Thursday, May 26, 2011

Acute Excusitis!

Have you ever been caught up in an argument with someone simply because they didn't say or do what you expected. Maybe they promised to do something for you and didn't follow through. Or perhaps, they did something that you asked them not to do.

Did you find that the basis of their point of view was simply to make excuses why they did or didn't do what they promised? Perhaps their reasoning was valid, perhaps not. It doesn't really matter either way. The issue is: why do we get caught up in making excuses instead of just accepting responsibility calmly and quietly and moving on? Perhaps you were the one that was making the excuses in some of those situations. I find myself there too often; trying to back out of an action or inaction, an attitude or a comment.

Why is acute excusitis so prevalent amongst mature adults? Why are we afraid of taking responsibility and simply acknowledging our errors, thus enabling ourselves and others
that are involved to move on? Even when we believe we are right, do we have to "win" the argument just to prove to someone else that we are right? Why not let the other person have their say, whether right or wrong, whether valid or not, and then just let it go? It is actually easier to accept and move on than it is to come up with "reasons" (i.e. excuses) to validate our actions. It takes less effort and energy to concede to your error or to concede to their point of view than it does to fight against it and the other person. So, I ask again, why is acute excusitis so prevalent?

It is easy to understand it in children who grow up in a home environment where consequences carry praise or punishment in order to help shape that young person into a responsible, mature adult. Children want to avoid the punishment, especially if they link it to a loss of love from their parents. However, even with children, learning to accept responsibility completely is an important step in maturing. Despite this, I don't see too many children who do take responsibility for the consequences of their actions squarely on their shoulders. Maybe that's why many adults don't either - they haven't learnt the lessons of responsibility properly in their growing up. Why not? Because their parents never learnt the lessons properly either, so they couldn't pass them on to their children. It becomes a perpetual error, handed down from generation to generation, thus causing acute excusitis to develop and linger.

Why are most of us afraid to take complete, 100% responsibility for our actions at all times? Maybe we don't want to admit (to ourselves or others) that we are not perfect. The ego in all of us seems to be most comfortable thinking it is perfect. Therefore, any indicators that this is not so are to be dismissed. If someone tells me I did something wrong, then I have to prove that this is not the case. It was not my fault - it was someone else's. Or, it was because of circumstances. E.g. "I can't think straight today because you kept me up too late last night telling me your problems. It's your fault I forgot to..." Or, it's because we are sick, stressed, tired, confused, etc. Any of these conditions may indeed be a factor why we have forgotten to do something, or we have said something hurtful to someone, or whatever. However, none of these factors are reasons for us trying to give away responsibility for our actions. No matter how we feel, we are completely responsible for our words and actions at all times. No matter what else is happening, we are completely responsible. No matter what someone else has done, said or avoided, we are completely responsible. No one can take that responsibility away. We can only give it away.

And, one way we try to give it away is by making excuses for our actions. If you find yourself suffering from acute excusitis, the first step in overcoming it is to realize that you have a choice at any moment in time - you can choose to acknowledge your responsibility for your life or you can choose to ignore it. The more you ignore it, the less you feel that your life belongs to you.

The more you ignore it, the more you believe that others rule your life and make your
decisions for you. Once you choose to acknowledge your responsibility, you can move beyond the "need" to make excuses and you can avoid having arguments that achieve no real purpose.

In my opinion, any argument that is not about moving ahead in a situation is not worth having. Any argument that is about who is right or who is wrong is not worth having. Life is not black and white. In most scenarios there is no real right or wrong anyway, only differences of opinion. People who argue about trying to prove who is right or wrong are ignoring the individualism of themselves and the person they are arguing with. Everyone is an individual. Everyone has a slightly different view of the world. Everyone has a slightly different set of beliefs about life. And everyone differs in what they believe is right or wrong, even if only to a very slight degree.

One way you can avoid getting into arguments with others is simply to not move from conversation to argument. It takes two to argue. You cannot have an argument where one
person refuses to move from conversation to argument. Stay emotionally detached from the content and give the other person the respect to express their point of view whilst maintaining your viewpoint only as much as it is absolutely important to do so.

To move beyond arguments more effectively, you can also practice being unconditionally loving. To me, unconditional love means: loving without conditions, loving without strings attached, loving someone despite what that person says, does or infers. To love unconditionally means to let others be their own selves, to give others the respect they deserve to live their own way on their own journey through life. To love unconditionally removes the need to prove you are right and someone else is wrong. To love unconditionally removes the need to receive validation from the other person. To love unconditionally motivates you to allow others to express their true feelings and to accept them no matter how well or badly they are expressed.

To move beyond arguments more effectively, we can practice being more proactive. Proactivity is an attitude where you take conscious responsibility for how you will deal in any situation. Despite how you might initially feel, you decide how you will act. Proactivity does not mean that you won't react to things. However, it manifests as a difference between how you react (or feel) and how you respond (or act). To be proactive allows you to avoid saying something in the heat of the moment. To be proactive allows you to avoid buying into the other persons' emotional state.

What we say is our perspective. What others consciously "hear" is their perspective. The two are not necessarily the same. We go into every conversation or interaction with others with our own set of values, beliefs, boundaries, limitations, fears, concerns, focuses, and agendas. What is said or done to us is filtered through those perception elements. The message that is sent is the message that we receive, however our perception of its' meaning can be totally different. I've heard that 55% of all communication is non-verbal. The words that we hear do not make up the majority of the message that we receive.

There are so many excuses we can come up with for our actions, our words, our attitudes. But, no excuse ever really takes away the responsibility that we have for our own lives.

There is no excuse, good or bad, right or wrong, for allowing acute excusitis to rule our lives.

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