In my mind, there are two types of people in the world:
- People who are early.
- People who are late.
Specifics of these categories: if you’re on time, you’re late. If something starts at 5:00, you need to arrive before 5:00, so that said event can begin on time.
I’m an extreme #1. Which type of person are you? Now, in no way is this categorization meant to make anyone feel guilty. Life happens, traffic happens, sleep happens, people run late. It happens. The categories above refer to an overall tendency, giving the benefit of the doubt to people who sometimes are late because of extenuating circumstances. It happens to all of us.
For some reason, I am highly bothered by #2s. It’s something I need to work on. While I do understand that life happens, I get frustrated when I get left waiting, my schedule changed by someone who claims that they’ll “be there soon.” Soon? Or worse, when late people say “I’ll be there in 10 minutes.” Thirty minutes pass. Still no sign of life from the person. *Sigh*
The most common bothersome situation that I encounter with a PLP (perpetually late person) is that in which the PLP is expected to meet me somewhere and/or pick me up at a certain time. When I am expecting someone to pick me up at 5:00, I am ready and waiting at 5:00 out of respect for that person, our plans, and our schedules. If the person is a PLP, I am often left waiting, and often for a significant amount of time. In an ideal world, I would have no problem with this. We do not live in an ideal world.
When you don’t know how long you will be waiting, what do you do? Start something you need to do? Sure- with the accompanying knowledge that you will have to drop it as soon as PLP arrives.
Yes, I am aware that I can, with previous knowledge that someone is a PLP, expect them to be late and therefore not be left waiting. Just wait longer to start getting ready. People have even told me to do this. But doesn’t this just perpetuate the problem of perpetual lateness? And even worse, if the PLP by some miracle is on time, I then will leave them waiting if I am not ready, therefore labeling myself as a major hypocrite, which I hope to never do.
Over the years, after having dealt with my fair share of perpetually late people, I have thought a lot about this frustration that I often encounter. Why do I care so much when people are late?
Upon further analysis of this personality quirk (my deep irritation with all things late), I realized that the root of the problem is that I hate waiting. As mentioned above, waiting is awkward. You can do something while you wait, but you must be willing to give it up when your true obligation is ready. Often we don’t know how long we will be waiting. We need to be okay with that.
Overall thoughts thus far:
- I still believe that people should be on time and stick to their word and their plan. This is simply because I believe in caring for others by respecting their schedule.
- Caring for people also means upholding your word and plans with them in order to show that you genuinely want to spend time with them.
- We need to learn to accept imperfections in timing. We must learn to wait with grace.
- Deeper: We should be willing to submit to God’s will as it comes and when it comes, not only if it comes on our timing.
Not only should we try to stay on time to honor others, we should also try to stay on time (while remaining flexible) in order to honor ourselves and honor God. (The following thoughts are based on a talk by Fr. Mike Schmitz.) We live in a culture that normalizes the “snooze button” mind set. If we allow ourselves to continually push back our obligations, our entire lives will began to be run by a “not now” mindset. If we let ourselves say “later” to every day decisions and tasks, we are training ourselves to be okay with saying “not now! Later!” to life. Why would we do this to ourselves!? Because it’s comfortable. That’s why.
Next time you find yourself waiting, whether you’re waiting to go to lunch with a friend or waiting to discover your vocation in life, know that although your friend or your future is speaking “be there soon,” God is whispering to your soul, “I’m with you now.”