Armand Kruger, MA
Dr. Marius Schalekamp
Summary: In revisiting the "excuse blow-out" pattern, the authors offer that excuses makes sense in reference to the non-achievement of outcomes. By learning from characters from the Bible they offer tests for Christians to validate go-no go, and then ways for dealing with excuses. The highest test is whether the outcome is glorifying God. The reassurance is if it does glorify God and in the will of God, then undertaking will be "supported" by God. It is with this hope as frame-of-reference, the person should review and blow-out excuses.
The lessons learned from Moses (Exodus 4:10-13), Saul (1 Sam. 13:11-13, and 1 Sam. 15:14-16), Jeremiah (Jer. 1:4-8) and in Haggai (when the delay in the temple seem to be about no material, no money, had to built their houses, etc.) is that they came up with excuses after instructions given to them by God. Similarly, Nehemiah went through a process, which we will describe below, which started by him realizing that he had a passion that he wanted to restore the new Jerusalem. This was not just the wish of a loyal Jew, but this work is aimed at a presupposed wish of God, namely, to restore His city. Two common denominators come to mind immediately, namely that all these outcomes where God-given outcomes, and only then did the people begin to look at themselves and their circumstances wherein they saw the "reasons not to...". But, what they "forgot" (or did not consider) and had to hear from God, is that God supplies that needed for His outcomes.
A pattern for the excuse blow-out that we propose will therefore have two key headings: validating the outcome, and then exploring the "excuses". Specifically:
1. Validating the outcome:
Essentially the validation is whether the outcome will glorify God, and one way of doing this validation is to take the outcome and
test it against the need and passion in your own heart;
test it against the commands from God, for example, the great commission;
test it against the promises from God, for example, ..........................;
test it against the principle of love, i.e. how one is to love our God and one's neighbor;
test it against the purity/holiness of one's own motives (James 3:17,18: Neh. 1:5,6)
test it in the body of Christ;
test it in consistent, earnest prayer before God that it is His will and not just the good intention of the doer.
Blackaby and King's1 suggestions are: "In all honesty with yourself and before God, come to the place where you are sure that your only desire is to know God's will alone. Then check to see what the Holy Spirit is saying in other ways. Ask yourself;
• what is He saying to me in His Word?
• What is he saying to me in prayer?
• Is he confirming it through circumstances?
• Is He conforming it through the counsel of other believers?"
The value and weight of the outcome against the above tests gives a new frame to the weight and consideration of the "why one should", and a corresponding reassessment of the reasons for not getting to it, or starting it, or not taking it seriously. However, an important consideration before moving towards the exploration of excuses and obstacles, is the fact that God is the answer to all the obstacles towards His outcomes! Whatever the obstacles were that Moses and Jeremiah offered for not being able to do God's will, God supplied the answer and the resources. Doing it for God implies doing it with God's help and in His way. If then one's outcome is about God's business and/or has been validated to glorify God, then one can charge ahead with the hope in the promise that God will supply and help. It is even more than having hope, it is a belief as defined in Hebrews 11:1-2. For those outcomes "of God", whatever thinking one does about the excuses, happens within this frame of grounded/real hope in the ability and the resources.
