The word “excuse” has taken a bad rap and is oftentimes misunderstood. It is frowned upon or even considered offensive to some people.
Instead of being honest, people get the this insane notion in their head that any excuse should “excuse” them from any wrongdoing, regardless of the reason.
How many times have you seen someone late for work and had them blame traffic or something else “they had no control over.”
Being honest would look something more like this:
Boss: “You showed up late today.”
Employee: “Yes, sorry about that, I left late, and didn’t leave myself a reasonable amount of time for the traffic delay I was already aware of. It is entirely my fault, I apologize, and I will do a better job of not letting it happen again.”
The employee is not trying to convince the boss that it was okay to be late. They are accepting responsibility and blame for being late. Afterall, everyone else was on time and they probably had to deal with the same traffic conditions that you did.
Taking responsibility for your mistakes is an exemplary personality trait.
Just to be clear, any reason you give for not living up to an expectation or obligation, regardless of whether or not it is true and regardless of how circumstantial or significant it is to you — it is indisputably considered an excuse.
If at anytime you find yourself offering up a reason, a justification, or even responding at all to your failure of living up to any obligation or expectation whatsoever, you are making an excuse. In other words, you are trying to “excuse” yourself from that obligation or expectation.
This stance can be further validated by examining the actual definition below.
An excuse is an attempt to justify or defend a fault or offense. It can also be an attempt to lessen the blame of a fault or offense.
It’s very simple.
If you have any bit of intelligence, reasoning, or logic — you have hopefully concluded at this point that life is full of people making excuses for failing to fulfill their obligations and/or live up to the expectations they set for others.
And if you’re not a narcissistic egotistical asshole, you are hopefully starting to understand that you’ve made tons of excuses for things even though you may have thought you were “just being honest” or not making excuses at all.
Is there a such a thing as a legitimate excuse?
The simple answer is yes, however, you may be surprised to learn that the legitimacy of an excuse can never be decided by the offending party.
In other words, just because you feel like your excuse is substantial or legitimate does not make it substantial or legitimate — it is not up to you to decide.
If you show up late to work, your boss can fire you on the spot if they so desire, regardless of what reason you gave them.
For the most part, you may find that there are little or no repercussions for not living up to your informal obligations or expectations. A friend might get mad at you or in more serious cases you may lose a friend entirely.
Life will go on.
However, serious consequences or not, you still cannot validate your own excuses. We can fall back on many many years of legal disputes surrounding contract law to illustrate this point.
Now you may be thinking, “contract and law” are pretty serious words, maybe a little too much for only borrowing $10 from a friend.
But it’s not to much. It’s exactly the right thing way to look at it.
Perhaps the word agreement may be less frightening for you, or maybe you like the word “understanding”, it is all the same thing. In essence, you are making an arrangement or agreement that creates obligations or expectations.
When you make such a contract, agreement, or come to an understanding, each party has an expectation or obligation toward one another. When either party fails to meet the expectations of the other party, they are in breach of contract/agreement/understanding.
The only valid remedy to this scenario is if the non offending party accepts a proposed resolution or an unbiased third party decides for them.
Remember it is not up to the “offending” party to decide, the offending party cannot and never can decide the legitimacy of their excuse or “defense.”
When the two parties cannot agree on something, they typically head to arbitration, mediation, or litigation in a court so an unbiased third party can decide:
What the agreement / expectations / obligations were
If there was any breach by either party
What the repercussions or remedy should be.
In most circumstances, repercussions can be immediate because there is usually a controlling party. A boss can fire you, a landlord can evict you, a bank might repossess your car, etc. It is not uncommon for one party to have control of a vital resource.
So let’s look at a more common scenario here.
Let’s say you ask a friend to borrow money from them with the promise that you will pay them back when you get your tax refund.
What is created here is a contract or agreement, if drawn on paper it has a better chance of being legally binding, but for the most part let’s say this contract was made verbally.
Your friend hands you $400 with the expectation that you will pay him back with your tax refund.
You do your taxes, and find out your refund isn’t as much as you thought it would be. When your friend comes back to collect on the debt, you tell him, “Sorry I can’t pay you because I didn’t get a enough of a refund.”
Is this a legitimate excuse or a valid defense to not paying your friend back?
The answer is No.
Does it excuse you from paying your friend back? No
Is it your friends fault you didn’t get a big enough refund? No
Are you entirely responsible for paying him back in the same time frame with or without a refund? Yes
You see the original terms of the agreement are simple, at no point did you suggest that you may not get a refund, therefore the expectation is that you are going to pay the money back on such and such date, how you pay your friend back is completely irrelevant.
You may have influenced his decision to give you a loan by providing a realistic repayment plan (the same thing that happens when you have a job and need to get a loan), but as getting fired does not excuse you from repaying a loan on time, not getting a refund does not excuse you from repaying a friend on time.
Even without a written contract, your friend can legitimately take you to small claims court and get a judgement against you forcing you to pay him back and this could be done off his word alone if the judge doesn’t believe you when you lie about the terms of the $400 you borrowed.
Any attempt to justify, defend, or “excuse” yourself from any obligation or expectation, whatsoever, is precisely what is meant by the word excuse and a legitimate excuse can never be determined by the offending party, regardless of the circumstance or gravity