Friday, November 17, 2017

Five Minute Friday: EXCUSE


Is it Friday again already? Yes, which means it's time to join the Five Minute Friday linkup, where we write for five minutes on a given prompt. This week's word is EXCUSE.



I went to a salon this morning. The young staff member, whom I'd never met before, asked me what I did, so I told her I taught an online course in essay-writing at the university.

"Oh, I guess that's the way of the future," she said.

I told her that for many years the course had been offered by correspondence: I would walk to campus to pick up my papers, mark them by hand, and walk back to return them. But now, I said, everything is uploaded to the course website, so no student can use the excuse that they couldn't submit their essay because their dog ate it.

"No, a dog certainly can't eat a cyber paper," she laughed.

I had some fun looking up this cliche -- "The dog ate my essay" -- on Wikipedia. An early variation of this trope occurred in the early 1900's when a minister was filling in at a church in Wales. After the service, he tenatively asked the church clerk if the sermon had been all right -- and then he apologized that it might have been a little short because his dog had eaten part of the paper it was written on. 

Apparently the clerk responded by asking whether that dog might have any puppies -- the implication being that their regular vicar might also benefit from having his sermons cut short (or rather, chewed short) by a dog!


It's always tempting to look around for an excuse when something has gone wrong. I suppose humans have been doing that ever since the dawn of time, when Adam blamed his disobedience on Eve and she blamed hers on the serpent.

Sometimes we make excuses to try to avoid facing the consequences that we know, deep down, we deserve.

Or we make excuses because it's just too painful to admit that we've failed.

One of my favourite quotes is from author Henry Cloud: "The truth is always your friend." It's such a simple (almost simplistic) statement, but I think it has a lot of hidden depth and maybe that's why I find myself pondering it so often.

If the truth is really my friend, then I should stop making excuses for myself ... for other people ... even for God ... and embrace the truth and what it has to teach me.









18 comments:

  1. "... we make excuses because it's just too painful to admit that we've failed."

    Ok, that one hit me where it hurts.

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    1. Me too, Tim. I wonder why we so often have such a difficult time admitting our failures and mistakes? Fear, I guess.

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  2. Jeannie, so good. Wasn't it a great word prompt? Have a blessed Thanksgiving. xo

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    1. Thanks for reading, Susan! Actually I am one of those people they call Canadians, and we celebrated Thanksgiving in October. But it is never the wrong time to give thanks. I hope you have a great celebration!

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  3. That quote is simple but profound. Although the truth doesn't always feel like our friend, it is better than excuses in the end. It was fun to learn more about where the "dog ate my homework" excuse originated too!

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    1. Yes I thought that was a neat story; I suppose it is possible that it's fictional but I like to think it's true. Thanks for stopping by, Lesley.

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  4. keep trying to post - but cant seem to figure out how. If this works - Yeah me. I have been trying to post each of the last few weeks. Enjoyed this one too. I balme my problem on operator headspace.

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    1. Hi there, Guy - we "met" on last week's linkup, didn't we? Thanks for coming by to read. Sorry if you've had trouble commenting. Every blog is a little different and I sometimes have trouble with other people's comment boxes.

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  5. When thinking about excuses, I wonder what is the difference between an excuse and a legitimate reason. Sometimes we do have to look at the reasons for other people's bad behavior (or our own); sometimes telling other people those reasons may sound like we're excusing it rather than trying to find a way to understand, show grace, and see what might be done differently next time. I'm not talking about abuse or crime or anything like that, of course, but mistakes (turning in the paper late because someone spent the last night in the ER with a sick kid, falling asleep in class, etc.) or mildly bad/rude behavior (outburst of temper or curse because someone is exhausted or in physical pain). I hope that makes sense. Is the difference that the truth backs up the asserted reason, while the excuse obscures the truth? Hm, you've given me a lot to think about!

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    1. Laura, you give the best replies! I think often the excuse is meant to make ourselves (or the person we're making excuses for) seem less culpable: "The Devil made me do it!" "Morals were different then!" "Nobody said I was supposed to cite my sources!" Although there could be blurred lines there too: in 2017 even if a dog did eat my paper, I would be expected to have saved a digital copy, whereas in 1977 having your only hard copy chewed up could be a serious loss. But in general that would be my distinction: a truthful reason acknowledges one's responsibility, while an excuse tries to minimize it.

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  6. The thought of the dog eating my website, cyber paper just made me laugh. We do use a lot of things to make excuses don't we?

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    1. Yes, unfortunately. This was a great (and kinda different) prompt.

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  7. Cute dog! We have one who could be her brother.

    When I was teaching, I think some students (college-age) concocted excuses just to see what they could get away with. The funny thing was, when I entered into the spirit of that assumed game, I found that these were the kids with the potential for the best performance.

    #1 at FMF this wee.

    https://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2017/11/your-dying-spouse-406-precious.html

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    1. Hi Andrew, thanks for being here. I guess the other excuse cliche is about the dead grandmother: how the number of deaths of grandmothers supposedly increases with proximity to exam/assignment deadlines, and how many students supposedly have far more grandmothers than they have a right to. It's kind of amusing and yet I'm always hesitant to joke about it because when it actually does happen, for some students it is the first death they have ever faced. But I'm sure there are sometimes when it is a made-up excuse.

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  8. "The truth is your friend." I'm going to remember that one. I appreciated reading your post this morning.

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    1. Thanks so much, Amy - it's great having you here today!

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  9. Truth is your friend!! Indeed -

    Enjoyed your post...have a wonderful Thanksgiving week!!

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    1. Thank you, Jennifer. Here in Canada we already had our Thanksgiving celebration in October -- but it is never a bad idea to stop and give thanks. Enjoy your celebrations!

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