I’m Sorry, You’re Excused

I recently purchased a new book of essays by C.S. Lewis called The Weight of Glory and Other Essays. Perusing the table of contents, I was immediately drawn to the second to the last essay titled On Forgiveness. If you have read much of my blog, you will know that this is a subject I am quite interested in.

Although I have thought a lot about forgiveness in my life, and God has taught me a great deal about the subject as well, I was not disappointed by C.S. Lewis’ unique take on the subject. In this short essay (which I highly recommend), Lewis says:

I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality (unless I watch myself very carefully) asking Him to do something quite different. I am asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me. But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says “Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology; I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.” But excusing says “I see that you couldn’t help it or didn’t mean it; you weren’t really to blame.” If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive. In that sense forgiveness and excusing are almost opposite.

I can relate to Lewis’ struggle to ask God for forgiveness instead of asking to be excused. It is much easier to fall back on some excuse – often “I couldn’t help it” – rather than to admit that our behavior needs forgiveness.

Our culture has taken a whole host of behaviors that God calls sins and created excuses for them. Excessive drinking isn’t a sin because a person is an alcoholic and can’t help it; they are excused because they were born as an alcoholic. Excessive eating isn’t a sin because a person has a metabolism problem or was treated poorly as a child; they are excused because they can’t help their overeating behavior. Losing our temper with our children or difficult people isn’t a sin because those we lose our temper with acted badly and they deserved it; our behavior is excused because it is merely a reaction to the bad behavior of another.

The one “benefit” of having an excuse is that we get to continue the behavior we think we can’t (or just don’t want to) change. But is this really a benefit? Most often, God says a particular behavior is sin because it is either not healthy for us or is detrimental to those around us (including those we love). His Word is an instruction manual for joyful, peaceful, contented living, not a blueprint for prison-cell life.

We create excuses, but at what cost? By refusing to accept the sinfulness of our behavior, we rob ourselves of the privilege of being forgiven by a loving God. God doesn’t want our excuses and He doesn’t want to excuse us. Rather, He wants our repentance, and He wants to forgive us and renew us. But asking for forgiveness takes humility and a willingness to admit we were wrong. And so excuses, born of pride, get in the way.

I want to be forgiven, not excused. How about you?

I am a Jesus Freak, and I don't care who knows it. I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend. My blood family is only part of the larger family of Christ that I belong to. I love to write, especially about my dear Savior.


6 Responses

  1. Linda,

    That was a great thought…something that I often struggle with..I give a lot of excuses for my behaviour and expect God to forgive me for them…I forget that Forgiveness is given when you repent and not when you ask excuses…Thank you so much for showing me the difference.

    One more thing , I would like to add your blog to my blogroll..
    God Bless,

    • Rani, I do the same thing, always finding excuses. It is so great when God speaks to others what they need to hear through my writing. We sometimes think we are alone in our struggles to grow closer to God and be more like Christ, but we are all the same in so many ways. I would be honored to have you add me to your blogroll. Peace, Linda

  2. I really agree with your thoughts here. They are so important to remember.

    I have noticed that there are times when we would rather make an excuse for something that we have thought, said or done, and we even sometimes are dishonest with ourselves and outright deny that we have sinned in particular thoughts, words, and deeds. One thing that often is underlying this type of obstinacy is an unwillingness to forgive others. If we truly realize that we have sinned and require forgiveness we will also see our need to forgive others.

  3. Seeking forgiveness from others is humbling. It is a time when I have felt God’s presence–thankfully. I know that forgiving myself is often harder, even though I am washed clean by Christ. Why do we continue to carry the cross?

  4. Yep – I totally want to be forgiven. There just is no excuse for my blurting behavior! Thanks.

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