Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Excuses, excuses...

Ugh! Two of the most powerful words on the planet. Yes, I know that's just one word repeated, but it comes up so often, in one form or another, it seems like more. Just look in a dictionary and thesaurus to see how many definitions and synonyms you can find for the word 'excuse.' Forms of it usually mean some sort of apology or justification for why we do or don't do a thing. We are, in fact a very excuse making society. In a battle of priorities, nearly every day we make excuses - - if not to others than to ourselves.

My first thought for this blog was a vague idea of trying to express how we should not be too hard on ourselves when we make excuses. Speaking for myself anyway, I feel very guilty every time I make excuses. Even small excuses are difficult, because they seem to require even more justification. Then, when I looked up some of those definitions and synonyms I realized there are some hefty words associated with 'excuse' that deserve a certain respect and merits a different perspective.

Consider, for example, the path the word 'excuse' has traveled in the legal system. First, the Latin origin of the word 'excuse' is excusare, meaning 'from cause or an accusation.' That is interesting. An accusation? Hmm, so even in it's origin the the word meant seeking to avoid punishment from an accusation, or an accusor. The legal system, with a long love affair with Latin word origins, logically expanded this meaning with a suitable definition of excuse (from the Free Dictionary):

First, a short one. "An alleged reason for exemption from guilt."

Well, that's just not nice. LOL Alleged, they qualify, which can mean "to assert without or before proof." It's meant to honorably preserve the accused's innocence until proven guilty, but really? When you think of alleged you also think: questionable, doubtful, suspect, so-called, supposed, etc. In other words, your excuse has preconceived baggage of not being truthful and your word has to be proven.

It's enough to make an innocent person ...what's the word...defensive?

Which leads to a longer definition of excuse: "A defense for an individual's conduct that is intended to mitigate the individual's blame worthiness for a particular act or explain why the individual acted in a specific manner."

No wonder why I always feel like I'm lying when I make a truthful excuse. It's, literally, a defense mechanism. Innocent or guilty, I still have a defense to prepare alibi and character witnesses to line up (do I need affidavits?) and -- good grief! - - I have to mitigate my blame worthiness.

I'm not exactly sure what that means, but it doesn't sound good or easy. And now I have to be worthy of blame, too?

As a mitigating circumstance, I have to show why I had good reason to do or not do the thing I did or didn't do, whatever that may be. Take the time taken for writing a book for example. Or, conversely, not taking the time for writing a book. When taking this on, something else is always going to battle for priority over this project. Excuses must be made for either choice; to others for why you can't be sociable or to yourself for why you must be sociable.

The thing is, excuses are difficult. They aren't meant to be made lightly. Instead they are defenses strategies to, well, in a way defend your honor. At the very least, they defend your choices. So, maybe the only way not to be so hard on ourselves about excuses is to respect them.

Incidentally, I'm still not sure about blame worthiness, but I think they mean I could plead insanity to let me off the hook. I could say I didn't know what I was doing when I took on the novel writing project. I'm innocent. You'll just have to take my word for it.


  1. LOL -- I used to be a lawyer, so these legal terms have a different meaning to me. I'm actually a fan of "mitigate", because it means, "Hey, you did something bad, BUT you did something good to offset it, so you're only guilty now of something KINDA bad." LOL

    Excuses are a good thing to have. And use. :)

  2. I used to be a legal secretary so I should know better if I misuse the terms but, in my defense (ha ha), I only worked on corporate contracts or litigation that went to mediation, so I still have my courtroom drama illusions. LOL

  3. I don't think you misused the terms. :) But since you worked on legal paperwork you know those legal types will use fourteen words when one or two will do, right? LOL And they aren't HALF as interesting as romance fiction!

  4. You have that right, Donna. Those legal words are not as interesting as romance fiction. I found the 'trick' of legal terminology and paperwork was that the attorneys used a lot of templates with the legal jarjon and filled in the rest to fit the case. LOL Sorry, that simplifies it a bit much, doesn't it. LOL I think romantic fiction is much more interesting and difficult because there isn't any fill-in-the-blank. :)


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