Unfinished Business

worry.jpgIt is difficult to move on in relationships when unfinished business is present.  Perhaps you’ve been there.  I know I have. 

Here is a person who is a friend.  One day you ask her a question and she practically bites your head off in anger.  She says something about the situation being "none of your business."  You see her again a few weeks later and she is jovial and acts as if this never happened.  Unfinished business.

You promised your children that you would take them fishing last Saturday.  You had already postponed once after having made the same promise three weeks ago.  Once again, you could not take them fishing on Saturday because you had to work.  The next time you are with them, you act as if nothing happened.  Unfinished business.

A friend borrows money from you.  His situation seemed desperate.  He said that he would be able to pay you back in 60 days.  Six months later, you haven’t seen a dime.  Now, he never mentions this and acts as if it never occurred.  Unfinished business.  

You have been hurt by someone in your church.  He was curt and abrupt in a ministry meeting.  There was never an apology or acknowledgment afterward.  Now, he seems to want to go on with life.  You don’t want to hold this against him and yet at the same time, something feels unfinished.  Unfinished business.

One thing is for sure.  If Christians are going to live together and really be a Christian community, then relationships have to be nurtured and love has to be expressed.  When relationships matter, we will not knowingly allow unfinished business to remain.

Relationships really do matter.

Last night, I called a friend after I got home from church.  I felt as if I had ended a conversation abruptly when another person I had previously been talking with approached me.  I called him because I just wanted to make sure that he knew that my intention was not to be rude.  I called him because my relationship with him really matters to me.

I communicate to others that relationships really matter (loving my neighbor as myself) when I attempt to wrap up any unfinished business that might exist:

  • Do I owe someone an apology?
  • Do I owe someone money?
  • Do I owe someone an explanation for not following through on a commitment?
  • Did I speak to someone sharply?
  • Did I say something, attempting to be funny, that may have embarrassed or humiliated someone?  (been there) 

A number of years ago, a friend of mine was going through a difficult time.  In fact, he was going through a crisis in his family.  At the time, I was going through a lot at work, was preoccupied with some difficult situations, and just wasn’t very sensitive to what my friend was going through.  I was not very responsive to him at all.  At some point, it really began to sink in that I had let him down and disappointed him.  I felt badly for this.  Yet, I did not immediately apologize or talk through this.  Instead, I attempted to go on with our relationship as if this had never happened.  Inside, I knew there was unfinished business.  I had a nagging sense that I should do something about this.  Yet, I did not until some time later.  I wish I had handled this differently.

What is the bottom line?

According to Jesus, people really do matter.  Loving my neighbor as myself means that I need to think about how to best love another.  Yes, I want to love the poor, the neglected, and the forgotten.  But, if I am to do this with any sense of integrity, I need to ask myself how I am treating those I am around every day.  What if I were on the other end of a relationship?  What might cause me to feel used, taken for granted, or hurt?  Does my behavior indicate that I really do value my relationships with people? 

In what ways is unfinished business sometimes left on the table?  What do we do with one another that creates and builds relationships?  What do we do that causes relationships to be strained or kept at a superficial level?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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6 thoughts on “Unfinished Business

  1. thanks for those words of wisdom, Jim.
    Lately, I’ve been involved in some really strained relationships. I find myself caught in between a desire to be nice and a real call to rebuke and refute apathy and neglect.  I feel torn between an either/or not a both/and. Either I become ones enemy by telling him the truth, or twist the gospel in order to maintain relationship.
    I don’t like being caught in this tension. But I don’t know that there’s a third way. Jesus was nailed, Paul stoned, James beheaded, etc. In each case they did the best they could from their side of the equation–yet they were still hated by the religious people they served.

  2. This is right where I am living right now: hurt relationships caused by so much unfinished business that I don’t even know where to start to even begin to undo what’s been done. My question is how do I go about repairing damage done to a relationship by another person? When I’ve done all I can to try to repair it from my end, is there any way to work from the other side? I too feel called to rebuke and yet I stop short of doing so in concern for the relationship. Is there a time to rebuke in love and take that chance that it will end a friendship?
    Bless you for sharing your thoughts. You are such an encouragement to me.

  3. Ben,I appreciate the integrity with which you are wrestling with these issues.I have felt a similar tension before.  Like you say, it is very difficult.I appreciate you. 

  4. Hi Dana–Sounds like you are living with a very difficult situation.  It sounds like you have made a serious effort to repair the damage on your end.  Dealing with the damage on the other end can be very challenging.  One observation– I do think that at times human beings behave in such sinful/dysfunctional/corrupt ways etc., that we really cannot "fix" it.  That is not to say that God through his restorative power can’t repair this.  But I do think there are situations that are best left to a God who hears our prayers.Yet, I do think there is a time to rebuke in love.  When a person’s sinful behavior is destroying himself or another person, this person probably needs a loving rebuke from someone who has the relationship with him to be able to do so.  

  5. This is a fantastic post and sounds like a great title for a book.  Moreover, both sides of all of these equations have unfinished business and it affects them both.  It creates fears and angsts and pain.  Great stuff.

  6. Bryan,Thanks for the kind and affirming words about this post.  As I think about it, that might be a good title for a book.You are right—both sides here have unfinished business.