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Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
Excuses, excuses, excuses.

CULVER CITY, CA - JUNE 11:  Actors Michael Dou...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

We can always come up with excuses.

I was reminded of that recently when reading about Michael Douglas' 31-year-old son being sentenced to 5 years in prison for drug trafficking. At his sentencing hearing, Catherine Zeta Jones, Michael's wife, wrote a letter, saying in part:

'My stepson is a caring, considerate, worthy human being, but never the less, the disease, that for years he has tried to combat, did take over again.

And when his son was sentenced, Michael Douglas, who I'm sure was genuinely heart broken, said that he knows what it is to try to find your own identity when you have a famous father.

Yes, it can be tough. It's also hard to find your identity when you have no father. Or no mother. Or no money. Or too much money. Here's the problem: life is always hard. And it always will be, unless you decide to take responsibility on yourself.

It sounds in the news reports that we are supposed to feel sympathy for this man, because he grew up in a privileged home with famous parents and grandparents. How difficult! He could never live up to expectations. But he had everything he ever wanted handed to him. Think of the good he could have done in the world with his social position, his money, his standing. Instead he chose to sell drugs.

It seems to me that logically we should not have MORE sympathy for the children of the rich and famous; we should have less. Certainly they came from dysfunctional families, but they had every opportunity, and the money, to rise above it. I know money can be a curse probably more often than it is a blessing, but I still believe in the Spiderman creed, which I think is actually rather Christian: "From whom much is given, much is expected."

Nevertheless, I do believe that God sees everyone as equals, and does not play favourites. And as such, He has sympathy for all and His love extends to all. God can reach this man in prison, and I pray that God will.

However, I am still quite amazed at our culture's propensity to come up with an excuse for just about every pathetic behaviour. Our first instinct is to try to excuse ourselves or wash it away, as if it really doesn't matter. And it's celebrities and their ilk for whom we're supposed to have the most sympathy, according to the media.

Perhaps I'm on sympathy overload, and don't feel particularly empathetic right now, but I wish we could get away from the excuse-mongering and back to owning up to our responsibilities. I find it really difficult when it's celebrities who are being such poor role models. I know they didn't necessarily ask to be role models, but the fact is that for many they are. And they wanted the fame, or they wouldn't have gone into that business in the first place.

I once read a biography of the Kennedys, and one thing amidst all that dysfunction stuck with me. Joe Kennedy, the dad, instilled in his sons that they had great responsibility because they had been given so much. "Now what will you do with it?", he constantly asked them.

I have taken a similar tack with my kids, although I've put a Christian spin on it. I've told them, "God has given you so much. You have a good family. You live in one of the richest countries in the world. You have money, a home, and opportunities. So many kids in the world have none of those things. God has trusted you with these things for a reason, and it's not so that you can hoard them all to yourself. It's because He trusts you to share them."

God trusts you to share what you have.

The reason that you have what you have is because God trusts you to share it. God has given it to you because He believes that you will use it well. In other words, we have responsibility, not excuses.

We need to raise our kids to understand responsibility. We are so blessed in this country, and no one should indulge in gratuitous self-pity because they don't have everything they want. We have such a privilege in that we live in a country where having virtually everything you want is actually attainable, which is why, I think, our kids live in such self-pity. If they knew everything they wanted was out of the question, they'd be more easily satisfied.

But because we think we're entitled to this perfect life, we start feeling put upon, just like Douglas' son did. The antidote to this entitlement and self-pity is responsibility. Say what you want about the Kennedy's: they had lousy morals when it came to family, and Teddy Kennedy certainly made the United States a worse place with his ultra-liberal policies, but all the boys did feel a sense of obligation because they had been given so much. Perhaps if they had better understood that what they were given came from God they would have made better choices, but even so, at least we can be happy that they tried.

Don't let your kids grow up to make excuses for why they can't try, can't work, can't succeed, can't be happy. Don't let self-pity thrive. Instead, concentrate on responsibility and gratitude, and then maybe fewer of us would have to pen such pathetic letters to judges.


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At 9:04 AM , Anonymous Julie Stiles Mills said…

Excellent post. Reminded me of my current favorite youtube video "no excuses." Just watched it again:

I'm frequently heard to say "own it" to my kids - along with the Churchill quote: “It’s not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required.”


At 10:53 AM , Blogger Thou Art Jules said…

Love this post! I need to set this up to email itself to me once a week!

Making excuses or teaching our children to make them is hurting them and our society.


At 11:31 AM , Blogger Katrina said…

This is a great post! Thank you! And I totally agree with you... It is sad how people nowadays have an excuse for everything!


At 2:57 PM , Blogger Michelle said…

What an amazing post. Sheila, I totally concur with you regarding what we should ALL be teaching our children, whether from privileged or not. I was raised in a non-Christian home that was in a low economic bracket. We were given so much, things that I know I teach my children. Thank you for this.


At 4:09 PM , Blogger Bobble said…

So true, Sheila. It is beginning to irk me when I hear people say that they're not rich. Compared to who? Maybe not compared to the people you see on TV, but compared to most of the world, we are.


At 9:15 PM , Blogger Teri Lynne Underwood said…

Yes. Yes. Yes!


At 10:56 PM , Blogger Heather said…

Thank you for sharing this. You just put into words what I was feeling today when three of my students treated me incredibly disrespectfully at school - A PRIVATE CHRISITIAN SCHOOL no less. I have very little patience from this from students who have sooooo much! The sense of entitlement is rampant among many of these teens.


At 3:57 AM , Anonymous Blending Families said…

No excuses indeed. It is said that man tends to blame himself last for whatever mishap he has. Thanks for your great post.


At 11:27 PM , Blogger Kimber said…

Once again, you have hit the nail on the head when it comes to what is wrong when it comes to society and how children are seeing the world.
The poor me mentality isn't sustainable, and is definitely hurting them in the long run.
Pity does them no good.
My kids even tell eachother when times get rough.
Suck it up, buttercup!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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