What’s the Difference Between a Justification and an Excuse?

The words are so similar that it’s obvious they will be interchanged. Even native English speakers aren’t certain of the difference if you press them, other than the fact that a lot of them know that lame more often modifies one, while good often qualifies the other. After all, who’d rather offer a lame excuse when they can offer a good justification?

To start with, it’s important to remember that the vast majority of the time most people do not intend to do harm. If they do it’s usually because they feel they’re trying to regain ground they feel they have already lost, so they see it more as justified revenge. But even a retaliation is really a new attack, so it’s really just another aggressive form of blaming someone for over-blaming you. In essence then, harm is another form of blame.

Since blame is an offensive act, the only logical reaction is a defensive one, so we shouldn’t be surprised that justifications and excuses are both defensive terms. The difference is, the justifier believes their reasoning to be valid, whereas in an excuse we generally believe that someone is trying to avoid their actual responsibilities. But if that’s the case, who decides which it is?

Remember from paragraph two; people don’t see themselves as starting problems. They see blame as them making things right. If someone won’t accept our blame then we feel things cannot be made right, and this just intensifies the blame. But what do we mean by made right?

The fact is, most people give justifications but hear excuses, so what your explanation is called is often dependant on who’s naming it. That’s why it’s called being held responsible. It’s not like anyone feels you would stay still for it if you were going to experience blame. Even your dog hides when it feels it’s done something wrong.

This means the sender sends blame, the blamed offer their justifications, and then the blamer either accepts the justification or they rename the justification an excuse. But even if you don’t want to accept an excuse, that doesn’t mean that the person who did it doesn’t feel justified. This leaves us with one act with two definitions, which is yet another clear demonstration that the world is clearly made up of individual perspectives, not one central truth.

In the end there are neither justifications or excuses, there are only the opinions or judgments of those ascribing them. Which begs the question, why do you feel it necessary to offer so many justifications to the opinions you hear? You know when you feel good about what you’ve done and when you feel bad. That should be your divining rod, not people’s random, ever-changing opinions.

Forget making excuses for your life. Forget justifying it. See these words for what they really are: explanations that people will either accept or not accept. How honest you’re being will have little to do with whether they believe you or not, so if the person has power over you through your attachment to either love or money, then accept the fact that until you get out of that situation you may need to live as though you share their opinion when you don’t. But even that is a weighted choice. In most cases you can leave.

People will make judgments about your life all the time. You job isn’t to make them stop or to justify your actions. Your only spiritual responsibility is to do your best to stay on a path where you feel good inside about your reasons, even if they were only good reasons when you made the decision. After the moment it was made in, even your own view of it is just another opinion. And you don’t want to live in that kind of self-talk because trust me, you are far too great a being, living in far too fantastic a universe, for any opinion to ever be able to encapsulate all the wonder that you truly are.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Fears

1032-relax-and-succeed-dont-place-your-mistakesI’ve got a rare situation that’s given me an equally rare state of mind to write from. This makes it an ideal time for me to write about how I’ll face this emotional challenge, because the nicest thing about living in the present moment is that you trust that you learn from experience so you feel authentically bad about unfortunate things, but then you can move on.

You feel hits to your ego but you don’t hold grudges nor do you worry about what might happen and maybe most importantly you don’t beat yourself up. You accept that everyone learns and everyone makes mistakes, you grab the lesson with humility and then move on as soon as you’re sure the lesson’s been learned. There’s no extra time wasted in ruminating on should’a could’a would’as. But today I crossed that line we all have within us; the mistake that bothers us the most because it betrays some fundamental aspect of ourselves that we place great faith in.

1032-relax-and-succeed-courage-is-the-decision-to-favour-actionI had figured out by nine years old that the human mind could not really be trusted despite people’s best intentions. This lead me to develop a series of thought-tests that I would put my own ideas and other people’s ideas through to ensure they were solid. Today I did the thing that bothers me the most: I didn’t make use of a mental tool that I knew I had built for a reason when I know full well I only build those tools when it’s important.

What a lot of my students start off doing is they start telling themselves stories about what they should have done. Then another part of the brain will calculate the damage, and then it’ll be angry that it happened at all, and then fear of what will happen, then the consideration of an alternate future where you made the opposite decision, and finally self-criticism for making the same mistake yet again despite the fact that making the same mistake actually makes a lot of psychological sense.

