Why God Doesn’t Want to Hear Your Excuses
- Bill Purvis
- 2016 22 Mar
Excuses, excuses, and more excuses. They’re easy to make and even easier to live by. Excuses get you out of things without taking ownership. They lay blame elsewhere and give you a reason to feel okay about skirting responsibility, taking shortcuts, or even simply being lazy. Excuses are active in all of our lives. Some use them blatantly while others engage in such small ways they don’t even recognize it. Making excuses has become so common to everyday life that it’s almost routine, like brushing teeth and bathing. How did this happen? How do we, even inadvertently, begin playing the game of excuse making?
When we go through tough experiences in life, especially early in life, these experiences form our story. They create the framework within which we understand who we are and why we do what we do. Used rightly, we can grow through these hardships and use our story to help and inspire others. Used wrongly, we can turn our hardships into an excuse not to grow and use our story as a tool to manipulate others. If only we hadn’t had such a bad childhood—a mean teacher, a slave-driving boss, a cold-hearted spouse—then we would be so much farther along in life.
Although they come in different shapes and sizes, all excuses have one thing in common: they enable us to avoid facing the truth. An excuse may not be an outright lie, but if we’re honest, we have to admit that it’s not the full truth either. A half-truth equals a whole lie. So in reality, we accuse ourselves when we excuse ourselves.
“Christian” excuses are among my favorites:
“I’m rude because I’m bold.”
“I’m cheap because I’m a good steward.”
“I’m critical because I’m a watchdog for error.”
“I’m judgmental because I have discernment.”
“I can’t talk to people about Jesus or my faith because I’m not outgoing.”
I actually had a man in our church parking lot tell me he couldn’t share his faith because he was afraid to talk to strangers. Then he stepped into his truck, clicked on his CB radio, and said, “Breaker 1‑9, anybody out there?” It seemed to me like he could talk to strangers just fine!
Do you see how all these excuses enable the speakers to avoid facing up to some hard truths about themselves? If they owned up to the truth, they might have to risk changing, and that’s the one thing chronic excusers are desperate to avoid doing.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that people avoid facing up to the truth with excuses that typically fall into one of four categories: denial, detour, defense, or digging in.
1. Denial. This excuse is an outright lie. Although it may have elements of truth, you know it’s denial because it usually sounds ridiculous. When Moses confronted Aaron about his part in making a golden calf for the Israelites to worship, Aaron said: “Do not let the anger of my lord burn . . . they gave it [the gold] to me, and I threw it in the fire, and out came this calf” (>Exodus 32:22–24). Are you kidding me? Can you believe Aaron actually said such a thing? It sounds ridiculous, right? But human beings still behave like this when they’re desperate to avoid the truth.
2. Detour. This kind of excuse uses an indirect answer to avoid the truth. God, knowing Cain had murdered his brother, asked Cain where Abel was. Instead of giving a straightforward answer, Cain said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). He didn’t lie but he didn’t tell the truth either.
3. Defense. This excuse is used to justify one’s actions. Have you ever heard the saying, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse?” It’s an attempt to acknowledge that I’m wrong while simultaneously avoiding the responsibility for what I’ve done: “I’m sorry, but . . .” This may be the most dangerous and self-deceptive form of excuse. It’s tears without the desire to change. It looks like true repentance, but it’s really just throwing empty words around in an effort to remove the pressure of guilt. When the prophet Samuel accused Saul of disobeying God by not destroying all of the Amalekites’ animals in battle, Saul justified his actions with this excuse: “The people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed” (1 Samuel 15:15). In other words, Lord, I may not have done what you asked, but I disobeyed with good motives—I wanted to honor you. What?!
4. Digging In. This form of excuse is more subtle. Many of us are plagued in this life by either guilt or bitterness—guilt over what we’ve done wrong, or bitterness over how someone has wronged us. Some of us, unconsciously, use our obsession with guilt or bitterness as an excuse for avoiding what God wants for us, and staying where we are.
If we ever expect to experience real life change, we must get rid of excuses. We have to face the music…better yet…face the truth. When we get honest with ourselves we expose our vulnerability. It’s only by getting real with yourself that you can uncover what’s been hindering you from reaching your full potential. Excuses don’t enhance your life—they compress it. Make today the day you excuse yourself from excuses forever.
Bill Purvis is the pastor of Cascade Hills Church in Columbus, GA. He is the author of Make a Break For It: Unleashing the Power of Personal and Spiritual Growth (Zondervan, March 22, 2016). You can connect with him online at billpurvis.com.
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/SIphotography
Publication date: March 22, 2016