We’ve all got them. We all use them. I’m writing today about excuses. See, I haven’t written on this blog in nearly three weeks. I could list my reasons for not doing so. I could blame my busy schedule, my needy kids, or my faulty computer. I could blame tiredness, allergies, distractions, or even the weather. I could easily justify my neglect and probably evoke empathy from most readers. It’s always something, right? We all understand.
But in the end my reasons are still simple excuses. They are my attempt to put forward a defense or justification for my choices. In most circumstances they become a way of diverting attention from the real reasons for my actions. What I mean to say is that we are often skillfully equipped at giving reasonable and truthful explanations for our own actions while at the same time avoiding the deeper issues that drive us.
At least this is what happens in my life and experience. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not saying that all excuses mask deeper problems. Sometimes things just happen that are outside of our control and all we can do is admit to that. Running late because a wreck on 183 brought traffic to a stand still? A valid, honest, and understandable reason for your tartiness. That’s fine to admit to. But, running late because you had to stick around to see the end of The Sixth Sense (which you still deny having already seen 15 times)? Come on. This excuse is simply not telling of the whole story. It’s a mask for not valuing that person or event more than you’re own selfish interests; and it’s an ugly excuse at that. Actually, I’d hope no one would ever use this excuse because we all know how The Sixth Sense ends anyway. (Please excuse my poor examples, I just… never mind.) In cases like this, it’s more likely that we’ll lie about the movie and blame it on the traffic.
Excuses substituted as lies reveal the depth of our self-deception. There’s something going on in the midst of our excusing that we simply try to overlook. It becomes obvious that there are times when we can easily and rightly justify our actions and there are times when we simply can not. But in either circumstance, in truth or lie, in reasonable circumstance or in lame reasoning, the strength of our desire for justifiable action is undeniable. From within us comes this overwhelming and constant need to be blameless in the site of others. There is always the need to divert blame elsewhere so that it doesn’t land on our shoulders. There’s always something or someone else responsible. But never me.
Where does this urge for blamelessness come from? Why do I feel the need to provide explanation for my actions, both good and bad? Why do I want to be exalted for my successes and looked over for my faults? It is these deeper questions that drive our excuse making. Within each of us is this need to be declared good and innocent. Many times we’ll do things that are not good nor innocent in attempt to be viewed as such by others. It’s a terrible cycle we find ourselves in that’s fueled by the human ego. We know that everyday interrogation is going to come from others, but it’s also going to come from within.
Madonna once said that her drive in life is from the fear of being mediocre. Everyday she still has to prove that she’s somebody. This, coming from one of the most well-known and successful pop singers of all time. She’s not being questioned from without, but from within. We all recognize this because we all share in it. It’s our curse. It’s our humanity that brings it because we all find our beginnings in the garden and in Adam. There he allowed judgement in by disobeying God. He separated himself and us from our Creator and we’ve been trying to prove ourselves worthy to return to his presence ever since. Adam and Eve’s first word’s after the Fall were excuses for their actions that they hoped would somehow justify their disobedience. They didn’t work, but yet we continue to try. We all feel the urge to make excuses, but we all wish we didn’t have to as well.
The good news is that we don’t. There’s only one place to find our justification and that’s in Jesus. With Jesus we are defined by what he did on the cross and not what we have done on our own. With him there are no more excuses. With him we know our shortcomings yet we’re received fully by his grace; we know he is now our reason for all good things.
I know that I need to be more careful of the excuses I give. I know that I need to look at the underling accusations in my own heart before I start rattling off a string of reasoned responses. I want to know what it is to not need excuses, to think less of myself and my worth before others; to know that I am valued above all by Jesus my King is and should be enough.