Posted by: minnow | August 13, 2011

Once Again

1. to regard or judge with forgiveness or indulgence; pardon or forgive; overlook (a fault, error, etc.): _____ his bad manners.
2. to offer an apology for; seek to remove the blame of: He _____ his absence by saying that he was ill.
3. to serve as an apology or justification for; justify: Ignorance of the law _____ no one.
4. to release from an obligation or duty: to be ______ from jury duty.
5. to seek or obtain exemption or release for (oneself): to _____ oneself from a meeting.

As you read the definitions and examples, were you able to fill in the blanks?  The above are my on-line dictionary’s definitions for the word: excuse.  I have noticed in myself, my family, my friends, my co-workers, my classmates, my professors, those I do business with, those I meet outside the grocery, basically everyone I come in contact with, a tendency to excuse behavior in ourselves others might find troublesome or objectionable.  Most of us, myself included, are not particularly anxious to admit we make excuses for our behavior, preferring instead to think of it as simply explaining our thinking, but the fact remains we do not want to think of ourselves as offensive and do not want to be held to a standard by which our actions or words could be deemed such.  The other fact is phrases and comebacks like: just kidding, I didn’t mean it that way, you take everything too seriously, but they…, take a chill pill, can’t ya take a joke, I’m sorry but…, indicate just how unwilling we are to be confronted or held accountable for our words and behavior.

An aside: (One problem with confronting the offensive words and behavior of others (and perhaps one reason so many of us are reluctant to do so) is some might see us as hypocrites the moment we do.  Which I might add may or may not have a basis in reality.  The reality depends on how willing we ourselves are to be confronted.  But I will save the true nature of hypocrisy for a future discussion).

As per my usual, a recent FB interaction stirred up my thinking about the excuses we make for our offensive behavior as well as the behavior itself.  I am not a fan of much of what passes for humor these days.  When I taught school I had a “no dissing in my classroom” policy.  The reason for both is the same: belittling others, maligning an individual’s character, personality, or appearance, holding a person up to ridicule or derision–all–are offensive behaviors, and especially offensive when coming from people who otherwise see themselves or may be seen by others as walking on higher moral ground (whether for religious or political reasons).  I neither find the afore-mentioned behaviors humorous nor valuable. They should not pass as entertainment and they ought not be considered harmless even if the subject never knows about the offense.  If you have not already guessed, my recent FB interaction poured a little fuel on this particular pet peeve.
I get being tired of fighting ideological battles.  I understand the desire to want an easier way.  And, I know the temptation to take a low blow and poke fun at the person rather than come up with another well-reasoned argument against what too often feels like a ridiculous, illogical, immoral, closed-minded, self-centered, unreasonable, irresponsible, did I say ridiculous, position.  I have been there.  Almost every day I have been there.  Sometimes I just close my eyes and move on and some days I try to open some one else’s eyes to a different way of seeing.  My children get a knowing look whenever they Hear me say, “Not to excuse any behavior, but just by way of explanation…”  because every now and then I fall, take the easy route, and poke fun.  And, I am always embarrassed when someone (including my children or the Holy Spirit) confronts my behavior.  Usually I apologize but on occasion I make an excuse just like the person I confronted on FB.
Even though I have great empathy, gained from personal experience and failure, I am grieved by how often those of us who claim to follow Christ, who desire to be His ambassadors to a hurting world, are unable (or unwilling) to see our behavior through the eyes of that world.  I am frustrated by how difficult some of the words and actions of my fellow Christ followers make my witness to my non-Christian friends, and in turn by how difficult I at times make their witness.
We are desperate people.  I so want my family and friends to think better of me than my actions allow when I have done or said something hurtful to someone else.  And so, I make an excuse.  I desperately want their respect and admiration even if I do not always have their agreement.  And so, I make an excuse.  I also want some sympathy for how narrow the path can become.  And so, I make an excuse.  But the excuses do not get me what I want.
Matthew 5:48 instructs us to, “be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect”.  How is that even possible?
I have admitted before on this blog that my personal growing edge, or the area I feel a thorn in my side, is in my lack of forgiveness toward other Christians.  Once again I wrestle with that demon.  In addition to Matthew 5:48, the Spirit reminds me that “love covers a multitude of sin” (1 Peter 4:8), and “perfect love casts out fear” which is based in judgment (1 John 4:18).  So, if I love I will forgive and if I forgive I can be perfect as my Father is perfect.
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