What It Really Means When You're Always Late

by Becca DeMarais

A meeting starts at 8 a.m. When do you arrive?

a. 7:55 a.m.
b. Shooting for 8 a.m. but will arrive closer to 8:15 because that’s just who I am

Deep down we all want to answer a. But realistically, most of us lean closer to b.

I know this all too well. There's a set time each morning I need to leave my house in order to get to work on time, but nearly every morning I have a crisis—a wardrobe crisis. I stand in front of my closet as the minutes pass by, deliberating between black dress or teal blouse, long pants or skirt. Before I know it, I'm rushing around brushing my teeth, throwing stuff in my work bag, hopping into my shoes, and by the time I get in my car, it's already 10 minutes past my leaving time. 


Virtues of being on time

Occasional lateness due to unforeseen circumstances is something that happens to all of us, but the habit of being late is on a whole other level. Many of us have convinced ourselves that our chronic lateness is just who we are. We’re dubbed “the late one” in our friend group and live up to that name.

But what if I told you the habit of being late is actually a lack of virtue and it’s something we can work on, just like any other virtue?

For example, let’s say I binge-watch Netflix. When one episode of How I Met Your Mother finishes, I let Netflix automatically start up the next one. A TV marathon every night? Why not. I’m known as the “binge queen” amongst my friends. Instead of denying myself and working on a controlled Netflix diet, I throw my hands up and say, “Oh well, there’s nothing I can do. Binge-watching is just who I am.” Well, no. I can actually work on controlling my Netflix habits by growing in the virtues of moderation and self-discipline.

The same goes for always being late. We can grow in this area by working on the virtues of order and respect: having right order in our lives, and respecting others.


Reasons to be punctual

Respect

Being on time demonstrates our awareness of and respect for others’ time. When we get to a meeting late, or walk into class 15 minutes after it starts, we’re essentially telling everyone, “My time is more important than yours (because I needed more sleep/had to curl my hair/couldn’t find an outfit/etc.), so I’m making you all wait.” By being punctual, we respect others by recognizing the value of everyone’s time.

Dependability

When we regularly show up on time, people start to count on us. But if we’re known as “the late ones,” no one is going to ask us for help or to take responsibility because we’re viewed as unreliable.

Integrity

Telling someone you are going to pick them up at 5 but showing up at 5:15 is essentially breaking your promise to that person. Arriving when you say you will arrive makes you a person of your word, a person with integrity.

Christ-like

Do you recall a time in the Gospel when Jesus putzed around for a bit and then was late to something? Probably not, because Jesus was a punctual person. Everything he did was at the time appointed by the Father.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4)

Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.” (Matt. 26:45)


How to grow in timeliness

Those are some pretty good reasons for becoming a punctual person right? I'm convinced. But like any development in character, timeliness won’t happen overnight. Here are six ways to start making improvements.

  1. The night before you have to be somewhere, use a GPS to check how long it should take to get to your destination and determine what time you’ll need to leave to arrive on time (and by “on time” I mean 5 minutes early). Don't forget to account for traffic.
     
  2. Change your way of thinking from, “That’s just who I am” to “Punctuality is a matter of my integrity.”
     
  3. Check your clock frequently, especially if you have something coming up.
     
  4. Set reminders in your Google Calendar.
     
  5. Pray with these Bible verses:

    Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

    But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber. (Proverbs 6:9-11)

     
  6. Actually arrive early. The worst thing that could happen when you leave your house 15 minutes earlier than you planned is that you arrive 15 minutes early, and you actually might even be right on time.