In my opinion, there is a continuum upon which each person falls. On one end is someone who finds and uses the excuses available for their situation, and on the other end is someone who sees themselves, their responsibilities and abilities in the same way, despite their circumstances. These people, rather than using their challenge to excuse under-achievement, hold themselves accountable to what they desire and know they can become. These are the people you hear about who were born in abject poverty, into broken homes with seemingly no opportunity; yet became surgeons, talk show hosts, politicians or supreme court judges; revered by the public and renowned for rising above their circumstances.

Looking further down the continuum you must realize that the excuses I speak of are most often completely acceptable. For example, say that someone is religious, loves God and is highly involved in church. But one day their house burns down with one of their children inside. This person falls completely away from their religion, with the statement, “I can’t believe in a God who would let this happen.” Few would judge this person for having such feelings and reacting in such a way.  Now to change perspective, let’s look back in the lives of many extraordinary people. You will see that disasters have victimized them, but when life was too hard for them to stand, they knelt. It’s very simple. They didn’t use their challenge as an excuse. In their situation with the excuse available to them, no one would have judged them for falling into depression, becoming dependent or being angry. But they didn’t. They held themselves to a higher standard inside. That is what makes someone truly extraordinary.

Seeing that few people are in as advanced a position on this continuum as Ben Carson or Luke Skywalker, it can be assumed that most of us fall far beneath, finding and using excuses every day, every hour or every minute of our lives. Usually these are tiny and arguably insignificant, but it is out of small things that great things come to pass. Spiritual downfall could begin with sleeping rather than attending early morning seminary because that paper kept you up till 3am and you are “so tired.” It’s so important to understand that every time we choose to act in a certain way, every time we make such an excuse, it’s easier the next time. Each time we reject an excuse our initiative and will  is strengthened.

In the same way we recognize the amazing individuals who don’t make excuses even when it’s most understandable, we can’t help but notice and often judge those who have everything going for them, and yet make choices that cause them to fall terribly short, like the wayward teenager with awesome parents, taught truth from infancy, but who somehow chose a path of rebellion, darkness and fleeting pleasure. You wonder how they impossibly took all their blessings for granted. How could they be so short-sighted?  Sometimes we don’t consider that we make excuses too. You see, we’re all capable of extraordinary status, but we are making excuses that hold us back. The excuse is what causes procrastination, and allows us to be content.

Think of the freedom you enjoy, the truth you’ve been taught and the opportunities you have. For just a moment, don’t take it for granted that you eat three meals a day. Now decide if you are using an excuse to define what you can do. We all can do better and it’s tough, but it’s supposed to be. We must first be faithful in the little things before God can entrust us with more.  Your progression is not designed to ever end. Every step you take forward makes the next step easier, and when life does get too hard to stand, kneel. Our challenges allow God to bless us so much more than he could otherwise.