Tag Archives: Excuses

Maturity and Personal Responsibility

“What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds ….”
Ezra 9:13a (NIV)

I have a vivid memory from childhood. I was around ten or eleven years old and was embroiled in a competitive neighborhood game of “kick the can.” I don’t know if it’s even played by kids anymore. An empty coffee can was set up in our backyard. One of the neighbor kids was “It” and tasked with protecting the can and tagging anyone “out” who attempted to successfully kick the can before getting tagged. If anyone actually accomplished kicking the can, then all those who had previously been tagged “out” would be free and the game would continue.

I was one of the last chances for all those who had been tagged. I made my approach around the back of the garage and waited for “It” to turn his back. I made my run for the can. I lunged in desperation, executing a feet-first baseball slide to try and avoid the tag. I fell short and was tagged out by my gloating neighbor.

“GOSH DARN IT!” I exclaimed at the top of my lungs.

Only I didn’t say, “Gosh darn it.” I screamed the actual bad phrase, cussing like a sailor in my anger and frustration. Looking up, I saw my father standing on the patio a few feet away coiling the garden hose.

Busted right in front of the judge, jury, and executioner. I was condemned to spend the rest of that glorious summer evening in my room listening to the rest of the neighborhood kids playing outside my window. Desperate, I pleaded the youngest child’s defense.

“But Dad, I’m only repeating what I heard Tim and Terry say! They say it all the time!”

My appeal was summarily denied. There was no mercy for the innocent waif who had been deceived by his elder siblings and led, unknowingly, down the path of sinful exclamations. I trudged up the stairs to my prison cell and an early bedtime like a dead man walking, sure that I had been wronged.

Wendy and I often find ourselves in the fascinating social position of being in a life stage just ahead of many of our friends. As such, we observe our friends parenting children in various stages of personal development from childhood to young adults; stages we’ve already traversed with our girls. I am constantly amazed to watch children develop and go through various stages of maturity.

One of the most critical lessons in personal development is that of taking responsibility for one’s actions. It’s amazing to watch kids in the defensive machinations like my own elder sibling defense (it never works). I have witnessed kids expertly play the excuse, denial, blame, and wrongfully accused strategies with their parents like Grand Master chess players attempting to beat Watson. What’s really interesting to watch is when they finally have to own up to responsibility for their own foolishness, and how they handle it.

In today’s chapter, Ezra and the returning exiles are faced with a social and religious problem. The Hebrews’ faith is unlike any of the local religions practiced by other tribes inhabiting the land. Theirs is a holy, imageless, all-powerful God who seeks obedience, personal responsibility, and moral uprightness. Around them is a plethora of local pagan cults whose worship includes drunkenness, ritual sex and prostitution, child sacrifice, and all sorts of licentious practices. Throughout their history, Hebrew men have intermarried with local women. They soon found themselves participating in the local cults their wives belonged to along with religiously attending to the rituals of their own faith. Eventually, many simply walked away from the faith of their ancestors and assimilated into the local culture

I found Ezra’s prayer of confession and petition is a great example of responsibility. He doesn’t make excuses. He doesn’t point blame. He doesn’t try to minimize. He confesses honestly, takes full responsibility, and places himself at the mercy of the Almighty.

In the quiet this morning I find myself doing a little soul searching. Where in my life am I still playing an adult version of the child-like chess match of excuses, blame, obfuscation, and justification? Where do I need to step up, like Ezra, and confess honestly and forthrightly? What are the areas of life that I need to make a change?

Taking the Blinders Off

If any of you sin without knowing it, doing any of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, you have incurred guilt, and are subject to punishment.
Leviticus 5:17 (NRSV)

I received an e-mail from a front-line manager of one of our clients. In a regular report that went to the executive team I had mentioned something that caused an executive Vice-President of the company to question the front-line manager’s handling of one particular circumstance. This caught the manager off guard and caused the manager to feel thrown under the bus. It had never been my intention to do so, and I honestly had not anticipated that my report would create the executive’s concern.

My initial human reaction was defensive. My report was accurate. I said nothing that was untrue. I was only doing my job. I couldn’t have anticipated how the report would be received. Yada, yada, yada…. My excuses did nothing to address the unintended injury. I quickly responded with a sincere apology and I committed to being more aware in the future and to letting the manager know if anything in my future reports might create similar questions.

Along life’s journey, I’ve observed that we often plod along with blinders on, unaware (or unconcerned) how our words and actions may affect others. When confronted, I have noted that our natural human reaction is usually the same as mine in this case: excuse, shift blame, and/or deflect personal responsibility.

