Growing up, my parents tried to instill in me a sense of responsibility. When you’re at fault, be big enough to take the blame. When you’re responsible for something (or someone), and it breaks or messes up, you take the blame then, too. Most importantly, offer no excuses, just do better.
It’s good life advice, and I do my best to follow it.
However, growing up has taught me that sometimes it’s OK to make silly little excuses. In fact, maybe we all need to make a few more of them. Let me explain.
The other day I was in downtown Hopkinsville taking care of errands when I saw an old family friend crossing the street on his way to the business he operates. After taking care of my responsibilities, I stopped by his shop.
Thing is, I didn’t really need anything he sells. At the same time, I didn’t want to put him on the spot and just say I stopped in to say hi. That might have been awkward for him and I didn’t want to be weird. So I made small talk while browsing, spent a few dollars and got a chance to hear from one of the wisest, most personable and genuine people I’ve ever met.
It was never about the item I bought. It sits on my chest of drawers unused. I have another one just like it in storage.
Money well spent, and a bargain at that.
Despite life’s struggles that affect us all, I consider myself a fortunate man. My children, for instance, have a whole village of people who love them and fill in where I come up short. I am incredibly grateful to these people, because I know I could never raise a well-adjusted human being on my own. Y’all, I’m crazy.
When I heard that a pair of those people missed them, and wanted to spend more time with them, I made another excuse. Hey, I need a babysitter, I have something to do. I have to run an errand. I wasn’t lying, I did have something to do, but I didn’t really need someone to watch my children for it.
I did it anyway. If I had just taken them over there, they would think I was doing it because they had asked or complained about it. This way, they filled in a need, they did me a favor and they got to spend quality time with people they care about.
It worked out, too. Young parents, I’m not a model by any stretch, but it’s OK to take a break from your children every now and then. I struggle with the guilt of it, too. Honestly, though, they might not know it, but they need a break from you, too. It felt good for me to run around on my own for a bit. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.
My point is, I never want anyone to feel like I’m being charitable toward them, or doing them a favor. That sounds harsh, but it’s for a good reason. They might feel like they owe me something, or that I felt pity toward them when neither of those things is true. It’s OK to be nice without expecting anything in return. In fact, it’s not really being nice unless you expect nothing out of it.
That lesson is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. If you’re only a good person because you expect a reward, whether that be heaven, a good inheritance or just compliments, are you really a good person? I like to think the best good is never flashy, always unseen, always unheralded. How else to tell if it’s genuine?
I’m not writing this to tell you to look at me, I’m a good man. I can’t answer whether that’s true. My answers aren’t necessarily the only ones, or even particularly great ones. I do know I’m trying, though, and that sometimes, good people have to make excuses too. That’s this week’s small victory.
(JESSE JONES is the editor of The Eagle Post, a member of the Kentucky New Era Media Group. Email email@example.com if you’re also curious how Amish girls know the difference between a romantic, candle-lit dinner and a regular dinner.)