Procrastination is for our egos, we know we are not victims


Pastor Bob Chell

Hypocrisy is my friend. As a pastor, I know I have a good sermon when I feel particularly hypocritical. I assume mine aren’t the only toes which need to be stepped on, or when the occasion warrants, stomped on.

Using this standard of judgement, this column should win a Pulitzer. It’s 10:43 p.m. Five hours after deadline and a long day, I open an e-mail query asking me how that column I had promised was coming along.

I have been reflecting on procrastination all week trying to discern why I fail to do the things I want to do, intend to do, ought to do, even have to do.

It’s 11:15 now. I’ve proofread my daughter’s paper on eating disorders. Am I a good parent or an enabler? Who knows? We are all muddling through, doing the best we can.

Still, we know we are not victims. We set ourselves up by taking on too much-too many classes, too many hours at work, too many favors. Often it isn’t the tasks which immobilize us but the psychic weight of all the details we must attend to.

Other times, we ascribe noble motives to our inability to say no. We portray ourselves as true friends or loyal employees when we actually suffer from a wacky kind of messianic complex, believing we, and we alone, can get this done, as if the place would shut down if we didn’t work an extra shift, or a friend would suffer debilitating tooth decay if we didn’t run them out to Walmart right this minute. When did we begin to think we were indispensable to the running of the world and the happiness of its inhabitants? Half the time, we aren’t helping out as we are much as feeding our own need to be valued, appreciated and important.

The real reason though-the reason we take on too much, the reason we don’t say no-is this: we procrastinate to protect our egos. If we turn in a paper a week early and get a poor grade we have to face the fact we didn’t do a good job, or perhaps we are in the wrong major. Crank the same paper out the night before and pull a C and we tell ourselves, “If I had only had another hour I would’ve had an A or at least a B-plus.” Yeah, sure.

We’ll do whatever it takes to paint ourselves into a corner; straighten our desk, make that Walmart run, even do our laundry in order to leave ourselves not quite enough time to attend to the task at hand. We paint ourselves into a corner, but it’s a corner with a trap door to protect our ego. “If only I had more time.”

The hard truth is this: we each have 24 hours every day, seven days every week. The rich don’t get an extra 20 minutes, and those in prison don’t get cut back to 23 as a part of their punishment.

We each have two things every day: 24 hours and the choice of how to use them. Time to choose now. Turn the page or get to work. It’s your call; it always has been.

Pastor Bob Chell is a pastor at the University Lutheran Center.