Most of us make several excuses when we are questioned about our misconduct or non-completion of a given task. Making excuses for mistakes is not anything new. In fact, we can trace this undesirable habit all the way back to the Garden of Eden. In the book of Genesis 3:11-13, “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?” “The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”
Daniel Webster speaks of an incident that happened in his childhood. His father had given him and his brother Ezekiel some work with specific instructions before he went out on an important journey. But on his return, he found the task still undone, and questioned his sons about their idleness. “What have you been doing, Ezekiel?” he asked. “Nothing, Dad.” “Well, Daniel, what have you been doing?” “Helping Ezekiel, Dad.”
Do you find yourself making excuses when you do not perform? Excuses negate responsibility, and it is responsibility that separates man from the rest of the animal kingdom. Unlike other animals, we are responsible not for what we have, but for what we could have; not for what we are, but for what we could become. If we are to take credit for our successes, we must assume responsibility for our failures. Trying to hide our failures with excuses is like concealing a small hole in our garment with a large patch; it only makes the matter worse.
Excuses are harmful because they prevent one from succeeding. When we make excuses and repeat them often enough, they become a belief. By refusing to make excuses and embracing responsibility, we reap many rewards. The successes brought by this attitude act as a foundation for self-respect, pride, and confidence. Responsibility breeds competence and power. By living up to our promises and obligations, we win the trust of others. Once we are seen as trustworthy, people will willingly work with us, for our mutual gain. So, you see, making excuses can put the brakes on our progress, while accepting responsibility can lead us to the top.
Have you seen that great Nike advertisement where Michael Jordan is walking in slow motion toward the locker room with his voice in the background? He is saying “I’ve missed more than 9, 000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot — and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Michael Jordan, possibly the greatest basketball player ever to play the game, acknowledges that his failures helped him succeed. Far too many believers believe that our failures doom us. But the reality is that our failures are neither fatal nor final. To quote Rudyard Kipling, “We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse.”
Mistakes have hidden powers to help us, but they fail in their mission of helping us when we blame them on other people. When you use excuses, you give up your power to change and improve. You can fall down many times, but you won’t be a failure until you say that someone else pushed you. Edmund Gosse, poet and author said, ‘Never mind whom you praise, but be very careful whom you blame.’
Hebrews 12:12-13 says: “So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!” I started wondering why people sit on their hands and drag their feet….and realized it happens when people make excuses. Believe me, I’ve heard all of the excuses … and some that would make you laugh if you didn’t know the person speaking the words was serious. I believe if I set my mind to it…I could come up with some of the greatest excuses in the world. But the real question is what does the greatest book ever written have to say about excuses.
Find a way instead of looking for an explanation. The world simply does not have enough crutches for all the lame excuses. When you make a mistake and then make an excuse for it, you have made two mistakes. Poet and painter William Blake noted, ‘The fox condemns the trap, not himself’. Don’t find yourself talking like that old fox!
According to Don Wilder & Bill Rechin. “Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure.” An excuse is worse and more troubling than a lie, because an excuse is a lie with other lies attached to it. It’s been said that an excuse is a thin skin of falsehood stretched tightly over a bald-faced lie.
In the parable of the banquet, Lk 14, 15-20, man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!” Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready. But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me. Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me. Another said, ‘I now have a wife, so I can’t come.’
Joyce Meyer says, “Don’t give in to excuses that can keep you from really living the best life God has for you.” According to Benjamin Franklin, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” And Cam Newton categorically stated, “I hate excuses. Excuses are a disease.”
2 Thessalonians 3:10-13 says: “Don’t you remember the rule we had when we lived with you? “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” And now we’re getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately—no excuses, no arguments—and earn their own keep. Friends, don’t slack off in doing your duty.” An excuse is a psychological defense mechanism in which there is an unconscious shift of emotions, affect, or desires from the original object to a more acceptable or immediate substitute.
Doing a job right is always easier than fabricating an excuse for why you didn’t. You waste time and creative energies thinking up excuses. Most failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses. When you’re good at making excuses, it’s hard to excel at anything else. Don’t make excuses, make progress. When we procrastinate, we are making excuses, Proverbs 6:4, “Don’t put it off; do it now! Don’t rest until you do.”
The person who really wants to do something finds a way; the others find an excuse. If Never let a challenge become an excuse. You have a choice: Let the obstacle be an excuse, or let it be an opportunity. No excuse will ever support your purpose in life.
How to stop making excuses and start building a life
- Realize that your success or failure depends on you. It depends on the choices you make. It depends on your attitude. Resolve to start accepting responsibility today. Don’t find an excuse, find a way. Don’t make excuses, make good. Remember what Winston Churchill said, “Responsibility is the price of greatness.”
- Beware of rationalization. We make excuses to hide behaviour we are ashamed of. Rationalization is the process of trying to hide shameful conduct from ourselves. This is dangerous because we become unaware of what we are doing. However, you can fight rationalization by looking for cues. For instance, if someone challenges your conduct and you become angry, it probably suggests you are guilty as charged. Why would you get angry, if you’re innocent?
- From time to time, stop and examine your progress. Compare where you are now with where you would like to be. Ask yourself why is there a gap between these two points. Don’t make excuses. Make plans and take corrective action.
- When you make a mistake, accept responsibility; learn from it; and don’t repeat it. Use your time for discovering solutions instead of inventing excuses.
- Plant your garden of success today: First, plant 3 rows of peas: patience, positive thinking and persistence. Next, plant 3 rows of squash: squash excuses, squash blame and squash criticism. Then, plant 3 rows of lettuce: let us be responsible, let us be trustworthy and let us be ambitious. Finish, with 3 rows of turnip: turn up when needed, turn up with a smile and turn up with confidence.
Shed the excuses and face reality. Excuses are the loser’s way out. They will mar your credibility and stunt your personal growth. Napoleon Hill puts it beautifully, “The best job goes to the person who can get it done without passing the buck or coming back with excuses.”
St. Paul, who made no excuses in his life but was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4:7). The way Paul describes his life is full of meaning. He uses three pictures to describe it, the pictures of a soldier, an athlete, and a steward. We must be able to say the same about our life.
We must live life just like a faithful soldier: “I have fought a good fight.” – totally committed to the mission of Christ, suffered through the trials, temptations, criticisms and attacks… fought a fight that was worthy, honourable, noble and commendable, stuck to the mission of Christ to the very end.
We must run and finish the race of our life: we must complete the race just like the athlete runs and finishes the course of his race.
We must keep the faith. We must look after the faith just like a good steward looks after the estate of the master….and then we will be able to say like St. Paul with conviction…”henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.” (2 Tim 4:8).