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Do you feel "put off"?

One of the more amusing characters from the Popeye comic strip (created by E. C. Segar in 1934, called then the "Thimble Theater") is a hamburger ravenous fellow named J. Wellington Wimpy (although usually just "Wimpy") who is a sort of charactature of an intellectual con-artist. His famous tag line is "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today." Surprisingly, he seems to be impossible to find on Tuesdays.

His character seems to express the notion "why put off a hamburger meal, even if I can't afford it at this time." Or, to generalize, "Why exert an effort today to obtain some gain if I can get the gain while putting off the effort?" We know this in many contexts, contexts that involve procrastination (a fascinating word in its own right), failing to accept responsibility for imprudence, an unearned sense of entitlement, etc., etc., etc.

If you find that you are "put off" by such people (in an emotional or moral sense as well as a chronological one), join the club. Our culture has managed to disconnect consequences from imprudent behavior in countless areas. There is a whole moral and statistical risk "science" of such matters that goes by the name of "moral hazard."

To develop this further, I've decided it's necessary to examine the etymology of the word "procrastinate". You might think it's etymology is a simple matter of uniting an existing verb, "crastinate", with the prefix, "pro", which means "for." So, one would get the meaning "to favor, or be for, crastinating."

Alas, there is no such root verb. There is, however, an antecedent Latin verb, "procrastinare" which means "to procrastinate" or "to put off until tomorrow." We can't stop there, however. "Procrastinare" comes from "pro" plus "crastinus", and so the literal meaning is "for" plus "of tomorrow." (Latin "cras" means "tomorrow".). So, if we might stretch our etymological imaginations a tad, we get something like "for, or in favor of, that which is of tomorrow." Or, to put this in more conventional terms, to prefer coming to terms with someting as we will find it to be tomorrow rather than how we find it to be today.

Thus, maybe we prefer to put off dieting, exercise, paying bills, apologizing, etc., until tomorrow because we lack the fortitude to deal with such unpleasantness today.

One of the major consequences of such procrastination is that we fail to fully account for the cost of putting things off. We imagine, usually, that the consequences are minor and we can afford the delay. We may put off appologizing, acknowledging a mistake (acknowledging any uncomfortable truth) or even acknowledging a sin. The natural result of such behavior is to damage our relationships as we "put people off."

The most common context for “putting off” is probably government. Congress, for example, is famous (or infamous) for “kicking the can (the day of reckoning) down the road.” Parts of the bureaucracy are noted for delay (perhaps the best known cases are the VA and any part of the bureaucracy being investigated by oversight committees of the legislature).

Do you put people off? Do they put you off? Spend some time meditating on the logjams of your life. Perhaps prayer can help you resolve them.

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