled over the edge...let go...it's ok.

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.” - Maya Angelo

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