Excuses, Reasons, And Lies (Excuses Part 2)

Note: This is part two of a conversation about excuses. You can read Part 1 here. I’m setting up a discussion tomorrow that may cause a bit of discomfort for all of us.

I suspect that we all know excuses aren’t a positive way to respond. Are you clear about the distinction between reasons and excuses?

Suppose I’m faced with a task to accomplish or a request from someone else. I need to answer three questions.

Do I really WANT to do it?

This includes a task from a job I really want to keep. If the answer’s YES I move on.

Am I ABLE to do it?

This means objective ability. For example, I may desperately WANT to walk across the street, but I don’t have that capability because of paralysis.

This one can be tricky, because we’re quick to substitute “I can’t” for “I don’t want to make the required sacrifices.” “I can’t” might mean “I can’t right now, but perhaps I could if I worked at it.”

In high school I wanted to dunk a basketball. It was easier to say I was too short (6 feet) or didn’t have the natural jumping ability than to train, work, and maximize my potential.

It’s possible that I honestly don’t know whether I have the ability. The “find out” stage might be a long, grueling delay while I develop necessary skills or accumulate required resources. If I’m not willing to do that work, I should revisit the first question. Maybe I don’t really want to do it.

Am I willing to do it?

I’m writing this during my normal bike-riding time, because it’s raining.

Do I want to ride? Yes. Am I able to ride in the rain? Yes.

Am I willing to ride in the rain? No. So I’m here because my comfort is a higher priority than exercising.

I suppose one could argue that WANT TO and WILLING TO are the same thing. I separated them because I see the “willing to” question as a metter of setting priorities.

Yesterday I wrote about a friend’s claim that she really wanted to have lunch but she was too busy. Since we’re friends, I believe she likes spending time with me. She certainly has the ability to schedule a lunch appointment.

She’s simply not willing to re-arrange her schedule. It’s a matter of priority.


If all three answers are YES—I want to, I’m able to, and I’m willing to, then I can move forward and do the task. No explanation or justification required.

But what happens when I encounter a NO?


As I see it, there are three legitimate reasons to decline a task or request.

  • I don’t want to do it.
  • I don’t have the ability to do it.
  • I’m not willing to do it.

But we don’t like these responses.

My friend doesn’t want to say, “I’m not willing to rearrange my schedule to we can have lunch.” She claims that she’s too busy. Excuse.

I didn’t want to admit that I was too lazy to find out if I could learn to dunk a basketball. I said, “I can’t.” Excuse.

I don’t want to risk losing my job because I want to stay home today, so I say I’m sick when I’m not. Excuse.


Excuses are lies birthed by fear. We lie because we’re afraid to accept responsibility for our own desires, abilities, or priorities.

I’m afraid of hurting your feelings. I’m afraid of losing my job. I’m afraid of what you’ll think of me.

I’m convinced that fear is the most destructive force in our lives. Any time we give in to fear (My Advice For Satan) the enemy wins.

That makes excuses a powerful tool in the enemy’s arsenal.

Facing the enemy, acknowledging the reasons, avoiding the excuses–those require the courage to confront our fears and refuse to allow them to control us.

Easy to say. Not so easy to do.

What have I missed? Does the diagram make sense? What would you add?

Tomorrow I want to look at a particular excuse that hits a little too close to home.

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Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

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