Good excuses for bad behavior

Good excuses for bad behavior

By: By Lisa Smartt

My boys have taught me many things over the years. One thing they’ve made clear is that most of what they get in trouble for is utterly and completely not their fault. God bless these two little innocent souls. Their motives are gravely misunderstood by their parents. They are victims, pure and simple.
“Yes, I whacked him, but it’s not my fault. He looked at me like he was getting ready to hit me.”
“I didn’t feed the dogs because they looked like they were still full from last night.”
“I forgot my math book, but it’s not my fault. Memory has just never been my best subject.”
“I hid dirty clothes under my bed because I feel bad about your having to do so much laundry.”
“Yes, I tackled him, but it’s not my fault. He ate the last graham cracker.”
“My towel and dirty clothes are on the bathroom floor because I could hear the TV in the living room and that crazy TV distracted me.”
“Yes, we got into Daddy’s tool box. But we did it because we wanted to organize the tools as a surprise for him.”
“Yes, we burned the house to the ground. We knew you and Daddy love campfires.” (OK. Thankfully, that one didn’t happen. But I’m not naïve enough to say it’s impossible. As a parent, I’ve learned to use the word “impossible” quite sparingly.)
Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. Don’t worry. I’m not seeking to humiliate my fine children in this column. They’re no different than the rest of us. We all love a good excuse. Here are some of the favorite adult excuses for bad behavior:
“I didn’t vote because it’s too inconvenient.”
“I’m fat because fat runs in my family. Who has time to work out? Maybe I’m just big-boned.”
“Sure, I yell at my kids. But, it’s their fault for making me so angry.”
“Hunting laws are just ‘general’ guidelines. Breaking them doesn’t hurt anyone.”
“I’m late because the traffic was just horrible.” (Hint: Don’t try this in rural northwest Tennessee. No, really. If you want to look like a complete idiot, just tell your employer that you’re late because the traffic in Hornbeak was bumper to bumper.)
“Yes, I sometimes humiliate my spouse in public. But you don’t know what I’ve had to live with over the years.”
“I lied to the telemarketer. But hey, those folks are sub-human.”
Is it possible that adults teach children the fine art of making excuses? I think it’s entirely possible. This is not a column about bad behavior. Every human being behaves badly sometimes. It’s about telling the truth about our bad behavior. Let’s look at the difference by re-vamping some typical adult excuses:
“I didn’t vote. But it was wrong. I should have taken the time to vote out of respect for my freedom.”
“I’m fat because I eat too much and have made bad choices concerning exercise. Will you help me improve in that area?”
“Sometimes, I yell at my kids. Yelling is out-of-control anger and I should always apologize.”
“I’m late because I didn’t leave the house on time. It’s completely my fault.”
Refreshing, isn’t it? The people I respect most in this life are not flawless people. The people I respect most are those who are willing to tell the truth about their flaws. John Maxwell, in his excellent book, “The 360 Degree Leader” says it so well, “You can’t grow from the position of an excuse.” Well said, John Maxwell. I hope this column has been helpful and well-written. But, if not, please accept my apology. No excuses.
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Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. Her book “The Smartt View: Life, Love, and Cluttered Closets” is available at The Messenger, The University of Tennessee at Martin bookstore or by mail for $10, plus $2 shipping. Send checks to Lisa Smartt, 300 Parrott Road, Dresden TN 38225. She can be reached by e-mail at lisa@lisasmartt.com.
Published in The Messenger 4.30.08

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