Explanations and Excuses
Explanations and Excuses are not the same.
Falling into the trap of giving excuses rather then explanations is easy. I find myself there more then I would like. An explanation is telling someone what happened while accepting that it was your fault. An excuse is telling someone what happened while shifting the blame to someone else. An excuse isn’t a lie; that’s a whole different category. Let’s look at some examples.
I’m late because I got stuck in traffic.
I’m late because I didn’t plan to leave early enough to avoid the traffic.
Same thing happened, but there is a completely different message being sent here. Most of the time, traffic is a pain in the butt and can be planned for. So, saying that you got stuck in traffic doesn’t really absolve you of the blame. Now if there was a terrible accident that took an hour to clear and you were held up that whole time… alright, you could blame it on traffic. But if you drive the same route every day, at the same time and have for years… you should know how long it takes to get there even in context of the traffic.
The excuse blamed the traffic while the explanation blamed the lack of planning which is an acceptance of blame. How many times have we felt frustrated with someone who does this kind of thing repeatedly? That is another important point here. If you blame the traffic, it is hard for your brain to see that there is something that you can do to keep this from happening again. With the excuse you are saying “the traffic is beyond my control so it is not my fault I am late and there was nothing I could have done about it.” But accepting that it was the lack of good planning that was at fault here, you can see that there is something you can do about it. This allows for change. Promises and apologies are empty without change.
Clearly, blaming others for your choices can relieve the uncomfortable emotions that accompany acceptance of responsibility. Rather than trying to escape uncomfortable emotions, build mental strength so you can tolerate the discomfort.