Saturday, January 08, 2005

Excuses, excuses

Excuses, excuses

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper

If there is one thing that is common to most governments and institutions around the world, it is that they are very good at making excuses. It is exceedingly rare that governments will take responsibility for making mistakes. Even if it is obvious that they are at fault, they never admit it.

Perhaps it is because they fear the opposition will take advantage of their admission. Or maybe it is because they hope to project an image of infallibility. Or, more likely, the excuses are efforts to cover up incompetence or, worse, dishonesty and corruption.

I suppose it is too much to expect governments not to make excuses. This is why most people don’t trust their own officials. Instead, we have serious doubts about their honesty if not their competence.

But what about us? Are we any better? Or, do we find ourselves making excuses for our own failures and lack of skills?

We have all used excuses to cover up mistakes, laziness, lack of commitment and a host of other foul-ups.

Excuses might save us from embarrassment and trouble, but they also are a form of dishonesty. When we make excuses, it is another form of lying. When we say we “didn’t have the time,” even if we did but used it for other matters, that’s a lie. When we invoke the old “traffic” excuse even when we left late, that’s a lie too.

Excuses are a polite way of disguising lies and dishonesty. And when we get used to lying we not only hurt our reputation (“he’s always making excuses”), but we also get comfortable with dishonesty. And that hurts us even if we get away with the excuses we make.

More often than not, we don’t fool people when we use excuses to cover up. Everybody knows that you could make time when you insist that you “had no time.” You could have cut your free time if you truly wanted to. Everyone knows that, but they are too polite to confront you. Still they know and feel that you had priorities and they were not near the top of the list.

Better to tell the truth and apologize. “Please forgive me for being late.” Period. No excuse, just an acknowledgement that it was your fault.

You might be surprised that your honesty will most likely win some points and raise your credibility. Trust is built on truth, or the perception of truth. When you make obvious excuses, you lessen your credibility and you become less trustworthy.

We need not fear failure anymore than we should be afraid of admitting to our mistakes. We need to stop hurting ourselves and tell it as it is. A great American football player said it well. “I believe,” he said, “that the day you take complete responsibility for yourself, the day you stop making any excuses, is the day you start to the top.


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