when you have a thousand brilliant excuses for doing nothing

“We are afraid of failure. We don’t like it; we shun it, avoid it because of our inordinate desire to be thought well of by others. So we come up with a thousand brilliant excuses for doing nothing . . .

Each of us pays a heavy price for our fear of falling flat on our faces. It assures the progressive narrowing of our personalities and prevents exploration and experimentation. As we get older, we do only the things we do well. There is no growth in Christ Jesus without some difficulty and fumbling. If we are going to keep on growing, we must keep on risking failure throughout our lives . . .

How much faith, how much hope, how much love does the perpetual procrastinator really have?”

Brennan Manning, Souvenirs of Solitude

A few weeks ago, I cried while reading a food blog. It wasn’t because I was so hungry or because there was anything intrinsically tear-worthy in the avocado. Rather it was because the idea of writing about food was so comforting to me, so other-than what I write about, that reading it pulled up tears before I had a chance to figure out where they came from.

I would love to run from my work and get lost in a food blog. There is a time for that, to be quite sure. But I am grown-up enough to sense when the timing is off, when I am avoiding what I need to face, when I am putting aside the risk of failure by clicking through one more recipe.

I’m sure there are some food bloggers out there who click over to my place in order to avoid facing their own work and their potentially painful daily allotment of failure. We all have our unique shape of fear. There are no greener grasses, only different lawns.

 A thousand brilliant excuses . . .

Today as we face our dishes, our proposals, our classrooms full of the future; as we sit to create, to write, and to live on purpose, may the promise of growth outweigh our fear of stumbling.

May we remember how swiftly perfect love drives out fear.

May our thousand brilliant excuses spin around into one brilliant act of belief.

As you stand in long lines to vote, to buy gas, to renew  your drivers license; as you set out to face whatever this day holds, may you remember that you bring the Spirit of the living, loving, capable God with you wherever you go.


  1. says

    A great word for a gal who said she was taking 31 days off and yet still has not returned to write. Part of it truly has been a busy schedule, but another part I know has been procrastination and fear. Feeling not so sure that I want to put myself out there again right now because quiet has felt so safe. But that last question in the quote you shared from Brennan Manning leaves me uncomfortable. And that’s a good thing.

  2. says

    Oh, you slay me. That last line of that quote and then your words. I am such a procrastinator. I’m not proud of the fact and maybe this is why. I have a couple of things that need to be done. Today is a good day to get to them.

  3. says

    I lost my grandmother last Sunday, Emily, and one of the first things I did after I found out was join Pinterest, to find every recipe for brownies that I could get my hands on. And then I took nap after nap after nap. Avoidance indeed…boy, do I hear you. Thank you for the reminder that God doesn’t leave.

  4. Heather says

    I am definitely afraid of failure and I so appreciated this post., which is beautiful and encouraging. Thank you. I pray that you will be encouraged as well.

  5. says

    Emily, this just is so much of how we do operate….desiring the different, the new paradigm, brushing off the old stale ways with you, even if they bring failure. Especially when they bring failure. You and Brennan, a beautiful duet. Seeking growth in all we do in Him, the Redeemer the Life Giver to the piles of ashes.

  6. says

    Printing this one out! I get paralyzed by fear-fueled inaction all the time, and this post was another piece in the puzzle for moving away from that pattern. Your grace-filled writing is such a gift.

  7. says

    I love this quote. I am just starting my first Brennan Manning book and it speaks so deeply to me about the audacity of grace. I love the idea that we bring God, and all that includes, with us wherever we go.

  8. says

    Amen sister! Needed this encouragement today, I’ve got a lot of writing to do in the next 25 days! It’s so easy to get distracted and diminish how important and life-giving our own hard work and risk-taking can be.

  9. says

    Emily, you’ve done it again. You have a gift for hitting the nail on the head, helped along greatly by your month of listening, I’ll bet!

    Here’s something I’ve learned the hard way: the only thing that DOES cast out fear is that perfect love. Other things help us set fear aside, rise above fear, or work around it, and that’s good. But casting it out? That takes the perfect love.

  10. Heidi says

    I don’t often comment on blogs, but as I read your words this morning I was inspired. Your words were exactly what I needed to hear today, divine intervention for sure! Thank you, for always writing from the heart and for being an inspiration to so many!

