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Four Excuses That Hold Us Back

Four Excuses That Hold Us Back

You do have time and who cares about what people will think.


This past Shabbos, I bumped into a non-Jewish friend on the sidewalk. Anxious about what was happening with the three Israeli boys who had been kidnapped, I rushed over to her. “Did you hear anything about the boys who were kidnapped in Israel? “ I asked her, my voice breaking.

“Oh my God, are you related to them?” she asked looking into my fear-filled eyes.

I was about to shake my head, but then I found myself answering, “Yes, they’re family. Did you hear anything on the news? Are they okay?”

The next day, one of my daughters was graduating from eighth grade. At the graduation, a rabbi stood up to say a prayer for the boys, and I started to cry. I was so embarrassed. Get a hold of yourself, I told myself. Don’t do this now at your daughter’s graduation.

But I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t imagine the pain of the boys’ parents, but I knew what it felt like to be a Jewish mother. To have your heart break when your child is hurt in any way. To feel like a part of you is always walking around in the world, vulnerable and precious and without your protection.

And then I realized I was using one of my excuses: What will people think? I wanted to cry. I wanted to pray with all my heart for their safe return. I thought about my words to my neighbor on Shabbos: Yes, they’re family. Wouldn’t I cry if they were my family? Why should I be embarrassed?

I thought about all the times that I make excuses for not being true to myself and my feelings. So for a moment, I took all my excuses and pushed them aside. It didn’t matter what other people would think. This was the time, right now, to pray, to cry. It was the time to believe that it is never too late to become the kind of person I am meant to be.

Here are four primary excuses that hold me back. See if you find yourself in any of them.

1. I don’t have time. This is an excuse that I often say out loud. And when I say it, I mean it. It’s true. There are only 24 hours in a day, and it’s challenging to find the time to begin anything new. It’s just hard to take that step back from all the urgent, busy tasks that fill our days and carve out some space to grow. But even though I may not have an hour, I can find five minutes here. I can grab another ten minutes there. Before I go to sleep, I can find another 15 minutes. And the cumulative power of those minutes can change my entire day. There is always a bit more time if you want it badly enough.

2. I’m not ready. How many times have I told myself that if I had just a little more knowledge, more experience, more resources I’d be ready to give it a try? I just need another degree. Some more confidence. A little more experience. A class in public speaking. A guarantee that I won’t fail. This excuse makes sure I’ll never even begin. Because while I’m not ready, thousands of people with less education, less money and maybe even less experience, are trying anyway. As James Baldwin once said, “Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.”

3. What will other people say? Change is hard enough when we are struggling with ourselves. When we are also looking around us and over our shoulders to see if others approve of us, we waste precious time and energy. We all eventually learn that it’s impossible to please all people all of the time. And it’s usually impossible to please all people even some of time. You don’t need someone else’s approval to follow your dreams. You don’t need anyone else’s permission to search for meaning. Often authentic change only comes after we have stopped looking over our shoulders and resolved to be true to ourselves.

4. It’s too late. It’s too late for me to make major changes. I’m already married with children. I have a mortgage and a set plan for the next ten years. Or I’m already set in my firm. It’s too late now to change paths. I already chose my major, began my profession, chose my friends. It’s too late to change anything now. This excuse can start after our sophomore year of college, when we’re stuck in a major that makes us miserable, and we are too scared to start again. And the excuse will continue unless we face this incredible truth: it’s never too late. Your life is never set in stone. You can always begin again. Change your life so that you are excited to wake up in the morning and live. “If not now, when?”

This is the time. Right now. To pray. To cry. And to believe that it is never too late. We need to know that in the deepest recesses of our heart, now more than ever, it is never too late for any of us.

June 21, 2014

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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Anonymous, January 4, 2018 12:03 PM

Learning Hebrew and becoming observant

I began to do both of these things later in life, as I come from a VERY Secular background. Re: Having the time to learn. While I am not able to spend 3 hours a day learning, I do my best to work on my Hebrew every day for whatever time I can spare. I am very happy to report that this past Yamim Norim, I was able to follow the service in Hebrew in a way I never had before! :-) If I waited for "the perfect time" to begin my studies, I would have accomplished nothing. We do what we can with the tools at hand.

(5) Lidia, June 26, 2014 3:05 PM

absolutely true for me too

Thank you for this article. You said it all, and I am getting energized just writing to you-.
May we all have good news soon, when our boys are home safe and all the parents can hug their children and thank H.

(4) Esther, June 23, 2014 2:43 PM

the article was right on the money

The article was right on the money and no sooner did I read this article that I'd printed (I'd first logged off the computer to ensure I would not continue surfing around and waste more time) I came right back on to type this comment. Resolution to not waste time broken within minutes. It's so hard to break old habits, I'm particularly guilty of the fourth excuse: "It's too late." But Ms. Radcliffe is so right. It is never too late. Maybe I needed to come back here and type this to more deeply engrave this in my stubbornly resistant gray matter, and get on with what I need to do, not just with what I want to do. And to read Sara Yoheved Rigler's article whose link is glaring at me to the right of where I'm typing. I pray reading it will help me improve and not just give me an excuse to keep reading about what I need to do to improve. Like an old ad for( I don't know was it Nike?) some product said: Just do it.

(3) Oscar Abraham, June 22, 2014 11:32 PM

When are you ready?

I found over the years that a person is never ready to do something for the first time no matter how much he/she prepares. So follow the example of Nachshon and get in to it up to your neck. Hashem will help you the rest of the way.

(2) bvw, June 22, 2014 5:56 PM

Thanks for the short list of good advices.

Thanks, and I'm sure that these four advices are stated in David's Psalms, in Solomon's Proverb, in the Prophets and even in the Torah itself in various ways and relightings. Say for example: in the beginning of Joshua "Be strong and of good courage" -- in reply to "I'm not ready".

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