"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
January 9, 2013
"Geen Smoesjes"
by Kathryn Grant

My friend, Robb, who served a mission in the Netherlands, introduced me to a wonderful Dutch phrase: "Geen smoesjes," which in English is pronounced (roughly) "ghayn smoosh-yuhs." It means, "No excuses."

"Smoesjes. Doesn't that just sound shmooshy, like an excuse?" he said, smiling. That wonderful phrase got me thinking about excuses—why and when we make them. First, a little clarification is in order. I'm defining "excuse" as a reason we give for not doing something we really feel deep inside that we should be doing, regardless of what others may or may not expect. By this definition, when we have a valid reason for a course of action we truly feel is right, that’s not an excuse.

What I'm talking about is illustrated by the following experience. After we'd talked about modesty in Primary one day, one of the young girls came to me and said, "But you can't always dress modestly. It's hard to find modest clothing."

First, I was saddened because I was certain she didn't come up with that idea herself; she was echoing what she had heard adults in her life say. But I was also saddened because she was learning to find reasons not to do something that was in her best interest and would also be a blessing to those around her. She was learning to find excuses.

Why do we make excuses? Human beings are, by and large, rational creatures. Most of us don't act out of pure malice or evil intent. So when we go against what we know in our hearts we should be doing, we seem to need to come up with some explanation or justification for our behavior:

  • Yes, visiting teaching is a good thing, but my companion is too hard to get ahold of, and the sisters never return my calls. It's not my fault if I can't get my visiting teaching done.

  • Family history? Aunt Hilda has done it all. There's nothing I can do.

  • Sure, I know I shouldn’t eat this way. But eating healthy just isn’t an option for me. It takes too much time [or it costs too much, or I don’t like the way it tastes, etc., etc.].

  • I know I shouldn’t yell at my kids, but sometimes they make me so mad!

The Savior warned of the danger of making excuses in the Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:15-24)—or we could call it the Parable of Excuse-Making. A generous host invited many of his friends to a feast. When all things were ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests it was time to come. But each began to make excuses: one claimed he had to go look at land he had purchased instead (Really? In the middle of a fantastic free meal?); another decided to prove his new oxen during the time of the feast; the last declined because he'd recently married.

But the host saw through all these excuses and was understandably upset. He cancelled the invitation to his friends, and instead invited "the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind," (verse 21) and finally those the servant could find in the "highways and hedges" (verse 23). Those who had made excuses missed out on the feast.

There is one major reason excuses are false on a fundamental level. It's because the Lord has promised to give us the power to do what is right. As Nephi taught, "I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." (1 Nephi 3:7.) The apostle Paul put it this way: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13.)

In the words of Brad Wilcox, "Jesus’s grace is sufficient. It is enough. It is all we need. Don’t quit. Keep trying. Don’t look for escapes and excuses. Look for the Lord and His perfect strength. Don’t search for someone to blame. Search for someone to help you. Seek Christ, and, as you do, you will feel the enabling power and divine help we call His amazing grace." ("His Grace Is Sufficient," New Era, August 2012.)

Now for the challenge: Just for a day, watch for excuse-making in your life. If you find yourself making an excuse not to do something you know you should be doing, pause, and find a way instead of finding an excuse.

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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