Excuses are tricky. The common held belief is that one should not excuse his/her follies but take action to change them. I completely agree.
On the other hand we are constantly excusing ourselves and those we care about. “Oh, I forgot to eat breakfast and that’s why I’m so irritable.” “Oh, he’s just overtired and that’s why he’s throwing a fit.” “Oh, she comes from such a strict upbringing that’s why she’s rebelling.” “Oh, they just drank to much that is why they are acting that way.” The list goes on and on and on….Is there some truth to these excuses? Of course. Do the excuses make it acceptable to act in way that is harmful to yourself or other people? Of course not. So where do we draw the line?
Well, this is how I strive to use excuses…tell me what you think…
When it comes to behavior that is abusive and harmful, especially to more than just the person who is creating the behavior, I think action is more useful than an excuse. Yes, maybe they did have a rough childhood. Yes, maybe they are dealing with some very stressful things. However, harming themselves and other people will not only cause more problems now, but many more untold ones in the future. It is much more conducive to a life of future happiness to stop the excuses and do something about the issue.
Now, what about when ours or someone’s behavior isn’t exactly harmful, but it is rather annoying, and/or inconvenient, and/or just plain rude?
When I’m dealing with myself, I try not to excuse any type of negative behavior. Even if I am tired, overworked, hungry, stressed, etc. That does not give me the right to be a brat. Also, all of those excuses have an action that needs to be taken. I need to focus on the resolving the issue rather than trying to find a place to lay the blame. When I resolve, rather than excuse, it leads to not only relieving the problem, but also an added burst of happiness for being proactive and more wisdom to do better the next time.
When it comes to other people I have an excuse rule. If, like I mentioned earlier, is not really dangerous or abusive then I always give the other person at least three excuses. This helps me either not take offense in the first place, or make it easier to forgive if I’ve already taken offense.
For example, if I am shopping with my three children for shoes, (Which every parent knows is SO much FUN! Ok, I need a sarcasm font…) and the sales person is clearly ignoring me as I stand in front of them with the shoes I need to find sizes for, as they text someone or check their emails, I have two choices. I can either A.) Choose to be offended and angry or B.) Give them three excuses.
If I choose “A” not only will I now be in a bad mood but I will also most likely have an even more unhelpful sales person. If I choose “B”, let’s say there Mom is in the hospital and they need to check on her, or their child is needing to be picked up, or they are checking on the availability of cumquats in Beijing, China because they are moving there next month and their husband adores cumquats (O.K. so sometimes you have to be creative to give someone an excuse…you never know….).Well, if I choose to give them excuses then I may not even take offense at all, I will be more amicable and thus they will too (most likely).
This practice is simple and seems like it wouldn’t make a big difference, but it really has for me. To take offense is a choice. To get angry is a choice. To be upset in any way, justified or not, is a choice. So, when there is not going to be any long-range damage done to me or anyone else why not just let it go? Well, that’s why I give the three excuses. It helps me remember that the world does not revolve around me and that other people have lives and problems. If I remember this then I can lower the negativity and anxiety that bombards us in this world and choose to be happy.
How do you use excuses? Do you think they are helpful or harmful or both?