Today’s chapter is a list of ways the ancient sacrificial system God established through Moses addressed mistakes we as humans with our blinders on:

  • and are unaware of it… (vs. 2)
  • and are unaware of it… (vs. 3)
  • and are unaware of it… (vs. 4)
  • When you realize your guilt… (vs. 5)
  • When any of you commit a trespass and sin unintentionally… (vs. 14)

The message is clear. Just because I am unaware of something I have done does not excuse me from responsibility for my words and actions. Guilt is not excused by ignorance or self-justification.

This morning as I read, I must confess that I found myself mulling over a few things others have recently said and done that pissed me off. Words and actions that created problems for myself and others. I thought of the human blinders we wear and the way these individuals act unaware, excuse their behavior, shift blame, and avoid responsibility. Then, I remembered the e-mail and my initial reaction to it. I have my own blinders. People are people. We are all guilty of unintended injuries, even to those we love most in this world.

Today I’m thinking of ways I can take the blinders off as I journey through the day. I want to be more aware of my words and my actions, and the potential or their unintended effects.

 

chapter a day banner 2015

Responsibile Conduct

Never blame any day in your life. Good days gi...
Never blame any day in your life. Good days give you happiness, bad days give you experience, and the worst days give you a lesson. (Photo credit: deeplifequotes)

For we are each responsible for our own conduct.
Galatians 6:5 (NLT)

I’m on the road this week working with a client. I find it fascinating working with different businesses and interacting with employees at different levels from the executive suite to the new front-line employees. Every business has its’ own unique culture, and it’s interesting to experience those different cultures.

Part of my job is helping my clients understand what their customers really want, and to consistently deliver a service experience that will lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty. We do the research to know the customer, to know what’s really happening in customer interactions and we base all of our recommendations, training and coaching on data. The data from our research often reveals that what the company, a department, a team or an individual is doing and saying needs to change if they want to satisfy their customers. That’s when the fun begins.

When I begin challenging people to change and do the work required to deliver a higher level of service, I hear every excuse:

  • “You don’t understand. Our team is different.”
  • “This is just the way I have always been.  I can’t change.”
  • “Your data is wrong.”
  • “I can’t let my manager see your report. I’ll get fired.”

Human nature is a funny thing. It’s really no different in every day life. Rather than doing the work of change we make up every excuse. We blame others. We blame genetics. We blame brain chemicals. We blame depression. We blame our family. We excuse our poor habits and behaviors as if we have no choice in the matter.

But, we do. We have a million choices each day in what we do, what we say, and how we choose to interact with others. We are each responsible for our own conduct.

Let’s conduct ourselves in such a way that we make a positive change today.

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 32

Really! It just popped out of the fire! "So I [Aaron] said, 'Who has gold?' And they took off their jewelry and gave it to me. I threw it in the fire and out came this calf." Exodus 32:24 (MSG)

From the time we're little children, we know how to make excuses for our wrong-doings. We get caught with our hand in the cookie jar and exclaim, "But, mommy! I was getting a cookie for YOU!" We get caught making out on the couch with our girlfriend and exclaim, "It's not what it looked like! We weren't lying together. We were just hugging, lost our balance, and fell over." We are questioned about our sin and obfuscate the truth to the point we're arguing over the definition of the word "is."

We can shake our heads and laugh at Aaron for expecting Moses to believe that he threw gold in the fire and, when he pulled it out, there was this statue of a calf. The reality is that each one of us, at one time or another, have stretched the truth in an attempt to avoid the consequences.

The path to maturity begins with the single step of being honest about ourselves and our mistakes. Only when we're willing to admit the truth about our shortcomings can we begin the process of repentance and positive growth.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and allspice1

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 6

Superhero not. God addressed Moses, saying, "I am God. Tell Pharaoh king of Egypt everything I say to you." And Moses answered, "Look at me. I stutter. Why would Pharaoh listen to me?" Exodus 6:29-30 (MSG)

If find it interesting that Moses has been unpacking his whole "I stutter" excuse for three chapters running (who knows how many months or years these chapters cover). It's a great picture of how doggedly we like to cling to our hang ups, insecurities, issues and excuses. 

Growth doesn't always happen overnight. Despite our fantasies to the contrary, God does not typically transform people instantaneously in to spiritual superheroes. We don't get bit by a supernatural spider and suddenly become Godly-man. Even the "superheroes" wie think of in the Bible were transformed over time (and the maturity process never stopped). We see Moses "in process" through these early chapters of Exodus, but there are others.

David killed Goliath in an instant, but how many years did he spend alone in the desert with his sheep, learning to use his sling against predators? Saul had a "Damascus Road" experience, but we forget about the years he spent studying and growing before his ministry started. The apostles stood boldly in the face of persecution, but before that they spent three years scratching their heads, fighting amonst themselves, and even denying that they even knew Jesus.

Like any journey, there are times we'd much rather just "arrive" at the destination. However, even those we consider spiritual giants had to grow into their sandals.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and ortizmj12