Life’s too short to keep long accounts.
When a disaster like the destruction of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 happens, it always causes me to think about the fragility of life. My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this terrible injustice. The shock of this event got me thinking about how it would be had I been on that flight, and it reminded me of a comment my brother made when I was a lot younger.
I remember standing around in the church office one afternoon when I was a teenager and having a conversation with my brother and our Youth Pastor about life and how wrongs and hurts tend to pile up. I can clearly remember my brother saying
“I want to keep short accounts with people. When I die, I want to be able to look back on my life and see a legacy of goodness and grace.”
Something about those words stuck with me. It was one of those conversations (and we all have them) that I’ve never forgotten. The sentiment certainly resonated with me as an idealistic young man; for me, keeping short accounts means not holding on to grudges, letting things slide when they bug me, and treating others as I would want to be treated. Short accounts are important because we never know when life will end. in the book of James, the Bible describes life as being like vapour; it disappears in a flash.
Now, I’ve come to realise in the 15+ years since that day that keeping short accounts with people is a lot harder in practice than it is in theory. If we always want to be moving forward, never getting bitter and gathering dust, we have to actively choose to forgive others, and to forget what’s happened. And since that day in the church office, I’ve hurt some people quite majorly, and been hurt pretty badly myself. There have been times when I’ve desperately wanted to hold on to my hurt, because it’s felt like a source of comfort and protection to me.
In the end though, the choice of holding on to things comes back to whether or not I want to stay put, keeping a steady list of wrongs and rights, of people I love and people I hate, and reminders of why someone is a jerk, or whether I choose to find a way to move on, no matter what it takes. My faith tells me to look to Jesus, who chose to forgive despite betrayal and rejection, as my example – and to know that even though it’s hard to love and hard to forgive at times, in the end it’s the best way to live life.
One final thought on short accounts: letting things go doesn’t just apply to the big things – it’s actually most important in the little things. Hurt is like a snowball rolling down a mountain. At the top, it’s harmless and won’t hurt anyone – but as that snowball rolls on and gets bigger, it becomes something major with the power to really affect others. By not sweating the small stuff, we set ourselves up to deal with the big things better. Not perfectly, but better.
And that’s a big step in the right direction.