It is almost impossible to radically change your behavior without having a major change in your belief system or value system.
One reason it is so hard to change ingrained patterns of behavior is because we often seek to change without knowing the moral reason why. Most people have areas in their lives that they would like to see changed, and deeply feel they ought to change, but somehow cannot make lasting change happen. Biblically speaking, “repentance” is the word that best describes the process of changing behavior. Repentance comes from the Greek word metanoia, literally meaning “to change your mind.”
But whoever heard of someone “repenting” for tardiness? Most people do not perceive tardiness as a moral issue. Lying and cheating and lusting are moral issues, we’ll admit, but tardiness? And that’s one of the main reasons why chronically late people don’t find the power to change. They have not seen the moral issues involved.
Generally speaking, we are all much more punctual when it really matters and less punctual when there’s little cost involved. In most cases if I’m consistently late for work, my pay may be docked, or I might even lose my job. If I’m late for the plane, I will miss the flight and pay a stiff financial penalty. If I’m late on the mortgage payment I might end up in foreclosure. If I’m late on the credit card payment there’s an immediate charge and a whopping increase in interest rate. The more that there is a recognizable cost to being late (or value to being on time), the more likely people will be on time!
I even found this to be true in developing nations where the cultural concept of time is much less structured than in the US. In many of these more “relaxed” cultures, people show up whenever they want to…except for the train or plane! Even my Tanzanian friends know that you have to actually be on time for these kinds of things.
Whether there is a conscious decision or not, our punctuality is one way we demonstrate what (who) we value. And sadly, being chronically late is one way we show what (who) we do not highly value.
Did I hear someone say, “Ouch!”? The principle related in the paragraph above is one of the truths that really helped me reshape my view of the importance of being on time. Though it was never my intent to communicate dishonor to others when I was tardy, this got communicated nonetheless. More in the next blog.