As people, we are very good at making excuses—it can be very simple to put off something you don’t really want to do. Do you ever catch yourself making excuses when things don’t entirely go your way? Have you ever neglected taking responsibility for the events and circumstances of your life? Have you ever tried to explain away why you didn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t or just wouldn’t do something? I know I’ve been guilty—maybe you have too. Is it part of being human?
Let’s be honest, accepting responsibility for one’s actions and admitting one’s mistakes or acknowledging foolishness is difficult. There aren’t many people who willingly admit to making a mistake, who unprompted own up to wrongdoing or take responsibility for their actions. It’s far easier to devise an excuse. Face it, when you make a mistake, the first thought that passes through your mind is, Is there anyone else I can blame?
Perhaps the exception was George Washington, the first president of the United States of America, who was renowned for his truthfulness, even as a politician. Perhaps it was a habit he found hard to break. Maybe you’re familiar with his famous words when asked if he chopped down one tree: “Yes, father, I cannot tell a lie…I chopped down the cherry tree.” Or so the story goes. And, because of his honesty, young George avoided the deserved punishment.
We can postpone something we know is really important, or blame somebody else for what has happened. Why do we do it? Fear of making mistakes, or fear of change. Change can be one of the hardest things to face, especially as we get older—I know. And we like to stay within our own comfort zone. It’s safe. Predictable. No risks—usually anyway.
The truth is that every day has great possibilities just around the corner. But if we lock ourselves away making one excuse after another, we will never grow mentally or spiritually into a mature, thinking person. And who wants to live like that? You may lack motivation, not wanting to risk getting hurt again. I’ve heard people say, I don’t feel inspired enough to step out in faith. But is that good enough? I don’t think so.
For example, a lack of sleep could be the reason why you’re feeling so tired throughout the day. And when you’re feeling tired, you will naturally lack inspiration. And if we dig a little deeper we might even find that it’s your diet that’s causing your sleepless nights, or that your lack of sleep is a result of not getting enough exercise. Moreover, just maybe, you’re simply not getting enough exercise because you’re working longer hours than usual, and therefore, don’t have time to allocate for exercise.
Taking Full Responsibility
We do need to accept full responsibility for our failures and mistakes. Excuses are often made because we just don’t want to take responsibility for our shortcomings. When we take full responsibility for all our failures and mistakes, we quickly grow in confidence. Moreover, we feel empowered because life is no longer built upon luck or good fortune, but rather on our ability to successfully adapt to the changing conditions that life throws our way.
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We all have inherited our deceitful ways. It’s called sin. The first sin committed resulted in an excuse—The devil [serpent] made me do it! (Genesis 3:12,13)—from Adam and Eve. Which was quickly followed by another: “It was the woman you gave me who brought me some, and I ate it.” That was Adam’s excuse.
The Bible also tells us to resist temptation. James says, “Remember, when someone wants to do wrong it is never God who is tempting him… Temptation is the pull of man’s own evil thoughts and wishes” (James 1:13,14).
The Bible is littered with examples of broken promises, lies and excuses. Moses, who was trained as a leader in Pharaoh’s court, when asked by God to go and deliver Israel, pleaded, “O Lord, I’m just not a good speaker. I never have been, and I’m not now, even after you have spoken to me, for I have a speech impediment… . Lord, please! Send someone else” (Exodus 4:10,13).
In the New Testament, Jesus told the story of guests invited to a wedding (heaven), but who gave excuses for not coming (Matthew 22:1-13). One had a farm to look after, another his merchandise, and yet another a new wife. So the king said to his servants, “The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honour. Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see” (verse 8).
Why would you make an excuse when God invites you to share heaven with him? A lifelong habit of making excuses, perhaps? For avoiding facing reality? For living a life in denial? That would be one excuse too many.