By Pastor Gary Cortese, Chaplain – Byron Fire District

We’ve all heard them and we’ve all used them. Real friends don’t require them and your enemies will never be satisfied by them. They can keep you imprisoned or help set you free. What am I referring to? Excuses. Someone once described an excuse as the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie. Wow! That’s pretty bold.

Through the years I’ve learned to listen and smile as people attempt to justify their actions. Many feel compelled to explain themselves as soon as they see me out in public (or they just avoid me altogether). A colleague once asked a member of his congregation why he had “sinned” with that woman. After careful thought the man replied simply: “…because she was there.” While I understand there are extenuating circumstances in some cases, what I cannot understand is how people think it’s ok to continually blame everyone else.

Do you want to be a better spouse? Did you decide that church attendance should be more of a priority this year? Would you like to further your education? Have you decided it’s time to take better care of yourself? Maybe you want to start enjoying life a little more instead of rushing through it?

Folks, we’re already into the next quarter of this New Year. Some people act like this is a dress rehearsal or pre-season before the actual “real” games that count. But this is your life right now – and it’s happening whether or not you ever achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself. Here’s an important key: just start. It’s been wisely said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

An excuse I’ve often heard for not starting something is that it isn’t a good time. If we’re not careful, ideal circumstances will never get here and then we will have to live with the regrets later. So, here are a few thoughts and some friendly advice to help keep you moving in the direction you said was important to you.

First and foremost, it’s important to clearly identify what your goal is. Write it down and look at it often and make sure you know that this is where you are going. Second, accept full and total responsibility. You cannot blame anyone else for your failure. Difficult people and circumstances are here to stay but you must not allow them to stand in your way. Third, we all need accountability. Who is going to hold you accountable?

Next, at some point you’ll need a little motivation. It matters who you hang around and what you associate with. If you want to be successful then you must surround yourself with successful people. They can help keep you motivated when you don’t feel like staying the course.

Finally, don’t allow setbacks to stop you from moving forward. It’s ok to fall as long as you fall forward. And remember that there’s no shame in falling, but in refusing to get back up. There’s something wonderful about the human spirit – it cannot be defeated if we will not quit!