My friend had an interesting conversation. She wasn’t able to attend a class and when a friend texted her with the homework, she replied with the reason she wasn’t able to attend. Her classmate said she didn’t have to give an excuse. In which she replied that it wasn’t an excuse, she was just explaining why she wasn’t there or, then she asked, “Is that the same thing?” To which the classmate replied “Yes”.
(A disclaimer here, when we make a personal choice/decision, we don’t owe anyone an explanation.)
As a coach, I listen for the words that my clients use. Language is powerful and it tells a lot about a person and their mind-set. Changing our language can also help change our mind-set.
So is a “reason” just another “excuse”?
One of the definitions of excuse is: attempt to lessen the blame attaching to (a fault or offense); seek to defend or justify
Reason is defined as: a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event. Another definition is: the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic. I think this latter definition is integral to the first definition.
Some people might use the two words interchangeably but I think there are several distinctions that should be pointed out:
- An excuse is used to deflect blame and avoid responsibility for our actions. It is outer-driven, we are victims of unforeseen circumstances. Reasons don’t avoid responsibility. A reason shows, and here’s where the second part of the definition is important, our thought process and how we came to our decision/conclusion.
- An excuse is not aligned with our integrity. When we give an excuse, we usually know, deep down, that we are at least partially to blame. Reasons are in alignment with our integrity.
A good way to tell if you are giving an excuse or a reason is to notice how your body is reacting. When I give an excuse, I can feel it in the pit of my stomach which travels up through my body, like an electric current, to my ears. I feel a sense of…shame is the word that comes to mind. I am uneasy.
When I am explaining myself, giving a reason, my body is at ease. I feel a sense of lightness. I am speaking from my “truth” (based on my beliefs and values) and it resonates with me.
The bottom line is this – what is your intent behind these words? Is it to deflect blame and responsibility or are you owning up to your choices?