Do you ever find yourself excusing others for their poor behaviors? Have you heard yourself say things like:
• That’s just who he is. He’s really quite harmless, even though he says hurtful things.
• She’s just reactive. The kids and I know to not get into it with her or it will get too ugly.
• He has a hard time handling sadness. I’ve learned to just go to my friends for support. You know men.
• My boss is a jerk, but at least it’s a paycheck.
When you slow things down, you might be surprised to hear all the behaviors you excuse, tiptoe around or have just come to accept. The funny thing is that all the excuses are not necessarily wrong. After all, if your mother is “reactive” (code for blows up), then staying clear of her anger will likely make things much calmer. And the guy in your life who often says hurtful things, yet is “harmless,” probably is just being himself. Regarding men and sadness, sure, the truth is that a lot of men avoid sadness—theirs or the sadness of others—like the plague. The excuses, therefore, may not be all that off. The behaviors, however, are very off.
Just because the explanations you give for the poor behaviors of others may have a grain of truth to them, does not mean that those behaviors are okay,
• Hurtful comments—are anything but “harmless.”
• Blowing up, being reactive or often getting intense, creates an emotionally unsafe environment for spouses and children.
• Not being able to be sad with the men in your life blocks intimacy and shuts down your emotions because the man has shut down his.
• Getting a paycheck from a boss who is a jerk, takes a tremendous toll on a person’s psyche, confidence and life satisfaction.
You deserve to have a great life. In order to have a great life, you have to stop justifying for the poor behaviors of those around—or for your own, for that matter. Why people do what they do, does not excuse what they do. When an entire family is tiptoeing around an angry mother or father, that is a terrible lesson to teach children. It is also a terrible environment for everyone concerned. It doesn’t matter if that parent learned that behavior from his or her own parent(s), became a bully in order to survive grade school, or is angry because s/he is depressed. The why, does not make the behavior okay. You can have compassion for why they’re doing something, as long as you also hold the person accountable for what they’re actually doing. Compassion and accountability are not mutually exclusive.
Creating a great life requires that you set limits with compassion and strength. You can have an understanding heart while also loving yourself enough to stand up for yourself. Stop getting caught in the whys. Why people do what they do, does not excuse what they do. Don’t confuse the two.
Challenge: Notice all the excuses you give to poor behaviors. When you give these excuses, notice how you feel when you are on the receiving side of those poor behaviors you’re excusing. Are your excuses serving you or simply giving the other person permission to treat others any way they want?