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.

The Friday Dose #82

If you need cuteness today; I have baby animals. I’ll amaze you with details about the fact that Baby Boomers were raised during a period of time where it was actually considered a bad thing to show love to your children! And because I haven’t put on much music lately I’ll offer you a fine distraction below. It’s likely to get your feet tapping, so if you need a pick-me-up then turn up your volume and dance. Let’s start off with the link to those cute baby animals. And here’s a link to the site of the photographer above. I recommend taking a look. She’s really good. (Tanya Stollznow)

Baby Animals!

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Next we’ll hit an absolutely incredible documentary on parenting by the gang at This American Life. Both parts are about love, but one takes place in the life of an adopted family and the other is about a boy with severe autism. These families will inspire you with their incredible strength and capacity for love, but even more than that you will be amazed by the world that so many of the people you know grew up in. A world where love for children was seen as dangerous:

This American Life: Unconditional Love

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Cute, incredible, fun. That’s our order. So after cute animals, after amazing tales about how different parenting was only a short time ago–we get music. Music by Amy Helm called, Didn’t it Rain:

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Remember: love is newer than you think it is. Give people a break if they’re still just starting to figure it all out. And have yourself a stellar weekend.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

00 Relax and Succeed - Friday Dose Footer

Scott’s Favourite Blogs of 2014 #3

722 BY3-14 Relax and Succeed - I'm sorry for passing

Because I had started the year answering direct questions, that left me only six months to choose from and still it was difficult picking just three favourites. I had to leave out The Master and the Priest, Directing Your Life and Because We Love The Children. But that also means I really love the three I do get to bring you. And we’ll start off with this little piece of practicality: How about if we all just gave each other a little more room to be human? Enjoy.

CLICK BELOW TO READ:

Winner: Scott’s Favourite Blogs of 2014 #2

peace. s

Taxing Our System

Everyone’s stressed. Everyone’s taxed. Everyone’s tired. Fuses are short, tempers are hot and despite how logical all of our anger and frustration is, consequences remain. It makes sense that people will be pushed past physical limits by things like pain, a lack of sleep, a bad diet or other particularly long-term stresses. So as a society we must learn to accommodate flashes of various emotions that are entirely natural for people to experience. At the same time we don’t want to coddle people who are literally addicted to anger as their natural response to not getting what they want. That’s onerous for others to deal with and that’s not good for harmony in the tribe. And as challenging as aspects of the 436 Relax and Succeed - Nothing in the world can bother you as muchtribe are, you simply cannot live a rewarding life without a tribe.

Just the other day I saw a guy losing his temper near my house. They’re rebuilding a lot of the roads and sidewalks near where my parents and I live, and I also live near several churches. I recently saw a guy railing in anger while his wife patiently listened to him for over half an hour about how the city shouldn’t have done this and it should have done that. Of course this guy has zero appreciation for the complexities of actually planning anything like that, and of course these are private companies and not “the city,” and even then, we’re only talking about a one day inconvenience to him. And for that he put his wife through a minimum of a half hour of hell. Volunteering to do that is crazy. And listening to it when you know it’s crazy is what love does. Because I could tell by the look on her face that she totally knew his diatribe was his and his alone. It had nothing to do with the city. The city did not insist that he ruin his day with his wife.

It’s important to remember that your anger will get worse the more you use it. Like any part of the body, your mind gets better at recreating emotions if you create them pretty regularly. So the more you get angry, the better you get at being angry. It’s why Olympians and Jeopardy contestants both train the way they do.

Now, as to the why you’re getting angry—this we can dissect. We can prove that your criticisms are one-sided and unreasonable. As soon as you accept the truth in that, then it will be your truth too and so will end that conflict within you. Now I’m actually fine with you expressing a flash of frustration—and if your mind turns that into a burst of colourful language, no problem we can all handle it. Sticks and stones. Where it’s too much is when it starts fuelling itself. Meaning, you aren’t venting off some chemistry from an immediate reaction—instead you’re fuelling your own personal internal dialogue and this now has nothing to do with the original event other than the subject matter is the same. Your angry replaying of it is entirely voluntary.

436 Relax and Succeed - If you feel badWhat this effectively means is, the man was not angry about the sidewalks and roads. He was angry about his thoughts about the sidewalks and roads. You know how I know this? Because I’ve got entirely different thoughts about the very same situation. And I know how the brain works. So I can appreciate that the addictive quality to knowledge—that is; the belief that things will continue to follow the same patterns they historically have—makes sense for so many things that we do subconsciously. Even things as difficult as driving, which we rarely think about consciously. But it can be very dangerous to desire patterns when it comes to our emotions because, as you can see, when that man’s mind wanted things the same and the nature of the world did not comply, his brain smashed into that reality—that Isness—and his reaction was to incite the chemistry for anger, which his wife then had to deal with. We want to change that by changing our narratives, and then go on to use our elevated consciousness to eventually dispel our narratives altogether.

