Can You Give Your Best in 20 Seconds?

A lot can happen in less than half of a minute. When it comes to first impressions, twenty seconds can define everything.

Apple’s iPhone has an interesting rule about apps: when you launch one, it has just :20 to start up and be ready. If it can’t do that in those twenty seconds, iOS just kills the app.

In human terms, twenty seconds determines how we’ll be seen by others, and even more importantly, how others see how they’ll be treated by us.

Sunday morning, my pastor talked about establishing the initial :20 of an interaction as a time when we demonstrate to someone their value. Because no matter how religious they may be, if we’re going to live our lives as Christ followers, we are called to show love to each other.

Why twenty seconds?

Simple: most of the truly life-altering exchanges Jesus Christ has with people in the Bible, those defining moments that showed others their own value in the eyes of God Himself, only took about :20 to unfold.

Consider one of the most famous exchanges in which Christ played a part: the adulteress who was caught in the act and brought before Christ by people hoping to trap Christ. In just about 20 seconds of spoken word, he not only demonstrated that he wasn’t their to condemn, but managed to turn the tables on her accusers, pointing out their twisted desire to stone the woman had little to do with reverence and more to do with hypocrisy.

And in doing so, in running them away so that no one remained to accuse her, and in telling her that her sins were forgiven and encouraging her to go and live a life above her past, he changed her life and demonstrated that she, a woman whom the rest of the people seemed to hold in such contempt, actually mattered.

When Christ said that the most important commandments were to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself, that wasn’t an “either/or” proposition.

Sometimes, it’s hard to love other people. But when you look at it in terms of speaking value into someone’s life in just 20 seconds, it somehow doesn’t seem so impossible.


  1. I agree with you, Patrick — the idea works well, say, in the business sense (a la making a good impression 20 seconds into a meeting or appointment), but in a personal sense? I do think that’s significantly harder, especially with people you’ve just met. 

    1.  @annedreshfield You’re absolutely right…in a personal sense, it IS a lot harder. But the other side of that coin is that showing people that initial 20 seconds of value can completely change what might otherwise have been a very negative encounter into a much more positive one, so that it’s less “painful” or “awkward” for both of you!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.