Why we make excuses and what to do about them

Hiking near the mountains of desert canyons in UtahPhoto by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt (Exodus 2:10).

As much as Moses was a great leader, he was far from a perfect leader. He did something many of us do when intimidated by a task–make excuses. Why do we make excuses?

We make excuses…

  1. To avoid being responsible for the task.
  2. To delay and procrastinate.
  3. To mask the growing fear inside of us
  4. To save ourselves from the perceived pain and shame of failure. 

It is possible these were some of the reasons Moses offered excuses to God. He did not feel adequate. The magnitude of the task seemed greater than his abilities. Have you ever felt that way?

The truth is, no one is ever adequate for the task of leading God’s people. Adequacy for leadership comes through time spent in God’s presence and through a process of trial and error. So it is understandable at the outset that Moses would question his ability to lead–hence his excuses.

I know this sounds weird, but it is a good thing to lose confidence in one’s abilities but gain confidence in God’s ability to work through us.

The messages of our culture invite us to think positive, invoke powerful mantras, “I am somebody! I am strong. I am a leader. I am smart, creative, today is the best day of my life,” and other such banal platitudes. Unfortunately, such practices turn the spotlight on the leader and fail to recognize the frailty inherent in every leader. Moses had no mantras that day. He was halting, uncertain and filled with excuses. What were some of his excuses?

First Excuse: “No one will believe me that you and I met in the desert.” Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.” (Exodus 4:1 ESV)

Second Excuse: Lord, remember that I have a speech impediment. I no longer speak with any fluency. Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”
(Exodus 4:10 ESV)

Third excuse: I am busy, send someone else. But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13 ESV)

What to do
Feelings of inadequacy are natural. 
The burning bush encounter with God is an important event for fear-filled Moses. For Moses, the feelings would dissipate as he grew stronger through intimate times with God. From this day forward, Moses would walk with God and filter every challenge, every victory and every decision through his friendship with God.

Excuses lose their power over us when we remember this truth:

If God calls us to a task, he will empower us to do the task.

What are some of the common excuses you tend to make?

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