Real Help for Real Living: I was 15 minutes late, but I didn’t want them to know, so…

by Rev. Tony Marciano

Let me tell you a little story about approval addiction.

Recently, I made an appointment to meet with a friend. I estimated the travel time to my 10 a.m. appointment was 45 minutes, so I planned to leave at 9 a.m., leaving a 15-minute cushion. But, as these types of things often go, somehow I didn’t leave until 9:30.

Pulling out of the driveway, I knew I couldn’t make it in time.

I set up my GPS for the fastest route and it kept telling me my arrival time was 10:15 a.m. If I pushed the speed limit, I could arrive at 10:14. That doesn’t help much. I was going to be late.

I decided I would call my appointment at 9:50, but wasn’t sure what to say. Being five minutes late was understandable, sure. Being 10 minutes late was even OK. But 15 minutes late – I saw that as totally disrespectful to him. What should I say?

I was ashamed. I’m never late… always early. Now I was going to be late. What do I say? That I’ll be a few minutes late? Or maybe that I’ll be 10 minutes late, knowing that wasn’t exactly true. Or tell the truth, and know I’d be ashamed over being that late.

Did I want honesty or the other person’s approval?  Was I willing to lie and say I’d be 10 minutes late when my GPS is screaming that I would be 15 minutes late?  If I said I’d be 10 minutes late and arrive at 10:14, is that bad?

I wanted to say I would be 10 minutes late (or about 10 minutes late). That would sound good and then I could arrive at 10:14 and just smile when he opened the door.

Just a few days before, I had a conversation with a team member where we cleared the misunderstandings between us. It was a conversation of honesty that removed the miscommunication between us.

Ironically, just the night before, I found myself reading the book “The Life You Always Wanted” by John Ortberg. I opened the book where I had stopped a few years before, and chapter 10 was entitled “Practice of Secrecy.”

It was very clear the chapter was about approval addiction. The author spoke volumes about our need for constantly seeking the approval of others. We don’t speak the truth (dishonesty) because we’re more interested in what other people think of us. We’re good at impression management. We’re not good at honesty.

There I was on Interstate 77 nearing the Brookshire Freeway. I would call my friend at 9:50 a.m. The phone rang and he answered. I told him I had gotten a late start and was going to be 15 minutes late. I decided to be honest. I would let the chips fall where they would.

His reply? “No problem. I’m just enjoying a cup of coffee. We’ll see you when you get here.”

I was 14 and a half minutes late (sounds like at 4-year-old who is not 4, but 4 and a half). My tardiness didn’t change our conversation.

How badly do we want an honest relationship versus wanting the other person’s approval?  It’s a question we all have to answer. We are passionate at the Charlotte Rescue Mission about having authentic relationships. In fact, we constantly talk about having an authentic personal relationship to God through Christ. Not only do I want my human relationships to be authentic, I want the same authenticity with God.

I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well, my friend.

The Rev. Tony Marciano is executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission which provides a free, long-term Christian recovery program for men and women addicted to drugs and alcohol.

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