Back in the late 90’s the American Dairy Farmers came up with some rather brilliant commercials that claimed to show the extraordinary power cheese had. (See two of them here and here.) The commercials were pretty ridiculous and exaggerated. They seemed to hold about as much truth as a Chuck Norris joke. The commercials weren’t meant to actually convince people that cheese had amazing powers. Rather they were meant as catchy jokes to get people’s attention and they worked really well. I remember people responding whenever something particularly stupid, klutzy, or awkward happened with the catch phrase from the commercials – “Behold, the Power of Cheese” – as an ironic joke pointing out the obvious lack of anything truly powerful.
Let me make you aware of a vicious lie I see growing in popularity and gaining a stronger and stronger following of disciples. From my perspective it seems as ridiculous as the cheese claims and it baffles me how strongly people hold to the idea. Somewhere and somehow (I think it came over on the same boat as participation trophies and “A for effort”) the idea that ‘excuses fix problems’ entangled itself with our culture.
I suppose I better define what I mean by excuses. I’m not talking about a ‘My brother was sick and we had to rush him to hospital so I couldn’t finish my homework’ type of excuse. Those type of things are not excuses; those are choices. And in the case above I would say taking care of a brother would be a good choice.
‘This is really hard for me. I’m not good at it. I have weaknesses that other people don’t.’ These can become excuses. Each of these excuses can be perfectly true. People do have individual struggles, trials and weaknesses. The excuses themselves are not the lie. The lie is that people think that the excuse itself fixes the problem, that somehow the excuse makes it all better, that because they have an excuse someone else should take care of them and that the excuse makes it OK for them to stop striving for growth.
All of us have weaknesses. Weaknesses often mean that we need extra help or a little leniency. But we each should have the goal of moving past the need for others to make up for our weaknesses and strive as diligently as possible to stand on our own.
Resist the temptation to wallow content in the mire of excuse. It’s a trap that chains people to mediocrity. Although each one of us has weakness we were all blessed with the ability to grow, move past them and progress. Never use weakness as an excuse to become less than you are. Ask for help. Get the accommodations you need. But use them as a tool for growth striving for the time you don’t need them any more (or as little as possible).
If left unchecked excuses will seize the power to hold you back, trick you into believing the idea that other people need to do things for you and whisper that you’ll never be good enough so why care at all. That is the real power of excuses.