If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. (1 John 1:8-10)
You know it happens. In fact, we've all done it more times than we care to admit. The rhetoric of rationalizing is simply 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 I only told 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.
"The woman you gave me caused me to eat it."
"Kings get bored just sitting on their balconies."
"Crucify him! Who knows what the truth is anyway?"
The trick of refusing to accept responsibility has been institutionalized in our culture. Several years ago, the famous psychiatrist Karl Menninger called attention to the virtual disappearance of the word "sin" from contemporary vocabulary. With a sort of verbal sleight of hand, we tend to use a soft word such as "mistake" where we would better use the more severe term "sin"; we seem to prefer "sickness" to "evil." The softer words don't sound nearly so serious.
The greatest sin of all is blindness to one's own sinfulness. Until sin is admitted, though, forgiveness is irrelevant. Only when I accept responsibility for my actions can anything constructive be done toward setting things right. The language of honest confession is a far cry from rationalizing and making excuses.
"God, be merciful to me. I am a sinner."
"Jesus came to save sinners — of whom I am the worst."
"If we confess our sins, he will forgive and cleanse us."
It is a rare person who is brave enough to admit that he made the error on an office report, that she was the one guilty of spreading what turned out to be an untrue report, or that the marriage is failing because he has been abusive.
Rare as such people may be, they are the ones who deserve the highest respect. They are the ones who correct faults, salvage relationships, and conquer defects of character. In their remorse, they find God. In finding God, they find not only pardon but empowerment to live an entirely new way.
If you're hiding behind a smokescreen of excuses, it is time to step into the light of honesty. You'll see things clearly — for the first time in a long time.