Sometimes in life, someone says something that makes you ponder it for days or weeks or even longer. I had this happen to me about a couple of months ago. I was talking to a person I’ve respected since I was a child. We were commenting on why someone’s level of commitment was so low. I said, “Oh! And the excuses she uses are ridiculous!” He said, “Isn’t it interesting that when we want to get out of something we have a great reason, yet when someone else is trying to get out of something, we call it an excuse.” Ouch. Was this individual using an excuse or did she have a reason?
When I looked these two terms up in the dictionary, I was surprised that they have very similar definitions. The word excuse has examples of ‘let off from doing something,’ ‘to be an acceptable reason for’ and ‘something offered as a reason for being excused.’ REALLY?! Reason means, ‘a statement given to explain an act,’ or ’cause.’ So both explain something…it’s just whether we personally think the explanation is valid or not whether we call it an excuse or a reason.
I find that I have both in my life. When I can’t get any writing done because my family is so distracting is that a reason or an excuse? When too many appointments make it difficult to visit someone and I tell them I haven’t been around because I’ve been too busy, is that an excuse or a reason? Only I can say for sure. Just as my dear friend pointed out, it probably depends on who is offering up the explanation and who is receiving it.
I appreciate my friend calling me out on my flippant comment and I do hope that I will evaluate more closely my own shortcoming of making my excuses feel like valid reasons and I hope to extend grace to those who are offering them up. It appears that I am not alone in this struggle as the Bible addressed this very thing years ago! I guess that’s where my friend heard it.
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. —Romans 2:1