Telling the difference between an excuse and a reason

I’m not one to put much stock in sterotypes, but I was raised Catholic.  And I have Catholic guilt.  Bad.  But I’ve worked really hard to get rid of it and I’ve learned some things along the way.  Like that the problem with Catholic guilt is that it relies on a very inaccurate view of how the world works.  It’s mostly sustained by the holy trio of bad ideas:

1. Somehow everything is my responsibility

2  Everything that goes wrong is my fault. 

3. What I want or think is almost certainly wrong.

Catholic guilt’s hard to get rid of because of the specter of pride lurking just over your shoulder.  If you reject the triumvrent above, it’s because you are giving into pride.  Giving into pride is giving into a delusion.  Taking the risk of being delusional requires lots of evidence and really, what have you ever done that’s so special any ways? 

One of the things which I have had to learn as part of the process of moving past feeling guilty for bothering people with my breathing is how to tell the difference between an excuse and a reason.  I came to see it this way: an excuse is when your desire determines which obstacles you can overcome.  A reason is when you simply don’t have the resources or ideas you need to overcome the obstacles in your way.      

Often the person offering the excuse or reason for why something didn’t go the way it should have is the only person who knows the difference.  Be honest with yourself.  We all make excuses – which are really pleas for a little bit of grace – from time to time.  By being honest with ourselves about when we are making an excuse for something you could have done better, it’s easier to feel confident about your reasons.  When you are confident in your reasons – which are our declaration of innocence when things go wrong – it really cuts down on unwarrented guilt. 

What makes this so hard for me personally is that sometimes I’m honestly doing my best and things keep going wrong and I just can’t always hold everything together the way that I want.  And I have to offer reasons for my problems which can sound ridiculously like excuses; “I’m sorry the girls missed the girl scouts meeting because we were on our way and got a flat tire.  Yes, on one of the new tires that we had to have replaced the last time we got a flat tire and missed the girl scouts meeting.  They were doing road work and I guess I ran over something and I didn’t have a phone to call you because  . . . ”  It’s gotten ridiculous at times and I can’t blame people for thinking there’s something wrong with me.  But I know the difference between an excuse I might legitimately feel guilty about and a reason that I couldn’t do much of anything to change.  I have to keep reminding myself not to make apologies or feel guilty that my best might not be good enough.  It’s all I can do.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to do more.

3 thoughts on “Telling the difference between an excuse and a reason

  1. Have you tried just labelling your guilty thoughts, “old stuff” .

    You can’t reason with them, it’s formed in your survival brain as a Child.

    You can tell a child anything and they will believe you, it’s evolution to stop the child from getting hurt. I.e Don’t put your hand in the fire.. Child doesn’t question it, it doesn’t get burned.

    Catholic guilt is an abuse of this safety mechanism: There is a god who judges you, you are a sinner.. etc. Its lodged in there trying to keep you safe. Your survival brain doesn’t no it’s all crap, and doesn’t want to hear an argument. It’s just interested in following these rules which it believes keeps you safe.

    So the only way you can un learn this is not to react to it, label it ” old Stuff” . don’t even fight it. Just “old Stuff” and move on. It’ll gradually go.

    And you can be free to totally chill, and enjoy your life guilt free. seriously, everybody is responsible for themselves – not you. we have leaders for world problems – they weren’t caused by you. It’s not your responsibility, just chill enjoy the imperfect human ride without guilt.

    Seriously the reality of human behaviour is that you can’t live with this ethical super code. People can be complete f*cks from time, so can you! that’s part of being human. So long as you are not deliberately physically or emotionally abusing people don’t worry.

    And people can look after themselves, you don’t need to look after me nor do i want you to!!

    Be free, be an imperfect Human and give yourself a break. whatelse can you be???

    it’s all crap from the dark ages. it only seems real because of your survival brain. Just label it “old stuff”

    Hope this helps! i’m going through the same thing

  2. I suffered from Catholic guilt too and understanding the difference between excuses and reasons along with the difference between “I apologise” and “I’m sorry” helped me move on a lot.

    You’re definition of an excuse is spot on, but it’s better to be instinctual. From what I can see there are weaknesses in you’re approach – you take a very exhausting approach in the example you give. Also the idea that “if you’re only one that thinks reasons are valid”=”excuses”? Nice theory, but this elicits dependence on other’s views, not good when you’re surrounded by people with a fetish for labelling all reasons as “excuses”.

    One example of where this thinking failed me is in my career, where I felt tremendous guilt over not landing a job straight away when I left college. I felt I was making excuses as I was the only one in my family with these views e.g. In wrong city for my profession. Your system suggests I was making excuses but the subtle mistake is that I thought I had all the evidence in front of me when, as I discovered later on and as I entered my first job in a heavily specialised career, there are nuances (way beyond the scope of this blog) with my educational background and career that mean not only were these actual reasons, but scratch the surface of the difficulty I faced.

    A far better approach is CBT or pretty much any evidence based psychology where you find being less anxious and standing back and learning how to think PROPERLY can unearth some hidden realities known as reasons and actually lighten the mental load.

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