A priest and professor weighs in on what might be going on behind the scenes.
Are you that person who arrives late to every meeting? Are you always running 10 minutes or more behind to church, to dates, or to lunch appointments with friends—maybe to the point where people tell you you’ll be late to your own funeral? What’s going on with that?
Aleteia asked Fr. Leonardo Salutati, a theologian and professor of social ethics at the Theology Faculty of Central Italy at Florence to comment on this problem. He explains:
Psychology has studied the phenomenon of chronic tardiness, identifying various unconscious origins for this behavior: it may result from distraction, it may be an important message directed at the other person, or it may be caused by some issue that we hide even from ourselves. In this sense, being late is a kind of strategy used by someone to affirm their own personality, which they feel to be fragile and insecure. They want to emphasize their own power to themselves and to others.
Lateness and sin
If we’re habitually late, it can be frustrating for the people around us. It’s annoying, but is it a sin? From a psychological perspective, since it can have “an unconscious origin,” being late “has no connection to sin which, as such, requires full awareness of sin and the deliberate will to commit it,” Fr. Salutati explains.
Duty of charity towards others
It’s a different case if the chronic lateness “is caused by a conscious lack of attention towards others.” Indeed, the theologian emphasizes, “there’s a general duty of charity towards others, which is at the root of our living together in society, and it includes putting what we have at the disposal of others, including our time.”
Motivations and awareness
In such a case, lateness can even be a sin. Fr. Leonardo concludes,
Especially if it’s chronic, it can be a lack of charity, an act of egoism and therefore a sin—which can be more or less grave, depending on the motivations and the level of awareness— rooted in the lack of charity towards others.
So, if you’re habitually late, maybe it’s time for some introspection to identify the causes and see how to address them. It will be psychologically and spiritually beneficial for you—and your friends and colleagues will thank you, too.