Excuses vs Reasons: what’s the difference?

So to start off, sorry I haven’t been posting much lately, I’ve been really lazy about my online presence for a few months, but I’m trying to get better about it. Also I started this blog basically as a personal journal for when I couldn’t verbalize my thoughts to another person. So I’m not gonna post unless i have something I need to say.

So something I’ve known for a couple years, but that I’ve really noticed this past week is that there is a widely unknown difference between an excuse and a reason, and most people never think about it.

I get accused of making excuses fairly often, even though I don’t frequently make excuses, and that’s because I usually will give a reason for my behavior/speech/attitude/whatever.

So I’ll go ahead and describe excuses, and then I’ll describe reasons, and then I’ll describe how they differ.

Excuses: excuses are basically reasons why you aren’t to blame, why you aren’t responsible for what happened, why whatever you did is ok, etc. Basically an excuse is to shift blame or get you out of trouble (e.g. “But mom, Billy got in the cookie jar first!”) In that example he’s trying to excuse his behavior and pass the blame.

Reasons: reasons basically tell you why what happened happened. They are mostly informative, and can help to spread understanding, as well as being useful for diagnostics and figuring out how to make it not happen again. A reason doesn’t say “my behavior isn’t a problem because of this”, it says, “I know there’s a problem that needs to be worked on, but this is why I have that problem in the first place”. (E.g. “Sorry I forgot to go to the grocery store honey, right after you told me to go the TV came on and I forgot.) In that example he’s not trying to shift blame, just explaining why he didn’t go to the store.

The difference can be subtle, but is a very important one to note. Motives play a big part in evaluating whether it’s an excuse or a reason, because an excuse shifts blame, while a reason brings understanding while taking responsibility for your actions.

Excuses are what you get when you mix reasons and defensiveness.

It is worth noting that if you give reasons you will almost always be thought to be making excuses.

Ok that’ll be the end of my little rant for now. If you’ve read this far, stay tuned cuz I have a couple of interviews coming up shortly and maybe some more posts too, we’ll see.

Thanks

-Gunnar

Published by gunnarsalyer

Teen MK in Mozambique. Second of eight kids. Multi instrumentalist

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