Have you ever heard something so ridiculous that the only appropriate response is an eyeroll? I’m on the older end of the millennial spectrum, and while I try to distance myself from it, there is one turn of phrase I find myself using quite a lot these days…
The reply, often accompanied with an eyeroll, that is delivered when you can’t even. When someone has literally just told you something so outlandish that you can’t conceive of it.You’d rather them stop talking than go on another minute.
If there is one thing that makes me feel this way, it is an excuse. You know how they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions? I disagree. It’s paved with shitty excuses. Maybe I just have some sort of aura that makes people feel like they have to explain themselves? I don’t know, but it seems that I am on the receiving end of a lot of them.
I get it though...When we are very little most of us learn to “ask politely to be excused”; we go off to school and work and we get “excused” absences; we ask people to “excuse us” if we inconvenience them for any number of things, from cutting them off in line, to asking them to repeat themselves.
So, what is an excuse, really? Why is it provided? Whom does it benefit? At its core, an excuse is something offered to make someone feel a little less bad about something. You could say excuses are derived from guilt. Guilt is a powerful and compelling emotion and excuses are there to ease that guilt. Something less than favorable happened and an excuse is developed to soften the blow of disappointment. Most of the time, the party receiving the excuse knows it’s a load of malarkey, yet we tolerate them anyway; like a good enough excuse will glaze over any negative feelings.
Sadly, it does not work this way. Often the excuse is for the benefit of its creator more so than for the receiver. We feel better about screwing up when we can explain it. The truth is that we can only control our own behavior and excuses lead us down a slippery slope.
No one is perfect, but we should take pause before we start compiling flimsy reasons why we could not or did not do something. First of all, consider if the person you’re formulating the excuse for is even worth it. Most of the time, people are too preoccupied with their own lives to care why you didn’t blah blah blah. (Take it from me, as a yoga teacher, I PROMISE I am not judging you for not coming to class in a month. I’m just happy to see you today.)
Excuses can be damning, too, by drawing unwanted attention to something that may otherwise go unnoticed. I was late for a big, off-site, sales meeting a couple years ago. Like of the 50 people there, I was the last person in the door and sitting down as the CEO of our company was giving his introduction. I was mortified, but decided to apologize to him when we broke for lunch. I told him I had difficulty finding parking and that I didn’t mean to walk in late. He said to me, “Gosh, I didn’t know you were late until just now!” Whoops. Open mouth, insert foot.
In some situations, an excuse may suffice, but an apology is often so much better. We are all human and the truth is that sometimes we stink! We drop the ball and we make mistakes. Did you cause someone else a hard time? If so, they probably don’t care why it happened, or who’s fault it was, or whether or not you meant to do it. They likely just want you to acknowledge the incident. Excuses are not time machines. They can not take away disappointment, in fact they can actually make things worse. A sincere apology can help us relate much better than an excuse ever will.
In light of that, next time you find yourself grasping at excuses, OMG STAHP. Take a second to ask if it’s worth it? Does the excuse receiver really care? Can you simply own your choices and ask for forgiveness? Can you stand in your truth without blaming others? There’s no need to feel guilty because none of us is perfect. It’s okay to be unapologetic and authentic and late and forgetful and over-programmed and tired and make mistakes. We are human!
Let’s give up the excuses and get on with our lives. Let go of the guilt and embrace our authenticity. Go ahead and get real with people. They'll love you for it :)