After identifying a major sin his son has committed, Alma preemptively refutes a potential justification:
Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted (Alma 39:4).
Several chapters later, at the end of Alma’s remarks, he again warns his son against the dangers of rationalization:
Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility (Alma 42:30).
What’s wrong with making excuses? It prevents us from taking the first step toward repentance: confession. How can you change if you don’t acknowledge that you have done something wrong and that you could have chosen differently. Excuses stifle progress.
I’ve been thinking today about ways we may be tempted to excuse inappropriate behavior or attitudes. Here are a few examples:
- “The world often uses a feeling of discontent as an excuse for self-absorption, for turning our thoughts inward and backward and dwelling individually on who I am, who I am not, and what I want” (Michelle Craig, “Divine Discontent,” General Conference, October 2018).
- “The natural man or woman in all of us is inclined to allow us to excuse ourselves from serving for reasons such as ‘I am not ready to serve; I have more to learn,’ ‘I’m tired and need a break,’ ‘I’m too old—it’s someone else’s turn,’ or ‘I am simply too busy”’ (Carl B. Cook, “Serve,” General Conference, October 2016).
- “A movie or television show may be well known and well liked by millions of viewers and nevertheless portray images and conduct that are pornographic. If something in a movie ” isn’t too bad, ” that automatically means that it isn’t too good either. Thus, the fact that others watch movies or open Web sites that aren’t appropriate is no excuse for us” (L. Whitney Clayton, “Blessed Are All the Pure in Heart,” General Conference, October 2007).
Today, I will avoid making excuses for my mistakes. When I fall short, I will take responsibility for my actions, figure out what I need to do better, and then repent. I will remember that excuses are the enemy of progress.