I was asked today what the difference is between an excuse and an explanation.

Each comes with an accepted connotation. The first is always negatively framed whilst the second is simply a fact.

I spouted off a very simple, efficient answer. I believe now that I may have short-changed each word in my simple answer.

I explained that an excuse is simply what we give for our actions impeding someone else's freedom or safety. While an explanation takes ownership of the action and explains, through acceptance, why an action was made. If I step on your foot chances are you will yelp in pain. I have one of two options. The first to excuse my action. "I was in a hurry", "you are in the way", or "I didn't see you" and continue on my way. While the explanation of action accepts that stepping on your foot caused you pain. "I am sorry for stepping on your foot" --but then providing why the action was done-- "I didn't see your foot there"

While this may be true I didn't provide for repeat offenders.

Let us assume that I continue to step on your foot every day for a week. In different rooms, different times of the day, and in various other situations. Each time I accept responsibility for my foot stepping actions and offer a reason why the action happened.

Am I excusing myself from a greater problem or does this continue to be simple explanations?
I believe that this second story does fall within the category of excusing a behaviour. I may have completely logical reasons to why I continue to step on your foot but the larger problem, and most likely increasingly painful issue, is that I continue to repeat painful actions that infringe upon you and your foot (in this case. However a simple parallel may be drawn to any other infringer/infringee situation)

C.S. Lewis, in my current study of Mere Christianity, states that 'its is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves.'
These good temper situations tend to be the positive feed back. I correctly arrange flatware in the dishwasher and you applaud me. I can accept this personally. I did something correct and accept responsibility simply by stating thank you. If I explain why I choose to do something correctly I am, in a way, excusing my correct actions.
Then. later that afternoon, I step on your foot once more. Instead of apologising for my actions, I follow with an explanation of why. I have expounded upon my simple acceptance of responsibility and almost negated that it was my responsibility in the first place.

This is where frequency comes into play.
Those that honestly do infringe upon others by mistake offer an explanation and an apology, then they strive to change that behaviour can be considered to be simply making an honest mistake and explaining why the mistake was made. Noting that it hurts or saddens the other individual and changing the behavior. The excuser, in a bad temper, chooses to note that there are external forces weighing in on him or her and do nothing to correct the behaviour that causes pain or suffering. He or she may offer logical reasons to why an action has been repeated but clearly the frequency of the action show that they have not regarded anyone other than themselves into the equation.

To correct my initial answer: I believe that an individual who continually offers explanations, with or without an apology, may be an excuser or infringer because of the repeated offences and disregard for others. The simple explination and modification of behavior removes the individual from one who excuses his/her actions to an individual who simply wronged once or twice and has made attempts to correct the behaviour.

Make sense?

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