top of page

The entire Navigate the Chaos collection of all 365 blog posts is now available in a paperback entitled Navigate the Chaos (795 pages for $24.99). A smaller collection of thoughts from the Navigate the Chaos collection is available in paperback entitled Wonder (94 pages for $4.99)

How often do you give or take an excuse?

Today is October 11 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you give or take an excuse?” In the 1983 American comedy-drama film The Big Chill, directed by Lawrence Kasdan, there is a brief exchange between two characters Michael (Jeff Goldblum) and Sam (Tom Berenger):

  • Michael: I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They're more important than sex.

  • Sam: Ah, come on. Nothing's more important than sex.

  • Michael: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?

The glaring point in this exchange is how humans use rationalizations far more than they have sex. This is glaring because it is obvious to anyone who spends a moment thinking about human behavior. On the role rationalizations play in human development, author Ayn Rand note ‘Rationalization is a process of not perceiving reality, but of attempting to make reality fit one’s emotions.” Another term for rationalization is excuse.

Navigating the chaos requires little time to make excuses. English social reformer and under of modern nursing Florence Nightingale provide two good examples of people who did not give or take an excuse. As Nightingale noted “I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took an excuse.” From a young age, Nightingale cared for the ill and poor people in her village. By the time she was 16 years old, it was clear to her that nursing was her calling. When Nightingale was 17 years old, she refused a marriage proposal and, despite her parents’ objections, enrolled in nursing school.

In the early 1850s, Nightingale returned to London, where she took a nursing job in a Middlesex hospital for ailing governesses. The position proved challenging as Nightingale grappled with a cholera outbreak and unsanitary conditions conducive to the rapid spread of the disease.

During the Crimean War in 1854, Nightingale received a letter from Secretary of War Sidney Herbert, asking her to organize a corps of nurses to tend to the sick and fallen soldiers in the Crimea. Nightingale rose to her calling. She quickly assembled a team of 34 nurses and sailed with them to the Crimea just a few days later.

Despite the hospital sitting on top of a large cesspool and other horrid conditions, the no-nonsense Nightingale quickly set to work. She procured hundreds of scrub brushes and asked the least infirm patients to scrub the inside of the hospital from floor to ceiling.

Nightingale herself spent every waking minute caring for the soldiers. In the evenings she moved through the dark hallways carrying a lamp while making her rounds, ministering to patient after patient. Her work reduced the hospital’s death rate by two-thirds. In 1860, she laid the foundation of professional nursing with the establishment of her nursing school at St Thomas' Hospital in London.

It was the first secular nursing school in the world and is now part of King's College London. In recognition of her pioneering work in nursing, the Nightingale Pledge taken by new nurses, and the Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest international distinction a nurse can achieve, were named in her honour, and the annual International Nurses Day is celebrated on her birthday.

Here is the original Florence Nightingale Pledge

“I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly to pass my life in purity and to practise my profession faithfully. I shall abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous and shall not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I shall do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. I shall be loyal to my work and devoted towards the welfare of those committed to my care.”

Her social reforms included improving healthcare for all sections of British society, advocating better hunger relief in India, helping to abolish prostitution laws that were harsh for women, and expanding the acceptable forms of female participation in the workforce. In addition to not ‘giving or taking an excuse’ Nightingale noted

“If I could give you information of my life it would be to show how a woman of very ordinary ability has been led by God in strange and unaccustomed paths to do in His service what He has done in her. And if I could tell you all, you would see how God has done all, and I nothing. I have worked hard, very hard, that is all; and I have never refused God anything.”

  • When is the last time you went a day without rationalizing some aspect of your behavior to yourself?

  • How often do you give or take an excuse?

  • When you give or take an excuse, how well does that help you translate one dream after another into reality?

  • When you give or take an excuse, are you proud of yourself?

  • What can you do today to not give or take an excuse?


bottom of page