Here’s one of the most commonly dispensed, least-examined admonitions I can think of: “Don’t burn your bridges.” Provided you exercise at least a modicum of discernment and discrimination, why not?

To establish the point, I offer this brief, illustrative, multiple-choice test. The bridge in each question should be perceived as being figurative, of course. And all answers should be typed into the comments section below:

Scenario A: The investment funding for your fledgling business — a tidy sum of $12.5 million — is deposited in an account to which you and your business partner share access. The morning after the deposit, you find the account empty and your partner establishing residency in Kazakhstan with the buxom blonde who’d been your administrative assistant and your fiancée the day before. You should:

  1. Go back to the drawing board
  2. Forgive and forget
  3. Remember the Golden Rule
  4. Bust out the thermite and burn down his үй.

Scenario B: After attending the seminar at the local Holiday Inn Express that promised, in return for your attendance, a free week at a time-share in Marco Island, you arrive to find your former business partner and your former fiancée have sneaked into the country with new identities and fake passports and are lounging naked on the lanai. You should:

  1. Tell them how wonderful it is to see them again
  2. Ask if you can get them a drink from the wet bar
  3. Tell them you’ll settle for a hammock in the cabana
  4. Recruit the mob from Frankenstein to visit the time-share.

Scenario C: You return from Marco Island to find the investors who were stiffed for your business funding have foreclosed on your house because you never shielded your personal assets in the articles of organization for the business out of which your former partner swindled you. Having assumed yet another set of identities, your former business partner and your former fiancée bought the place for a song and have started excavation for the swimming pool they’re putting in your backyard. You should:

  1. Ask if the sour cream you left in the refrigerator has gone bad
  2. Mow the lawn and blame it on force of habit
  3. Tell your former partner you’re sure he’ll look great in a Speedo
  4. Spring John Leonard Orr from the pen, give him a gasoline tanker for a getaway vehicle, and set his GPS for your address.

Albert Einstein once said, “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they’re different.” Accordingly, in theory, you shouldn’t burn your bridges.

In practice, there’s occasional cause for a blowtorch.

Skez at en.wikipedia or GFDL, from Wikimedia Commons.