by Rev. Peter K. Stimpson

QUESTION: Why do people procrastinate? When I ask my husband to help around the house, he promises but then drags his feet. I have to continually remind and prod him. At work, this has cost him promotions. Why in God’s name does he do it?

ANSWER

Procrastination is a common problem. Why do people like your husband do it? I have found that there are two reasons: fear and anger.

1. FEAR: In the first instance, someone might delay doing something for fear that, once it was done, someone else might criticize or laugh at them. Think back to the first time that you stepped out onto a dance floor, or when you dared raise your hand in class to give an opinion, and you begin to get the picture of what the procrastinator fears. Now add in overcritical parents with high expectations and a competitive society with a win-lose orientation, and you have all the ingredients for a person with one hand on the doorknob ready to escape and the other on a bottle of Pepto-Bismol for their upset stomach.

2. ANGER: The second cause is suppressed anger. The frustration you feel defines one of the purposes for the behavior of your husband, namely, not only to run away from stress, but also to punish you for pushing him towards it. While you did not intend to push, that is, nevertheless, how he feels, carrying on a game originally begun with his parents. Scared to express his anger directly, he does so indirectly, with a host of excuses why this or that did not get done on time.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

By noticing the problem without being critical, you can get him to talk. By listening to his fear of criticism and anger at being pushed, you can get to the underlying problem of poor self-esteem. But, do not ignore the problem, as that only reinforces it, unwittingly conveying that your husband does not have what it takes to do the job on time. The whole point of my answer is –– he does!

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