You Don’t Have to Explain

Explaining. Did anyone else grow up feeling they always had to explain - ourselves, our actions, why we made a mistake, why we made the choices we did, why our brain races, why we like or dislike someone. Why...why...why...? The implication of explaining implies a negative bias - that our differences are unacceptable. I found explaining all the time was, and is exhausting. 

I wish I had explored this issue way earlier in my life.  It is only in the last year or two I began to wake up to the reality that most of the time I really didn't owe anyone an explanation.  Yes, there are times they need to be offered, but I would guess about 90% of the time one isn't required at all.  

1 - You learn something new that shifts your actions in some way. It could be a simple as learning your are saying someone's name wrong. All you have to so is express gratitude for the new knowledge with a heartfelt thanks. A simple sorry is always good. You really don't have to explain why you didn't know, or justify any old beliefs. No one cares why you had those beliefs, or as in the example were pronouncing their name wrong. They are just happy you  now understand. Acknowledge the gift and incorporate it in your life so you can move forward in a better way.  

2 - You make a mistake.  It happens. Life is a learning experience. If you're not making mistakes, you are playing it way too safe. They are simply a tool that teaches us what doesn't work.  I love the quote I heard awhile back sharing you don't fail.  You succeed or you learn. Perhaps an addition for me would be my personal view that failure is when we choose not to learn and keep circling through the same mistakes over and over.  

I mess up a lot - I'm oh so human in that respect. And I seem to mostly manage to do in a very public way which can be depressing.  But I am getting better each day at looking for the lesson learned from these experiences. That doesn't me I am immune to feelings of self-condemnation when I falter, but it does mean I can chose to purposely shift my focus to what I learned, rather than spending my time wallowing in feelings of being unworthy.  I also do my best to incorporate those lessons and so my future actions can reflect my growth.

3 - You choose to make a shift or change in your life that others don't understand.  I think this might be the hardest time to let go of trying to explain.  Sometimes it is the simple things that bug people - changing your diet, a new hair color or cut, an out-of-the-box new activity, a unique decorating decision. Other times it's large shifts - quitting a job, deciding to have (or not to have) a child, a divorce, a wedding, a move to another location, a shift in your belief system.


I seem to be an instinctual leaper. I am always jumping in the deep end to try something new. So far this has served me well. There are times, though, I ponder and consider, letting an idea simmer for awhile until it is well-developed, like the flavor of a good soup. However I end up changing or shifting, I don't mind sharing my why with those in my community if it comes up in friendly conversation. BUT I don't feel the need to justify my actions to anyone asking why in a way that implies I must be making a mistake. If I feel any negative judgement, I just say"...because..." and walk away.

It took a little time for my husband to relax when I make a new wild leap. He has seen me get in over my head several times and really struggle with the fallout. He loves me and doesn't want to see me stressed, so he gets a "best intentions" free card.  Sometimes the kids get one too, but that isn't given as easily.  Fortunately I have amazingly independent kids who stand strong on their own. 

Often my children's and my roles have been reversed when it comes to this issue. The mother instinct is a wild beast at the best of times. It can push us to question our kid's decisions and to try to offer guidance. What I have come to believe is if I have done my job and raised them to be independent thinkers, then they don't need me to step in.  I have also done my best to remember they don't have to explain to me either. They have the same right to learn what works and what doesn't. Their life. Their choice. I still slip up now and again, but am instantly and painfully aware when I do. 

Time for a challenge! Let's each commit to one day this week where we fight the urge to explain or defend our thoughts, our choices and our actions. We will all do our best to let go of any need to give an explanation unless absolutely required.  I can think of lots of replies that might prove useful - long story, hard to explain, just meant to be, or my heart spoke. Whether you use a noncommittal phrase like one of these, or just say because I felt like it, is up to you. Just try your best to respond with kindness

Start with just one day each week where you consciously work on not explaining when it is unimportant.  Then build to two days and then three, and more, until it becomes a habit.  I will share an update on how I do here, and I hope you'll share your journey with me in the comments or even by emailing me your story.