So why don’t I get angry about the same thing? Because I don’t tell myself the story that guy told himself. Because I didn’t expect things to stay the same. I know they’re changing. All the time, every moment of every day. I get that it’s difficult to avoid inconveniencing people when you’re doing something as major as paving their street. This guy wanted them to only do half the streets and sidewalks and then come back another time to do the other half. But breaking up the work—even if it’s done back-to-back, is going to be way, way more expensive. And pretty much every city council in history gets blasted if they announce even a 3% tax hike. Well if we want them to work around our daily needs to that degree then that’s going to cost a lot of money and I have this sense that a tax increase would just be one more thing that poor guy’s wife would have to hear all about.

There’s nothing wrong with the world my friends, we just think we’re more important than the world does. We’re all integral—that’s for sure. But none of us is critical to the ongoing survival of civilization. The world is doing some big things for large numbers of people. Sometimes small numbers of people need to move out of the way to accomplish a greater good. So yeah, we can look at things and think “these idiots. They’ve made it so hard to move around,” as though that’s what they were doing—trying to make it hard for us. Or we can see it the way I do, which is either no opinion at all, or maybe something like “wow this will be great. When they’re done we’ll have brand new sidewalks and roads!” I’m not lying to myself. What I’m saying is true. But it’s also enjoyable to think. And that’s what we all need to do. We need to approach things selfishly. We need to notice things in ways that feel better for us.

436 Relax and Succeed - Your complaints about life are meaninglessHere’s a way of thinking about it: You can smash your expectations into reality, or you can be like Bruce Lee recommends and be like water. Because water can flow and water can crash. But it does not win through resistance, just persistence. So if for instance the change to the roads and sidewalks is a rock in your flow, then you don’t freeze up in anger and trap yourself. Instead you have your initial shock wave of chemistry that goes with recognizing the situation—the splash—and then let those thoughts go and flow around the issue and get your mind onto the next moment where you can choose thoughts that feel better. It really is that easy. Stop thinking things should be different. Accept how they are and move into the next moment with that flexible reality being the context which you are operating from. It’s not, I want the sidewalks a different way, it’s: now that they’ve done this, what’s my best bet?

Anger is created within us by whatever narrative we choose to engage in. If we become conscious of our thinking we will go there far less often and we will be highly motivated by how good it feels to succeed at redirecting our previously angry thoughts. It’s quite the achievement both psychologically and spiritually. If I can do it anyone can do it. It’s just changes in habits of thought. It’s tricky, but it’s not hard. I wish you every good fortune with your meditations. And my best to your spouses. 😉

peace. s

Struggling Your Way to Peace

Because humanity developed the concept of “completion” you have attached that idea to your life. You want to live your life out, but you want the growth part to be done. You want to be happy—to no longer struggle. You just want your to-do list done, your home cleaned, and you romantic and social lives to be running smoothly. Then you’ll be ready. But ready for what?

11 Relax and Succeed - We forget then remember then forgetIt may be difficult to appreciate how boring that would be. You imagine it as perfection, but in reality it is static. The flow of life has been interrupted. Would you rather watch water drop down a straight, clear, regular, predictable canal, or would you rather watch it cascade down a rocky riverbed, with eddies, and pools, and rapids and rocks? Would you rather drive on a holiday across a nation-sized giant parking lot, where you have no chance of hitting anything and you can go any direction and still be “on the road,” or would you rather drive through a twisting set of turns through a gorgeous mountain pass? Yes the second drive requires more attention. Yes it has more peril. But the parking lot will kill you with boredom.

You are not failing when you are lost, for being lost is an integral part of Being. You are not failing when you are sad, for being sad is a natural reaction to the loss of something we love. And you are not failing when you lose, because without losing you yourself could never have won. You can’t even say getting fired or divorced are failing, because those may in fact prove to be opportunities. Maybe it was taking the job or getting married that was the mistake—but those seemed like monumentally great days when they happened.

12 Relax and Succeed - Be gentle with yourselfThere is no way to judge the value of anything because as we move through our life, our perspective shifts and changes what different experiences are worth. This is why it is pointless to use words to internally dissect and analyze your daily life. All that noise is like commentators on TV discussing something that won’t be happening for years. It’s all speculation about meaning. But you cannot assess meaning when the meaning necessarily changes. There is no conclusion. There is no finished when it comes to meaning and understanding. The point is that you were never supposed to use words to evaluate your life at all. You were only intended to live. To Be.

You can stop talking to yourself about your perceived failures and mistakes, because “failure” and “mistake” are only words. Your life is a verb and that verb can unexpectedly find you in all kinds of situations where your “failures and mistakes” can become incredibly valuable. Stop judging yours and others lives and you will naturally slip into a peaceful existence. You will routinely leave it, because there can be no peace unless there is not-peace. But that is not failure. That is living. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can shift back to the kind of peace that includes suffering.

Remember, without the moments you don’t enjoy you would have no way of finding the ones you do enjoy. So if things feel bad, use that information to make a change in your thoughts. If things feel good, just keep that direction, but do so with the gratitude that comes with knowing that it will never stay that way.

peace. s