Every now and then it’s good to step away from the norm and explore where few men and women dare to go … the subtleties of the English language.
It’s happened to the best of us—and of late, the worst. Confronted with criticism or need of defense (think negative viral Twitter rants), we stammer apologetically or backtrack hypocritically. These days, rarely do we “own” our statements.
This points to a seldom explored problem of our language. Too many times we speak without thinking (again, Twitter), or knowing, the vital difference between two similar words. One can be weak and defensive, the other strong and decisive. Shouldn’t you know the dissimilarity?
When confronted, do you make an …
EXCUSE: (ek skyōōsʹ) n. – 1) a plea in defense of or explanation for some action or behavior, [i.e.] apology; 2) a release from obligation, duty, etc.; 3) something that excuses …; 4) a pretended reason for conduct, [i.e.] pretext … well, you get the idea! [2-fer WW #98; bolding and underline are mine.]
REASON: (rēʹzɘn) n. – 1) an explanation or justification of an act, idea, etc.; 2) a cause or motive; 3) the ability to think, form judgments, draw conclusions, etc.; 4) sound thought or judgment, [i.e.] good sense; 5) normal mental powers, [i.e.] a sound mind, sanity … wow. [2-fer WW #98.]
While often used interchangeably to clarify a comment or action, according to Webster, these are two very different words. One is a pathetic pretense, the other is resolute in its logic and strength.
Many of you who think you have a reason, are truly offering only an excuse. Others are told to quit giving lame excuses, when they actually have a valid reason.
If your voice raises an octave or two in response (and yes, oddly enough that can also be detected on Twitter), and sounds like it’s pinched between two four-hundred-pound weights, even if you have a valid reason, it will be perceived as a whiny excuse.
Consider carefully, the subtle differences between an excuse and a reason—which one best expresses the method to your madness? Or, is silence truly golden and no explanation is better than an excuse?
That leaves your reason in the hands—and minds—of others. If you don’t speak, others will squeak for you. (Yes, I meant “squeak.” It will be their whiny excuse offered in place of your possible good reason.)
We all know the adage “think before you speak”* (or act). Oh, so much easier said than done! Alternatively, know that what you’re saying could be misconstrued and be ready with your reason for saying it—a well thought out and logical motive. (Well, it is in your mind anyway. J)
The best defense of word or action is confidence in your reasons. Give them credence and validity, with a firm, calm voice and viable justification.
Want to be taken seriously in your job, relationship, or dreams? Provide a substantial reason, not an erratic excuse.
Word Challenge: EXCUSE or REASON? You’ll enjoy life more without excuses, when you own your reasons. Have fun applying these very different words to your week of inexcusable writings.
*This is an especially poignant comment on bullying and not thinking before speaking; an article by Jill Tomac, “Think Before You Speak: 5 Ways to Help You Choose Your Words Wisely,” on Maria Shriver’s website, Igniting Architects of Change.
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