Excuses. I use them. A lot. Way too much. In fact, I use them for things that don’t even need excusing. For instance, does it really matter that there was a long string of things that distracted my already sleep-deprived brain and made me forget a meeting? Not really; it just matters that I unintentionally forgot the meeting. The person I apologize to doesn’t need my life story. I know this, and yet I somehow manage to keep doing it anyway.
I first realized things were a little out of hand a couple months ago, when I went for a run for the first time in a very long while. I had gone a pathetically short distance and was already getting physically spent. I could feel that my face was completely flushed, and I was huffing and puffing like the Little Engine that Could (although I must admit my inner dialogue was much less optimistic than, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”). I knew I would have to stop.
However, rather than simply admitting to that in my own mind, I looked up at the sky and thought, “Huh. The sun will be going down before too long. Sure wouldn’t want to get caught outside in the dark by myself.” It was a convenient way out, but the reality was that I was turning purple, gasping for air, and quite out of shape. And then it hit me — I just made an excuse to myself, as if I expected to somehow look cooler in my own eyes. Funny; I wasn’t fooled.
I was struck with the fact that this was a basic humility issue. There is a big part of me that wants to protect my own image and reputation. As vehemently as I would deny being perfect, I also am way, way too uncomfortable with letting my weakness show. It’s a bizarre double standard where I would gladly stand up and admit to being weak and broken, until I actually do something that’s weak and broken — and then up come the defenses, the excuses.
I did it again just the other night. I had a bit of an emotional moment in a meeting, and Wendy, being the amazing friend and wise, perceptive woman that she is, caught up with me afterwards to see how I was doing. She helped talk me down out of my freaked-out-ness… and once I was calmed down a bit, guess what? I started making excuses for freaking out. I found myself explaining the different pressures I felt, the different things I was thinking, how I realized at the time that my emotions weren’t rational, etc., etc. And in the end, none of that actually matters to the incident. I freaked out. Wendy helped set me straight. And that’s all that needed to be said.
It takes humility to let bygones be bygones. “Hey, sorry I forgot the meeting,” is one thing. It is entirely another to say, “Hey, sorry I forgot the meeting! I had a pile of homework, and I got a call from so-and-so, and then I needed gas in my car, and then I realized I had a deadline on this project, and then my printer jammed, and since I didn’t get enough sleep last night anyway, I had a headache, and so I wasn’t thinking clearly, and nobody reminded me, so I forgot…”
An extreme example, I know, but I wouldn’t necessarily put it past me if I was embarrassed enough.
This is going to be a fun journey, I can tell. If I do something stupid, OH WELL. It happens. Say it and move on. Trying to redeem the situation and make it look smarter is only my attempt to erect a flimsy (and probably really obvious) shield around my all too alive-and-well ego. If I feel I have to defend myself against myself to myself, how do I really expect to “go low” when faced with the temptation to defend myself against somebody else? Time to learn to put a lid on it and be okay with the fact that I’m still immature in a lot of areas, still growing to be more like Him a little bit every day — with lots of grace, and no excuses.