In french. retarde can be translated “delayed” or “late.” In English, while it has come to be used more frequently as a slang term, the word retarded traditionally has been defined in relation to it’s French cousin… to be delayed. So back to my question, are you chronically retarded? And if so, have you ever thought about what this pattern communicates to those in your circle of influence.
For those who know me well, you know how much I hate being late for anything. While much of this disdain is wrapped up in personality, this discipline or habit of attempting not to be late has been developed over a long period of intentional and purposeful choice making. My attention for being on time was also fostered in my first full time employment. My first boss, who still by the way is one of my heroes, had almost zero tolerance or patience for tardiness. Over the course of my four year tenure in this organization, I remember fellow employees sheepishly entering a meeting after it had already commenced and receiving the “eye of displeasure” from him. If looks could melt a soul, then consider the soul vaporized. He made it very clear from the onset of our employ, that lateness was an unacceptable behaviour because of what lateness fundamentally communicates to others.
Being late happens but when being late becomes a chronic habit; it reveals something fallen. It reveals a soul focused inward. Lateness is a habit of narcissism. It is telling others in your circle of influence that your priorities, your agendas, and your life is more important than others in the room, especially when others are waiting on you. To force others to wait on your agenda and time table is to disrespect and invalidate them. We cannot be others focused or God centered when we are self centered.
In our culture, have you ever considered showing up chronically late for work? Why not? Maybe because that would be deemed as unacceptable behaviour in the work place and lead to your forced dismissal. Have you ever considered arriving late for a concert or sporting event? Why not? Maybe because we truly value that experience. Can it be said that we prioritize arriving on time for that which we deem important or is dictated as important by our culture, such as arriving on time for work.
A few days ago, an acquaintance in Australia posted the following: “The main division in the church no longer over creed or doctrine, but between those who arrive on time & 15 minutes late.” I responded by wondering what this retarded behaviour actually communicates. Does it communicate a lack of priority, a devaluing of the “sacred,” and raw narcissism? While the late person may not be consciously thinking along these lines, what do others who have grown up in our culture interpret from our patterns? Remember our actions communicate a particular set of beliefs, whether we like it or not. Does arriving consistently late for formal or informal church gatherings actually communicate a set of unconscious or conscious beliefs about the value we place on community and the particular experience of the community? Does arriving late communicate that we’ve come to “get” something from the experience rather than “give?” Does it reveal a consumer, heart attitude? If it were possible to re-orient our life around giving, would we actually begin showing up on time and validating others and God with our presence? Probably all worth pondering.
By the way, it’s never too late to apologize for being a retard. Resist the culture of narcissism and the chronically retarded and live more intentionally with this life. Show up on time for your life because you only have one to live!