I came across this story a while ago:
A priest was being honored at his retirement dinner after 25 years in the parish. A leading local politician and member of the Congregation was chosen to make the presentation and give a little speech at the dinner. He was delayed, so the priest decided to say his own few words while they waited.
“I got my first impression of the parish from the first confession I heard here. I thought I had been assigned to a terrible place. The very first person who entered my confessional told me he had stolen a television set and, when questioned by the police, was able to lie his way out of it. He had stolen money from his parents, embezzled from his employer, had an affair with his boss’s wife, taken illegal drugs, and gave VD to his sister. I was appalled. But as the days went on, I knew that my people were not all like that and I had, indeed, come to a fine parish full of good and loving people.”
Just as the priest finished his talk, the politician arrived full of apologies for being late. He immediately began to make the presentation and gave his speech. “I’ll never forget the first day our parish priest arrived,” said the politician. “In fact, I had the honor of being the first person to go to him for confession.”
I have found that being late or early or on time has significant implications for interpersonal relations. This is particularly true in business.
Dr. Neel Burton published an article entitled “The Psychology of Lateness” in Psychology Today. In the article, he observes that being late can not only be insulting and disrespectful to others, but it undermines the person who is late. It can indicate anger, aggression that is either conscious or unconscious, and in others, self-deception or lack of organization. Burton goes on to define self-deception being that “a person may be late because he feels inferior or unimportant and being late is a way for him to impose himself on a situation, attract maximal attention, and even take control of proceedings.” For example, apologizing, interrupting the event by introducing themselves to everyone, moving furniture around, or asking for a glass of water.
Interestingly, Dr. Burton also states that being early is just as rude, and being exactly on time can catch your host off guard. He arrives precisely eight minutes late, which he feels is not perceived as being late, and gives your host just enough time to sit down for a couple of minutes, gather his or her thoughts, and begin to look forward to your arrival.
In my early years, I did not give much thought to punctuality. I respected and admired a man who told me that two things you can do to gain the respect of others in an encounter are to be on time and be neatly dressed. You will earn respect if you respect others. Wise words indeed.