We have a saying in our home that we use frequently with our kids. It is pretty simply put: “There is no good excuse for bad behavior.”
My view of the world leaves little room for the societal pattern of excuse-making. To some, that would make me appear intolerant but that is not it at all. One can have a clear view of right and wrong and still operate in grace. Jesus Christ is our best model of that.
With that foundation, let me explain.
Kids shouldn’t cheat on their schoolwork and blame it on their bad teacher.
Men shouldn’t cheat on their wives and justify it by saying they weren’t getting enough attention at home.
Employees shouldn’t give a ½ effort because they don’t like their boss or don’t feel appreciated.
Women shouldn’t sell their bodies because the minimum wage is too low.
Activists shouldn’t burn down an innocent man’s property because they disagree with a judicial ruling.
It’s pretty simple folks. There is no good excuse for bad behavior.
Where that starts for Trent and me is at home. For several years we have worked hard to recognize the behavior in ourselves and stop it before we continue demonstrating it to our children. We have become so sensitive to excuse making that we now catch ourselves and then model a response based on Biblical principles.
For example, I may tell Trent to that I am going to put down my work and watch a movie with him that night. Then I get so caught up in my deadlines that I allow my priorities to be skewed and I work through the evening anyway, not keeping my promise to my husband. Later when he asks me about it, my self-preserving tendency would be to plea my case as to why my actions are justified, but then I stop myself and say, “You know what, you are right. I made a commitment to you and I did not honor that. Please for forgive me. “ The next step is just as Biblical. My responsibility is then to turn away from that behavior and strive to not do it again. Does my failure give Trent justification to then go out and behave badly? Of course not – because that is where grace comes in.
Later I may have a child come home who I instruct to go into his room and complete his homework. Let’s say that when I check on him, I find him playing Legos while concocting his best excuse as to why he did not follow my directions. I simply say, “Son, there is no good excuse for bad behavior.” I expect the same response out of him that he has witnessed his father and I demonstrate again and again. Confess, apologize, turn from the behavior, and seek reconciliation. There are then natural consequences for his behavior that don’t involve me losing my temper or behaving badly in response.
Okay for you naysayers who want to throw in an argument like, “What if he wasn’t doing his homework because the house was on fire and he was helping his siblings escape?” Well, then I would argue that helping your siblings’ escape a fire is not bad behavior and trumps following my directions to read. I need to say also that the difference here is not as arbitrary as some would like to argue. It is clearly defined in the Bible. Bad behavior is:
- Violating the rights of another (Eph. 4.28, 1 Thes. 4.6)
- Not honoring the God given authority placed over you- your parent, your teachers, your employer, and your government (Romans 13.1-7, 1 Peter 2.13-17)
- Not keeping your commitments (James 5.12, Ecclesiastes 5.4-6)
Another naysayer might say, “Well what if the person in authority over you is unjust?” Well then you need go through the proper channels to be under someone else’s authority but don’t walk into your place employment and shoot your coworker because you have a bad boss.
So again someone might argue that Michael Brown’s rights were violated when he was shot and killed for fleeing arrest. My grace-filled, compassionate response is that I am so sorry that happened. It was tragic that the altercation ever happened in the first place and especially that it ended in death, but responding with bad behavior is NOT the answer. There is no good excuse for bad behavior! The best response is one of thoughtful, law-abiding, good behavior.
Some ideas might be:
- Peaceful protests
- Organize a group of concerned citizens to peacefully put measures in place to improve relations with the local police to help change the culture between the neighborhood and those trying to protect it.
- Clean up the streets, educate the younger generation, put pressure on the gangs to move out or disassemble. Let those committing crimes know that you won’t tolerate it anymore.
- If you still don’t trust the police, then evaluate the benefits of installing cameras on street corner for a time to protect the citizens and the police. Yes you would be giving up a right to privacy but it might be a trade worth instituting if you are truly concerned.
- Get involved in the local government.
- Or take doing good even one step further and organize a group of Michael Brown’s peers and family to visit the cigar shop he robbed and the sales clerk he roughed up and apologize to the man for that behavior and look for ways to support his business. Someone owes that man an apology on behalf of the group of people who behaved badly toward him. There was no good excuse for that either.
But, whatever you do, don’t match bad behavior with more bad behavior. This goes for the citizens of the community and the police department.
It applies to me, it applies my husband, and I am doing my best to pass it down to my children.
We exist in a society that has moved away from the simplest of truths. Returning them to our culture will be begin when we return them to our homes, our marriages, our children, and our own lives.