1032-relax-and-succeed-if-all-else-failsI will feel strongly compelled to react in all of the ways noted above. I suspect I will bounce into actually doing those things for bursts of time. But I spend so much time peaceful that I will notice when I’m tortured, so that’ll be a good cue. From there I’ll pursue strategies to take my mind off the painful useless subject and place it on better things.

This means that the idea becomes like a ball of pain on a ping pong table, where my natural reaction to the approaching pain is to swat it away. I think of those words and narratives as little balls of pain and when I run into one in my head I hit it away but shifting my attention to something more productive and peaceful.

I will wage this little battle for as long as it takes before my mind finally accepts the situation fully, and meanwhile I’ll have been able to take immediate action to mitigate any additional damage. That’s as good as you can do after a mistake, and dreaming like it was possible to never make one was something I surrendered many thousands of surrenders ago.

Bad feelings feel bad for a reason. Just by their sensation they urge you not to think them. So when you feel in pain, don’t turn inside yourself and self-discuss that pain. Recognise that as coming from your thinking and then shift it. That power is always in your hands and the more you use it the stronger you’ll be.

Have a wonderful day everyone.

peace. s

PS. Funny side-note, it turns out I hadn’t made the mistake I thought I had. Good thing I didn’t engage in a bunch of painful, useless thinking about something that was ultimately just a false belief.

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Hosting Problems

It’s always a challenge trying to explain what I do to people before they learn it. As I’ve said before, I’m like some strange three-dimensional guy talking to a bunch of two-dimensional beings about the idea of over. Until you can see it it really isn’t there to be seen, so rather than going over the challenge you want it gone altogether. Instead of navigating life you get stuck arguing over the shape of the landscape because it doesn’t match your expectations of how you expected the two-dimensional map in your head to feel.

Thanks to the confusion described above, people end up coming to me because they want their problems fixed. That makes sense, except for the fact that there’s obviously no care provider who can fix all of your problems. There are however a few that know how to shift your perspective so that you can be in a headspace where there is no such thing as a problem, and strangely that’s even better than solving a problem. In fact, that makes you almost not want to solve it, but rather surf it.

So what’s the difference between me and you? Nothing; it’s what we’re doing, not who we are. I don’t have capabilities you don’t have, but it’s true I’m functioning on a more flexible plane where I have greater freedom and that would largely go for any of my students who earnestly complete the process. Even now, it’s pretty easy for me to point to the un-reality of what you believe now.

You have problems and we don’t, so what’s the difference? You see us from the outside and it looks like we hit rough times too, so why are they so different from this other perspective? Resistance.

What you call a “problem” is really just resistance, and resistance is just a conversation you have in your head with yourself about wishes. But I don’t so much get people to stop all of the words their ego uses to assemble their problems, those words just become more ephemeral and less meaningful, almost like a plane moving through clouds. From the ground they block the view upward, but the plane gets up there and proves it’s not the sky that’s gone dark; the sky’s still waiting on the other side of all of the what-if cloud-making we do.

Once you have a different understanding of reality it makes no sense to push against it with resistant words. It’s like a kid screaming for something the parent knows is impossible, like retrieving a helium balloon that’s floated away. The parent’s not crying because the whole thing makes sense to them. They know they’re not in a helium is heavier than air universe so they’re not telling themselves a story where they bother imagining that they could recover the balloon. The parent isn’t stopping words; the idea just makes no sense.

So this is why this blog can point but it cannot guide because there is no route to this understanding. You don’t find your way there; you realise you already are there, and that is a leap that happens within your mind. It can happen without someone pointing, it’s just a lot easier when someone actually knows where you’re going. This isn’t something you can learn in school, you must be lead toward the personal internal experiences that will show you this truth.

It’s not hard. It’s very accessible. But you won’t do it if you currently trade socially with your suffering, and you won’t do it by reading someone else’s notes on it. The only way to do this is to study your own internal processes. Only you can walk this mileage. The only question is, how long will you resist before you start trading useless talking and self-talking about what you want, for the act of diving into yourself with the expectation that there already peace and understanding within you?

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.