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Stop Making Lame Excuses!!! Admit When You Are Wrong!

Cartoon by Mark Stivers

Cartoon by Mark Stivers

Ever since the Garden of Eden people have made excuses for their mistakes. You see Adam blaming Eve and Eve blaming the snake, but neither one of them admit that they were to blame for their actions. Admitting wrong doing on one’s part is the hardest thing anyone can do. It is not in our nature to do so. Lame excuses are often the result of this.

I read an article in Reader’s Digest Magazine titled, you guessed it “Lame Excuse” I was appalled at some of the excuses people make up just to save face or simply avoid trouble. Here’s a couple of examples made by employees for missing work “I dreamed I was fired, so I didn’t want to get out of bed’, “I was up all night arguing with God”, and “My dog dialed 911 and the police wanted to question me about what “really’ happened.” You can see that it is amazing the length people will go to hide the mistake of simply taking an unauthorized day of. If only these people realized that employers hate dishonesty as much as they hate truancy?

There are lame excuses that have made famous people and important dignitaries jump of the page. When former President Bill Clinton was asked if he had smoked pot he answered “I didn’t inhale and never tried it again.” This lame excuse really didn’t help the former president, when it came having credibility. Even today many people remember this incident. Wouldn't it have been wiser for Mr. Clinton to simply say that he wasn’t perfect when he was young and that he has learned from his mistakes, therefore, making people realize that the president is only human, but that he also had the integrity to admit he made mistakes in the past? Chances are the public would have been less critical of the former president, and more sympathetic.

Admitting when you’re wrong does not only preserve one’s integrity, but it is also a great way of winning others to your way of thinking. In Dale Carnegie’s landmark book on better communication, titled How to Win Friends & Influence People, Mr. Carnegie advises the reader to admit when he is wrong. Even though most of us are tempted to justify ourselves when we make a mistake, we must combat our human nature and admit when we did wrong.

There is a proverb that says “By fighting you never get enough, but by yielding you get more than you expected.” Another way to put it is that by excusing your actions and insisting they are right, you will get rebuked, but by admitting you were wrong, you will be justified or at least be given a merciful response.

In his book, Dale Carnegie tells the story of when he walked his dog through a stretch of land called Forest Park. Even though, Carnegie is a true law abiding citizen his dog preferred to go on the walks through this lonely park without a leach and a muzzle. The place was deserted and Mr. Carnegie had a small friendly dog and he saw no harm in it. Suddenly, while he walked his dog, he encountered a mounted policeman that chided him for letting the dog walk without a leach and muzzle. Mr. Carnegie being a master of communication first tried a soft reply, to try to justify his actions. The policeman responded in anger and insisted that his action were reckless. The officer even threatened to take him to court if he saw him walk his dog again without a leash and muzzle. Mr. Carnegie meekly promised to obey.

He tried to walk his dog with the leash and muzzle, but both he and the dog found it cumbersome and unnecessary. He then walked his dog again without the proper leash and muzzle and was spotted by the same police officer. Imagine the temptation Mr. Carnegie would have had to justify himself, especially when faced with the possibility of a fine. Instead Mr. Carnegie tried a different approach.

This time Mr. Carnegie responded by saying the following: “Officer you caught me red handed, I’m guilty, and I have no alibis, no excuses. You warned me last week that if I brought the dog out here again without a muzzle, you would fine me.” Mr. Carnegie’s willingness to admit his mistake got a very benevolent response from the police officer. The officer said to Mr. Carnegie “I know it’s a temptation to let a little dog like that have a run out here when nobody is around.” To which Mr. Carnegie responded “but it’s against the law.” To which the officer replied “Well a little dog like that is not going to harm anyone” Then Mr. Carnegie said “No, but he may kill squirrels.” Then the officer responded by saying “Well now, I think you are taking this a bit to seriously,” Then he said “You just take him over the hill where I can’t see him and we’ll forget about it.”

Admitting that he was at fault not only got the officer to be merciful to Mr. Carnegie, but it also got him of the hook and the officer was even willing to compromise with Mr. Carnegie. You may want to try this next time you get a speeding ticket. Keeping a police officer from being on the defensive is very wise and may even keep you from getting a harsher penalty.

This happened to me. I was once driving through some canyon streets in California and because I was chatting with my mom, I didn’t realize I was driving over the speed limit. An officer caught me and proceeded to give me a ticket. Instead of griping or complaining, what I did was thank the officer when he handed me my citation and after that I politely asked where I could go to traffic school. The officer saw that I was chastised and rebuked, as well as willing to make amends. He responded very kindly and told me where to find a good traffic school and how to proceed in finding one. I didn’t get out of getting a ticket, but I did avoid getting into more serious problems.

People want to feel important and that you respect their position. Admitting you are wrong, when you are, is a way of showing them that you are humble enough to agree with them. This in turn brings out the best in others. It makes them want to be merciful; it takes them of the defensive so they are able to even see your side of the matter.

