Why Are You Always Late?

Sunday, 18 April, 2021 - 10:03 pm


Question of the Week:

I have a friend who is never on time for any social arrangement, and is often outrageously late. He is otherwise a great guy. His tardiness drives me crazy and is affecting our friendship. Does our sensible religion have something to say on why it is wrong to be late? I suspect that if Judaism promotes punctuality, he might lift his game...


The Kabbalah teaches that people come under two personality types: chessed or gevurah.

A chessed type is someone who is giving and outward, generous and expressive. They are easy-going, spontaneous and free-spirited. But sometimes a bit all over the place. 

A gevurah type is more inward and disciplined, controlled and contained. They are focused, predictable and dependable. And can tend to be a little square.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both. A gevurah person can organize a party. A chessed person will be the life of it. A gevurah person is good at writing budgets. A chessed person spends the money. You'd rather get a gift from a chessed person. You'd rather get a lift with a gevurah person. 

When they work together, a chessed person and a gevurah person make a great team. Their opposite talents compliment each other, and the one's strengths compensate for the other's weaknesses. But when it comes to time management, they will clash. A gevurah type arrives five minutes early. A chessed type is just getting ready to leave when they're already five minutes late.

Your friend sounds like a chessed type. He may find it hard to restrict himself in order to be on time. It may go against his very nature. This is not an excuse, just an explanation. Asking a chessed person to be on time is like asking a gevurah person to chill out and throw away their schedule. It's possible, but not so simple. We can't just change our nature.

But we can change our behaviour. If your friend would contemplate on the inconvenience his lateness causes to others, it may help him overcome it. We all have our nature, whether we tend toward chessed or gevurah. But even an extreme chessed person has some gevurah there deep down. And that latent gevurah can be activated by employing a third power in the soul, called tiferes.

Tiferes is empathy, our sensitivity to others. It is the ability to transcend our nature by becoming more attentive to the needs of those around us. Instead of acting from my own instinct, tiferes allows me respond to my surroundings. 

When a chessed person taps in to tiferes, he is no longer stuck in his own instinctive pattern of lateness. He can awaken some inner gevurah. His chessed nature won't go away, but he can at least force himself to come on time, out of consideration for those gevurah people who will  otherwise be waiting around for him.

Indeed your friend is a chessed person, and his challenge is to work on his gevurah, discipline himself and get his act together. But you have a challenge too. You're a gevurah person. So channel some chessed. Ease up a bit on your friend. His lateness is a part of the package, the fun-loving over-the-top spur-of-the-moment friend that you love. Teach him some gevurah, and learn a bit of chessed. He might still be late sometimes, but at least you'll be more chilled about it. 

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

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