What difference does this meaning of the "hope" and "belief" make? It has definitive implications for what one's thinking is about when it comes to things "outside of my control". As people we can only take responsibility for that which I can initiate and maintain, which are key elements in well-formed conditions of an outcome. When one is busy with the business of God, then one's involvement with that which is "outside my control" is a very active, prayerful concern. Jabez, in asking the blessing of the Lord, realizes the parts outside his control and then definitively asks for God's hand to be on him (1 Chron. 4:10) including the mercy of protecting him from evil. Mathew Henry has this to say about this part of Jabez's prayer: "That he would keep him from evil, the evil of sin, the evil of trouble, all the evil designs of his enemies, that of trouble, all the evil designs of his enemies, that they might not hurt him, nor grieve him, nor make him a Jabez indeed, a man of sorrow; in the original there is an allusion to his name. Father in heaven, deliver me from evil."2
"The strange thing about excuse-making, the greater and more sophisticated our skills at reasoning, explaining, and intellectualizing, more subtle and invisible (to us) our powers of rationalization. We can come up with more and more sophisticated B.S. for getting away with things. It reinforces the old line that Ph.D. means "Piled Higher and Deeper."3 The first level of excuse making involves simply finding or inventing a reason that explains why something is out of the question, inappropriate, not useful or binding, etc. "Structurally, all of these "reasons" occur at a meta-level to the Primary State of some activity. To the primary experience and all the thoughts, feelings, physiologies that would be involved if we engaged in it, we have other thoughts and feelings, usually negative thoughts and feelings. We don't want to be bothered. We dislike the experience. So excuses generally involve an unpleasant meta-state about some primary experience."4
Thus, an excuse is a frame about the proposed experience that induces one to avoid that which will contribute to it's happening. Moses' excuse-making focuses on his speech impediment; Jeremiah offers his young age; Saul couldn't wait because the people where leaving him; he did not kill and destroy because he wanted to offer the choice of the stock to God (1Sam. 15:14_16), etc. One offers a variety of reasons of more and less important, to self and others for this avoidance: it is not important enough, I am not capable, I don't have what it takes, "don't know how, don't know when", I don't seem to get to it other things keep interfering, etc. reasons also vary for the person in terms of importance, and this means that the more important the reason, the higher up are they in terms of the levels of meaning. When these reasons start to be a third or fourth answer to meta-questions (like "why?", "how does it serve you?", "what is important for you to not want to....?", "what does it mean to you?", "what is even more important than getting started?", etc.) then one starts to hear the idols in whose service the excuse-making, and sometimes the outcome, stand.
So we attempt to excuse ourselves from the engagement by making up some "reason" that seems to allow us or another person to grant us excuse. For this reason, excuses generally operate as a form of persuasion. We essentially say (to ourselves or another),
"Please have me excused from X activity because of this or that reason..."
Excuses are only excuses to the observer! The excuse-maker typically has a very real subjective validation for their "excuse". Since excuses work from a level of frame above the primary experienced, they function at the level of language, where how and what one says, is what it means. Saying it makes it real, and saying it more than once with a conviction (as when one justifies it), confirms it (as "a belief"). This is the same as when one has to defend a conviction: the more you have to justify it, the more it is anchored as a belief.
Given the validity of the outcome, and it's importance to the doer, now one is ready to think implementation and excuses. If there is already some awareness of "excuse-making" meta-questions like the following adds to the motivation of saying no to excuses:
These questions begin the exploration of how have you framed the subjective experience of excuse making.
The following pattern was suggested by Michael Hall during his visit to South Africa (October 2000). Step 2 in the pattern takes on a particular character when one brings to bear Christian hope and belief and is the contribution and responsibility of the authors. First, the steps:
Excuse Blow-Out Pattern:
1. Access the desired state and, while keeping it's importance and validation in the forefront of your mind, allow the excuses to emerge. This one can do by paying attention to what stops one from realizing one's outcome.
2. Quality control the "excuse":
3. Preserve the value of the elements that is useful and to which one has to pay attention to. "Suck out" the good stuff from the excuse.
4. Reject the empty shell of the excuse by firmly "meta-no-ing" it: feel it in your legs as you stomp it flat and out of existence.
5. Quality control the decision of your readiness to "go get and make happen"!
"Welcoming our excuses allows us to then sort through the valid and invalid ones. Then we can clearly decide, "No!" I don't need that excuse, and "Yes!" that's an appropriate one that I'll keep."6 And to get busy with the business of God's will and glory.
1. 1Blackaby, Henry T and King, Claude V(1990): Experiencing God: Knowing and doing the Will of God. LifeWay Press, Nashville, Tennessee 37234, page 89, and 4. on back inside cover.
2. 2MATTHEW HENRY'S COMMENTARY ON THE WHOLE BIBLE. New Modern Edition. Complete and Unabridged in Six Volumes. Copyright 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.
3. 3Hall, L Michael: "Excuse Blow-out Pattern"
4. 4 Hall, as above
5. 5Wilkinson, Bruce (2000): The Prayer of Jabez. Multnomah Publishers, PO Box 1720, Sisters, Oregon 97759, p23
6. 6Hall, L Michael in "Excuse Blow-out Pattern".
Contact information for Armand Kruger:
South Africa's Institute of Neuro -
PO Box 494
South Africa, 1960
©2001 Armand Kruger and Dr. Marius Schalekamp All rights reserved.