There may be times when you feel that you have no choice but to pretend you are perfect. Forget it; people know when you’re wrong. Former President Clinton had a very good reason for making up that lame excuse. After all, being the leader of a nation and having the title of Commander and Chief can be rather daunting and admitting to mistakes can be downright frightening, when one is in that position. Regardless, of his reasons people saw though his excuse and he got even more criticized. Instead he could have taken advantage of the occasion and seized the opportunity to warn young people against smoking pot and even used himself as an example. Chances are, he may have come across as not only as sincere, but brilliant; at the very least his integrity would have stayed intact.

Admitting one is wrong goes against the very grain of our human nature. I guess that is one of reasons the world is the way it is. Imagine a world were everyone had the graciousness to admit when they're wrong. I know such a world does not exist, but the possibility is encouraging. Let me leave you with one thought from Mr. Dale Carnegie “When we are right, lets try to win people gently and tactfully to our way of thinking, and when we are wrong---and that will be surprisingly often. If we are honest with ourselves—lets admit our mistakes quickly and with enthusiasm. Not only will that technique produce astonishing results; but believe it or not it is a lot more fun under the circumstances, than trying to defend oneself.”


Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on June 06, 2012:

Thank you Tonipet, I appreciate your kind words, I'm so glad you liked my article and found the advice useful. Coming from a very wise person, such as yourself, your comment means a lot me.

Tonette Fornillos from The City of Generals on June 06, 2012:

Admitting a mistake may be a hard thing to do but I believe its the quickest way to save ourselves from headache and guilt. Only four words are used "Sorry, I was wrong" than a day or two or three or even a lot time of feeling not sure of ourselves. The cartoon image of a child without homework was fun, this hub made me. Thank you.

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on September 24, 2011:

Thanks ladyjojo, I agree pride is a big stumbling block. It would be a much better world if everyone was humble enough to admit when they are wrong, me included, I admit I often fail in this matter myself.

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ladyjojo on September 24, 2011:


Thanks for sharing

Yes we all should humble ourselves as little children and say sorry or admit our wrongs. When we cover up sin and wrong doings we won't be able to take steps ahead. It will be a stumbling block.

The problem when we don't humble and admit wrong is PRIDE.

PRIDE can really get in the way an mess us up.

GOD Bless

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on June 28, 2011:

Thanks Abba, True failure can be useful, you may want to read my hub on regret as well. BTW sorry for replying so late, haven't been online lately.

Abba on June 22, 2011:

i too believe that should not be given for failure,Failure can make the best out of a person,if only you understand and utilize it properly! Great hub!

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on July 06, 2010:

I agree, great magazines are like great friends.

BennyTheWriter from Northeastern U.S.A. on July 06, 2010:

Sure thing! Timeless concepts are just that--ideas and essential truths that will never lose their potency or go out of style. I should also check out Reader's Digest Magazine more.

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on July 06, 2010:

Thank you Benny, I'm glad you found the message inspiring. I am a big admire of Dale Carnegie's work. When a book that came out in the 1930's still holds true today, you know you have a book with an enduring message. I also have to thank Reader's Digest Magazine for coming up with fantastic articles on everything. The people who do research for them are outstanding. I really enjoyed your comment, thanks for stopping by.

BennyTheWriter from Northeastern U.S.A. on July 06, 2010:

Wow, amazing hub--and a necessary one. It's human nature to not want to admit mistakes, but Dale Carnegie stumbled onto the incredible discovery that doing so will improve (in most cases) any relationship. He even says it's "more fun" than being defensive--an awesome bit of wisdom. Thanks for reminding me to read "How To Win Friends and Influence People"!

Those "lame excuses" at the beginning are hilarious! I'd love to have a dog who would prank-call 911...what is the world coming to...

Thumbs up!

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on June 17, 2010:

Thanks Jennshealthstore, I wish everyone would put this principle into practice. Unfortunately, it's not in our human nature to do so, that's why it's so hard, yet it benefits relationships immensely.

Jennifer Bates from West Palm Beach on June 17, 2010:

This is so true. When you admit your faults it lets your heart be at peace rather than holding in the lie which will only lead to self destruction and guilt.

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on June 15, 2010:

Thanks Anamika, good for you. It takes a lot of integrity not to participate in the blame game.

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on June 15, 2010:

Thanks Lovelypaper, I agree it does take character to admit when one is wrong. I would never date a man who blames everyone, when he's responsible.

Anamika S Jain from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India on June 15, 2010:

That is something I am proud I do. I take responsibility for my words, thoughts and actions. I do not believe in the blame game.

Renee S from Virginia on June 15, 2010:

It says something about a person's character to admit when they are wrong and take responsibility.

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on June 11, 2010:

Thank you Drbj, I agree it is the hardest thing for me. I often fail to follow my own advice in this respect. Even though on those rare occasion, when I have had the courage to admit my mistakes, forgiveness usually came more readily than when I tried to make excuses for my behavior. Yes it does pay of. I'm glad you liked the article, Dale Carnegie may have written his book 70 years ago, but the advice in his book is timeless.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on June 11, 2010:

Admitting you are wrong when you are wrong is a hard thing to do for some people. It takes a person secure in himself or herself and courage. But as you pointed out, it does pay off.

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