  11. says

    Emily, thank you, thank you. In the last few weeks I’ve launched a new space for my art to be open to the world, and it has laid bare a piece of my heart I didn’t know I was guarding so tightly. I’m discovering that sharing my paintings feels so much more vulnerable than typing my heart out in words, and I’m wrestling with just this kind of fear, big time. So very grateful for the way you speak courage and peace, Emily.

  12. says

    “There are no greener grasses, only different lawns.” You speak such truth. And just so you know, Emily, what may feel like failure to you is often a pathway for HIS glory to shine through you. You may not be writing words that are food for my stomach, but you’re writing words that are food for my soul. And that, my friend, is HIS light shining brightly.

  13. says

    Thank you for taking such a beautiful, positive, and redemptive turn with all of this. I share your emotions but have struggled to couch them in such a positive light. You are a treasure!

  14. says

    (Thank you for worming into my soul again Emily, really–*sarcasm* ;)) At Allume I went to a branding workshop where they talked about the importance of honestly being your brand no matter where you are whether on your blog, FB, or in person. And I’m not. I know I’m not. Sometimes I pretend to be a food blogger; after all, that’s what people expect. It’s too hard to explain that I’m not *just* that. Yet rolling through the Chik-fil-A line, I hope no readers see me. I’ve come to the point where I shrug over preservatives and fast food. SO in the workshop, I sat just tearing up, because right now I just don’t know what to do with my brand/blog/dream. I don’t know how to reconcile what I want to write with what my readers want to read. If I dump my niche and my tiny following of foodies, will anyone be left to read? Is it honest to draw readers in, knowing they want to read about food, all the while pushing my closet generosity agenda? Ughh. I don’t know. I wish that people cared as much about compassion and generosity, contentment and thankfulness, as they do about GMOs or whole grains. So no matter what I write, I wonder if I’ve failed my reader’s expectations, or my own, or God’s. And does it really matter? All the mental war makes me want to give up writing all together, throw up my hands and say, “Isn’t someone else writing all this somewhere else anyway?!!” All that to say, the grass may always look greener on someone else’s blog, but I have to remember that the tensions we feel between the earthly and the divine, the mundane and the majestic, real food that chefs talk about and real food that Christ talked about— these tensions are not new. I need to appreciate my opportunity, my struggle, to bring the sacred into my little dusty pantry. (Thanks for giving me this comment box in which to process all my mental mess.)

    • Rebecca says

      I appreciate your opportunity and struggle. You are bringing glory to God as you write about the true bread. Keep on. :)

    • Sarah says

      Thanks for sharing. Truly.

      From what I understand a lot of bloggers feel boxed in to their ‘niche’; yet loyal readers want to get to know the full, real, and honest blogger. That’s why they go to your site.

      Please don’t allow fear to make the decisions for you. Trust your Holy Spirit and write what feels right.

  15. says

    Loved this: “May our thousand brilliant excuses spin around into one brilliant act of belief.” Indeed. (And can I just say how glad I am that I’m not the only one who cries about food blogs? Although for me it’s because I will probably never be able to cook like them… between my own ADHD and my family’s craziness!) :)

  16. says

    Beautiful reminder. Failure grows us more than success ever will. I have learned this and will continue to learn this by falling on my face. Thanks.

  17. says

    I have a problem. I can’t stop saving all your posts to my ‘re-read’ folder! Here’s another. I’m so with you today. Thanks for the reminder that God is there, encouraging us every step of the way to move forward.

  18. says

    this is excellent! as we age, we do become
    more tentative. i fight that by doing things
    “i can’t do” and have had so much fun.

  19. says

    This is so true! I almost think that coming up with brilliant excuses has become an artform. We get caught up in all of our fear and will come up with countless reasons to justify them. The Spirit of the living God indwells within us and goes with us. He makes fills us with courage and empowers us to look our fear and procrastination in the face and deal with it. Then, He is honored and accomplishes something great in us and through us.

  20. says

    Ha! As the girl who just put the kids to bed and opened up her computer in order to write tomorrow’s post for the food blog she contributes to, but who actually found herself clicking around to catch up on new posts on other people’s blogs for today, I thank you for these words. And now, really and truly, I’m off to write that post–taking the Spirit with me.

  21. Rebecca says

    Your blessings are beautiful. You ability to focus my outlook and prespectives is amazing, refreshing, and needed. Your words are quotable and stick with me. They remind and change me. Thank you.

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