As a therapist, I believe that there is a reason for our behavior. I do not believe that there are words, actions, or thoughts that are just random and have no meaning. If the opposite were true, how would you explain some self defeating behaviors?
Reasons are the motivating actions or reactions to people, things, and situations in our environment. What would the reason be for someone to harm another person? Maybe anger at the person for a deed that somehow harmed you? Why do serial murderers do horrible things to other human beings? You may say that they are mentally ill, and you would probably be correct. Drilling down a bit farther, I would ask what made that person a sociopath? Was it sadistic parents, poor parenting, or just a genetic trait?
In any case, there still are reasons why people do things, or are sick. How about an adulterer? Is that heredity, chemical, result of bad role models? The answer is maybe it is one or all of the reasons proposed. There is one thing for sure, that is the notion that because there are reasons for poor behavior, we do not excuse it because it was not the offender’s fault. Or is it? Taken to the extreme, it can be postulated that no one is guilty of anything because circumstances, biology, genetics, or environmental factors made them or influenced them to do something wrong.
If this is the case, then our jails would be empty and the actions of any individual would never be attributed to the individual because the causes were not his or her fault. This is an absurd notion, but it is logical albeit silly. This kind of thinking removes the responsibility from the individual and places the blame on circumstances, genetics, bad parenting, or phases of the moon. Personal responsibility needs to prevail in our society and the reason that it sometimes doesn’t, is Excuses!
There are people in our world that are great at making excuses for their behavior. They would point out the reasons for their behavior and then remove the personal responsibility of the act by claiming the reason is the excuse. A reason is not an excuse. It could be a contributing factor to antisocial behavior, but not an excuse.
There are aspects of our society that would greatly suffer if we all had an excuse for our behavior. Try telling that to the IRS when you give them an excuse for hiding income.
The concept is easy folks. There may be reasons for behavior, there may even be an excuse for behavior, but there is always the concept of personal responsibility taken for behavior. Late for school? the reason could be a flat tire, late bus, or other reasonable reason. Is it an excuse? Ahh, do I see a grey area here? Is it an excuse because the reason for lateness is reasonable and something you are able to prove?
Common sense is the answer to the grey areas, because your lateness is both a reason and an excuse. This happens sometimes in circumstances such as this. It doesn’t happen with behavior. The reason you are late is because there were events that made it impossible to be on time. There is never an excuse for adultery for example. Somewhere in the thought process of committing the act of adultery, was a rationalization and a justification for the act. At that point, personal responsibility must be taken because there is no excuse.
It is best to assume the responsibility for your behavior and if asked, you can provide a reason, but not an excuse.