The Rhetoric of Rationalizing

You've heard it over and over again. In fact, you have used it more times than you care to remember. It is called the rhetoric of rationalizing. Or maybe you prefer to be more straightforward and just call it the art of making excuses.

"What I did wasn't as bad as what she did"
"I can't help being the way God made me."
"I know it hurt his feelings, but it was the truth."

There is nothing new or modern about this sort of language. It is as old as Eden and deeply ingrained in the processes of human thought and speech. It would appear that we human beings have elevated it to an art form.

"The woman you put here caused me to eat the fruit of that tree."
"Kings get bored just sitting on their balconies and watching traffic."
"Crucify him! Who knows what 'truth' is anyway?"

The trick of explaining away sin and refusing to accept responsibility has been institutionalized in our culture. The late psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote a book and called our attention to the virtual disappearance of the word "sin" from the English vocabulary. With a sort of verbal sleight of hand, we substitute words like "weakness," "maladjustment," or "sickness" for it. They don't sound so sinister.

The greatest sin of all is blindness to one's own sinfulness. Until sin is admitted, forgiveness cannot be sought. Only when I accept responsibility for my actions can anything constructive be done to correct them. The language of penitent confession is a far cry from rationalizing and making excuses.

"God, be merciful to me. I am a sinner."
"Jesus Christ came to save sinners - of whom I am the worst."
"If we confess our sins, he will forgive and purify us" (1 John 1:9).

It is a rare person who is brave enough to admit that he is responsible for the miscalculation on an office report, that she was the one who spread the rumor, or that his marriage is falling apart because he has been so selfish and unreasonable.

Rare as such people may be, however, they are the ones who garner the respect of us all. They are also the ones who correct mistakes, heal relationships, and conquer their defects of character. In their remorse, they find God. He forgives them in that same instant and gives them power to overcome otherwise impossible odds.

If you've been hiding beneath a smokescreen of excuses, it is time to come into the light of honesty. You'll see clearly again - for the first time in a long time.

© Rubel Shelly

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