The interview question stumped me for a moment. How would I focus my time and energy if I knew I only had 24 more hours in this life?
At 20 years old, my answer could have gone in multiple directions, and the interviewer anticipated an adventurous, risk-taking type of response.
When I finally determined what it would be — simply spending quality time with my closest family and friends — the woman 10 years my senior sitting across the table scoffed.
“That’s not true,” she said. “Surely you would do something daring like skydiving. You would only have 24 hours, and you wouldn’t have to be scared of hurting yourself because it wouldn’t matter. With all the options, I can’t believe you would choose to do something so boring.”
Attempting to explain
Her mocking pierced me, and a bit of defensiveness leaked out. As I assured her my answer was sincere, I noticed my tone changed from reflective to pointed.
I even attempted, in an admittedly shaky and disorganized way, to use the opportunity to share about my faith in Jesus and how it connected to those I love the most in this world.
My parting gift would be a calm, carefree day of expressing my love and gratitude to those who have always been there for me, invested in me, put up with me and loved me in return.
Resolving past hurts
More than 30 years later, I think my answer remains the same — with one addition. A day like that would also allow unresolved issues to be cleared up, so we could truly and fully be at peace with one another.
It’s no secret family members and close friends sometimes disagree, face conflicts and even hold grudges.
What I’ve learned through the years is how much more empathetic, compassionate, generous, patient, confident, secure and emotionally healthy I am when the ruptures in relationships are dealt with and repaired.
The longer we avoid the difficult conversations and choose not to work through conflicts, the more likely it is that those hurts will grow into bitterness.
As a result, our hearts may become calloused. Our energy level, ability to focus and capacity to handle other difficult situations also becomes depleted with unresolved conflict.
We always know when things aren’t exactly right, and as people of peace, we know Scripture points to our responsibility related to contentious situations.
Romans 12:18 reminds us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
But knowing what the Word says doesn’t mean the steps toward resolution are easy.
A commonly used movie scene shows an authoritative figure preparing those under his or her leadership for an upcoming dangerous or difficult mission.
‘Clear eyes, full hearts’
The leaders are confident the months and years they’ve spent training have their troops physically and mentally ready for what’s coming, but emotional distractions have the leaders concerned.
They send the individuals home to handle any unresolved conflicts, clear up confusion and find peace, so when they return for the mission they will be focused and prepared.
In the TV show “Friday Night Lights,” for example, Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) urges his players to be ready for the game: “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose,” he says.
Ephesians 4:26 says, “… Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”
The more unresolved issues we have in our lives and the longer they remain unresolved, the less productive and more self-absorbed we become.
Making the effort
Working through the issues is never easy but always worth it.
From long embedded painful memories to minor irritations, acknowledging they exist is the first step. Lots of focused prayer time is the next step.
Consider reaching out to a trained counselor or therapist for help and make it a goal to clear the board.
How long the exercise will take depends on how many items are on the list and how deep the pain goes.
In the meantime, commit to an intentional effort to prevent adding to the list going forward. Apologize quickly and often when you are in the wrong and be gracious and forgiving when others share their regrets.