This is one area where I seem to differ from the commonly accepted thinking about reasons versus excuses. For me, there is reason for everything. My difficulty arises when people use reasons to excuse something they do or don’t do, say or don’t say, in an attempt to alleviate the burden of taking responsibility for it.
I believe it was Viktor Frankl, psychologist and author, who said something to the effect that for every what, there is a why. You may not understand it or accept it, but there is a reason for everything. It may be self-induced, because you brought the event, person, or thing into your life. Or it may be out of your control or influence. But in either case, there is a why (a reason).
I’m sure you can think of someone who did or said something that puzzled you to no end. Because you can’t be in another person’s head, you can’t know what it was that tipped the scale in favor of their deed or words. Often, it’s just best that you accept it because, in truth, you may not be able to understand it. You haven’t lived that person’s life, so you just need to accept it.
People who stay with abusive people often do so because of a need (more on that in a later post), and they will continue to stay with that person or another abusive person until they learn the life lesson they are supposed to learn. I am a firm believer that everyone or everything that comes into your life is there to teach you something. And they will continue to be in your life until you learn it. Then you can banish them from your life.
I think back to grade school when I was sick and had to bring in an excuse to the teacher. Or, as a senior in high school, forging an excuse at the last minute to obtain an early dismissal to go with my friends to visit Penn State’s main campus. I needed those excuses to make it “okay” to miss school.
I often hear people giving a reason believing it’s an excuse. It may be, but I would bet against that in most cases. People use reasons to excuse behaviors—what they have or have not done, have or have not said. I remember a guy from high school who, when stopped for speeding, declared, “The devil made me do it!”
I have two grown children who moved out on their own in their early twenties. Before they had their own children, they would offer heavy traffic as an “excuse” when invited to dinner but were late. Yet they knew that traffic was bad that time of day, and they should have left earlier. Is it really an excuse? Or just a reason? Now, if they left sufficiently early, but there was an accident that froze traffic, that’s an excuse.
If you look at the picture at the top of this post, the pen is real and can be used (like an excuse). The reflection of the pen is just a principle of light, always there, but no real substance (like a reason).
My question to you is when something doesn’t go well—you’re not on time, you don’t complete a task, you break a promise, you speak to someone in a demeaning or belittling tone, etc.—is the “excuse” you offer really just a reason; i.e., just your way of relieving yourself of responsibility for your actions? Or is there really an excuse?
Next up: What is Personal Sustainability?