On a recent trip home, my brother and I were reminiscing about this little creek that ran through the high school where my parents worked as teachers. As young boys, it was a place of adventure, an exotic world where we could accomplish anything. As we were talking, I remembered this strange habit I used to have. I would find a rock near the creek and hide it in an otherwise nondescript little area. Every time, I would come back to it and add to my collection.
As an adult, I am realizing I still do the same thing. We collect things to bring us joy and make us feel safe, to feel like we are accomplishing something and doing something meaningful.
Thinking about the things I collect as an adult, it is clear to me that one of the things I collect is excuses. They aren’t as tangible as the little trinkets at the creek, but they feel just as valuable to me. I know I collect them (and value them immensely) because I go to that treasure trove when I am desperate, when things are not going my way, or when I am trying to impress somebody.
If you are honest with yourself, you are likely a lot like me.
I look around my day, just like that kid at the creek, searching for the best excuses. Even when I don’t need them, I grab them, treasure them, and call them my own. I put them away for another day.
Here are some of my best: I’m not feeling well. I forgot. I didn’t know. There was a miscommunication. No, I never got that from you.
Why do I hoard excuses? Because I want to protect myself. It is indicative of the way I perceive the world – that others are out to get me; that I am generally unsafe and could in any moment be exposed to overwhelming danger.
We hoard excuses because we live in a Don’t-Make-A-Mistake culture. When things go wrong, we want to make sure the hammer does not fall on us. And so, we hoard excuses so that we can explain why it is someone else’s fault, or – at the very least – why it is not mine.
Excuses are a safety net. They keep us from failing. They keep us from falling.
Friends or Foes
Recently, I pulled out one of my patented excuses. It was a lie. I was trying to avoid pain. Embarrassment was coming my way and I was desperate to avert. Shuffling the blame to somewhere else, I escaped unseen.
Is this really the best thing for me? I hoard excuses and hide from the consequences of my actions. I blame others and self-promote. It might make me feel a sense of relief in the moment, but is it truly better for me and for the communities to which I belong?
I’ve got a bad habit of collecting excuses. There are so many better things to collect, so many better purposes than momentary avoidance of discomfort to which I can commit my life. My relationships and the best missions of my life suffer because I am more focused on keeping up the illusion of perfection than creating something meaningful with the people around me.