September 10, 2010
I have been planning on writing this ‘Mañana’ article for several months, but I never got around to it. There is an old saying “Why do today what you can put off ‘till tomorrow?” Some have coined the expression “mañana disease”, which means to procrastinate and put things off until tomorrow. The term ‘procrastinate’ is literally Latin “for tomorrow (crastinus)”.
Once a year in January, many of us take time to make New Year’s Resolutions. Many of us vow to finish certain important tasks that we have been putting off in 2010. For some of us, it may be finding a new job, getting married, having a child, buying a house, earning a University degree, or restoring a broken relationship.
King Solomon 3,000 years ago had this advice for people struggling with the mañana disease: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways and be wise.” (Proverbs 6:6)
Solomon challenges each of us to not let fear hold us back: “The sluggard says ‘there is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming in the streets.’ (Proverbs 26:13)
Solomon encourages us to not be arrogant and unteachable: “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly.” (Proverbs 26:16). Solomon cautions us not to become addicted to our pillows: “As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.” (Proverbs 26:14). The ancient word for procrastination is sloth, one of the seven deadly sins. Solomon humorously points out that sloth can become so addictive that nothing gets done: “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.” (Proverbs 26:15).
Why do we procrastinate? I procrastinated for years in writing my second book “Battle for the Soul of Canada.”* Sometimes conquering procrastination seems like too much stress, too much work. I believe that the rise of the ‘living together’ phenomenon in our culture has a lot to do with marital procrastination, especially for men. The average age for men to be married is now 34; for women, it is 31. Many people are waiting for the perfect time to tie the knot, the perfect financial situation, perfect educational situation, perfect housing situation, perfect emotional connectedness. Perfectionism is at the core of the mañana disease. Our grandparents rarely experienced perfect lives. Somehow they were able to get married and get on with their lives.
For many men, the concept of having children is even more threatening than being married. The imagined weight of responsibility can be overwhelming. It is interesting that in the most affluent parts of the world, we are having fewer children and at a much later stage of life. The biological clock is on a collision course with the mañana disease. The irony of Quebec is that its fear of cultural extinction is now becoming a biological reality. Quebec, which had the highest birthrate, now has the lowest birthrate in North America. Mañana has real consequences.
I love the poster I saw recently of a huge polar bear lying prone on an iceberg. The caption goes: “When I get the feeling to do something, I lie down until the feeling goes away.” Charles Dickens in his famous novel David Copperfield wisely observed: “Procrastination is the thief of time.” I have found that later often means never. Life moves on. People die. People move away. Nothing on this earth is permanent.
We all mean very well in our hearts. Sometimes we fail to show it to our spouses, our children, our parents, our siblings. It is so easy to put off saying “I’m sorry. I was wrong. How can I make it up to you? I’ll try not to do that again. Will you please forgive me”. It is so easy to let relationships die because of the mañana disease.
When I came to St. Simon’s North Vancouver twenty-four years ago, I said to our congregation: “If I haven’t offended you yet, you don’t know me well enough.” They all laughed at the time, but later found out that I was dead serious. All of us have the ability to offend others. We even have the ability to offend ourselves. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. Women especially are often the hardest on themselves, turning their anger inward. Perhaps conquering the mañana disease may involve looking yourself in the mirror, and with God’s help, forgiving yourself. Many people, who have been through a painful divorce or an abortion, secretly condemn themselves for years. God knows and God forgives, if we will only open our hearts to Him. Say no to the mañana disease.