The Truth that Our Excuses Reveal

St. Jerome (345-420)
St. Jerome (AD 345-420)

Parents and students often present excuses for why they are not able to make progress in their studies. Often, they are embarrassed to admit that they were not able to get studies done because they chose to do something else instead, or they wasted time doing nothing at all. Often, they have simple explanations, that they were sick, or had relatives visiting, or had business to take care of. Life can get very busy and there is often no time for studies.

I’d like to ask parents and students to think about these excuses and learn something from them.

One of the resources we have in our control is time. This time we have is limited. There are only 24 hours in a day, only 7 days in a week, only 52 weeks in a year, and God only knows how many years in our lives.

Our time is limited, but there is, nevertheless, a lot of time available for us to do great things.

The problem is that there are an infinite number of things demanding our attention, and our nature as human beings is inclined to things which are unworthy of that attention.

We can make excuses for failing to do what is best, and these excuses may be honest, but they will be endless. There will never cease to be new things “popping up”, knocking on the door, calling on the phone, etc.

This is normal human life.

What these excuses reveal to us is the real-life challenge of the pursuit of Wisdom.

In modern generations, Christians tend to excuse themselves from this pursuit because the interruptions are thought to be inevitable.

They are not, however, inevitable.

The causes of these interruptions to prayer and study are in our control. They arise from causes that we can eliminate if we sincerely desire to focus on studies. The causes, however, are found a few steps behind our present activities, in decisions we have made to have and do certain things that are voluntary. The excuses given for these interruptions may be true, but they are not necessary. More importantly, if we are going to seek Wisdom, we have to eliminate their causes.

This is what wise men and saints do.

In our generation, there are very, very few adults choosing to live a contemplative life devoted to the pursuit of Wisdom. They assume that wisdom can be had in any state of life or in any vocation, but this is not true. Our daily excuses prove this.

Throughout history, saints and wise men have chosen their ways of life because they were practically minded people and they understood that we cannot have everything in life. In order to have one thing, we have to pass on something else. These men and women wanted Wisdom and to seek Wisdom they knew they had to pass on married life, on business, on comforts available in this life, and so on. They didn’t want to be distracted by a spouse. They didn’t want to have to spend Saturday cutting the grass. They didn’t want to have to spend their days speaking with worldly men at the office. They didn’t want to have to work to pay for car insurance. They wanted to study and pray.

When we read of the ascetic lives chosen by the saints, they did not do this because they thought it would be fun. They did this because they wanted to be free from the distractions and interruptions we’re making excuses of. The simple life of wise men was a chosen way of life, chosen for the sake of prayer and study.

The lives of the saints and wise men of history show that our excuses may be true, but they are unnecessary.

And, if we are to seek Wisdom, we have to eliminate the causes of the excuses. If we will not do so, we will learn what the difference between us and the wise men and saints of history.

We need to stop making excuses and start making choices that allow us to pursue Wisdom without distraction.

William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy

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