Resting On Laurels

"Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure." ~Don Wilder and Bill Rechin

We read in the Bible where Jesus and the Apostles asked someone begging on the street what they would like most from them. Of course, the answer was to receive their sight, or to walk, or whatever was the cause of their need to beg.

When a faith healer comes to town and sets up his tent (so to speak), the place is packed to capacity with those wanting to be healed of whatever may be their problem.

Doctors and hospitals charge a huge amount of money, which is paid readily by those multitudes of people who hold hope of being cured of whatever problem they might have.

And for those poor souls without means to acquire any of these resources, magazines, books and TV programs are in abundance.

How often have you heard someone talk about what a great athlete, fisherman, race car driver, or whatever they used to be? I suspect, if you get out much, you hear such stories about once or so a day. In fact, if you are like the rest of us, you probably tell such a story during the day. I do, and that is my confession for the day.

Talking about past victories is called: "Resting on your Laurels." Most people think this means being lazy and sitting down on the job.

Long ago, Greek athletes who won a race, or whatever their competition, were awarded a wreath of braided laurel branches, much like a crown. (For you Bible students: Jesus was awarded a crown of thorns, a symbol of God's curse upon mankind. Does this give you any thoughts?) Once a person has won such an award, where is there to go but down?

Rather than lose the honor and distinction of having reached the ultimate, many people "retire" from the arena, thus preventing being shown up by someone who wishes to rob them of their glory. This person no longer runs the race, but rather he (or she) likes to talk about the good ol' days of their victory. They are "resting on their laurels".

Not everyone chooses to settle back after they have reached the top in their field. Some continue to run the race, and accept future defeats with dignity. These, in my mind, are the courageous souls.

Others not content with success, change their direction altogether and begin competing in a new and different field, pressing for the mark again, often starting from the bottom rung of competitors.

There is one other group of competitors I would like to include in this study, and they are those hardy souls who have, for whatever reason, been given a handicap in the area in which they choose to compete.

We hear of the blind artists; the one-legged skier; the quadriplegic artist; the autistic writer; and many others who have overcome their handicap and have pressed on to success.

But success, in the sense that one has beaten another, is not necessarily true success. With any of these people - the handicapped; the champion athlete who continues on, or changes fields, these are successful by the fact that they did not rest upon their laurels.

One might ask: "how can a handicapped person rest on laurels they never received?"

I will add to such a question: how can you or I rest upon laurels we never received?

Every day you and I win little competitions. This might consist of nothing more than telling the best joke, or having the longest hair, or wearing the sloppiest clothes, or driving the fanciest car. And though no one might have said anything about our success: in our mind we have come out the winner.

Take the mayor of a small town. To all those in that town he is a "big man." But to someone from another town, he is essentially a "nobody." In order for this nobody to be a somebody, he must remain in the town over which he rules. Does he run for the office of Governor of the state? Not if he fears losing his status, or his position, which he must surrender in order to attempt such higher aspirations.

The president of the class in the 6th grade becomes a nobody in Jr. High. The big man on campus in High School is a nothing in college.

I started this study by referring to those who seek to overcome whatever their handicap in life. Now, if you are like most people in the world, it will most likely seem to you that everyone would seek to further their station (certainly healthwise) in life. But this is not necessarily so with everybody: especially in these latter days.

My grandmother was afraid of dealing with life. In order to avoid her motherly responsibilities, she remained sick in bed, leaving the running of the family and the house to my mother, who, herself, was just a child.

When I taught art, I encountered the statement: "I tried, and I just can't draw." I'm sure that art is not the only field of interest people fail without even making a half-hearted attempt.

Many people, in order to justify their not being able to do something; or to keep from having to do what is expected of them; or to avoid failure: give up before they even begin. In their (including you and me) mind they have successfully dodged the issue. But you know that when we hear such an excuse from others, we do not accept it. In spite of this awareness, we continue to use the excuse and think we are pulling the wool over the eyes of others.

In days gone by the last thing anyone, especially a man, wanted to be seen as is "inadequate." In the Bible, when we read of those who have been healed, we see how happy they are to no longer have the reason they had been holding all their life to be supported by others. Now, this healed man, having acquired no skills or knowledge in any area, must go out into the world and make a living. All other men, from the time they could walk, were being trained in some specific skill, either by their father, or as an apprentice in some field of endeavor. But not this man.

During the depression there were few jobs to be had. Money was scarce to nonexistent. Yet very young children were out collecting cans, selling newspapers, or scrubbing floors to help put food on the family's table. Young and old men alike were traveling the road, riding the rails, and traversing this great land of ours looking for jobs. These men were not looking for handouts, they were looking for survival. They would willingly work for hours in hopes of but a meal. And a night spent in the hayloft of a barn was considered a luxury.

The worse thing a man, especially a father, could be is "on the dole," that is, on welfare.

How times have changed. In some towns you can't pass a corner that doesn't have at least one person standing there holding a cardboard sign. I can think of only once where I saw a man who had any visible sign of handicap, and that is his hands were missing. The rest of them look better fed than I do, and sometimes they are athletic-looking teenagers. But whatever the case, I should think that anyone who can stand all day in one place like that must be a whole lot more capable of work than I am, because it would exhaust me to stand in one place for just a few hours, leastwise day by day.

I find it interesting to read what reasons these people give for their begging. Of course most say they are homeless and hungry. My thoughts are that homelessness is a state I lived for many years: and those were the happiest years of my life. As far as hungry, perhaps if they bought food instead of cigarettes they wouldn't be so hungry. It really disturbs me to see a mother and child needing food (which, for some odd reason, is almost never - it's always virile and vital men who are begging support). What bothers me most is that the mother is smoking and drinking sodas instead of feeding her child!

Another reason often given is that a man is a Veteran. I can understand this, except that if all veterans were begging, half the men in this country would be on street corners, including myself.

I think the most "interesting" sign I have seen is one held by a man well into his 50's that read: "Victim of Abuse." What power the media holds.

I rarely give to these people. Although I do give. When I see people traveling the road, whether youngsters on bicycles, or oldsters with a bedroll on their back, I will often stop them and give them some money. Often these people are surprised to be given money, because they don't ask for money.

Once I saw a man holding a sign that said he was parked on the freeway and needed money for gas. I told him I would buy him some gas and take it (and him) to his car. He said he had to make a phone call first. I never saw him again.

Offer a job to those who say they want one. Offer to buy a meal for those who say they are hungry. What they say they want, is not what they want. They just want to stand there with their cardboard sign and have others feed them. (Of course this is not true of every one: but how can you tell the difference?) Had it been beggars in this day and age who the Apostles asked what they most wanted, they would have replied that they wanted a beer, money or cigarettes because they have nothing to be healed of.

It's not cardboard signs that caused me to write this story. These people I have just described have set their level of accepted achievement to zero, and rest on those laurels they have attained. But people holding cardboard on street corners are not the only ones who have set their goals to zero. As with my grandmother who stayed in bed to avoid life, many others have done the same. And for their efforts (or lack thereof) they not only are able to justify not moving forward in life, just merely exist: but they are able to elicit the sympathy of others. It's interesting to watch these people as they relate their real and imaginary illnesses and handicaps. They dwell on them, and expound on them in the very same way as would a world-class athlete bragging about his heyday. These would not seek out the aid of a healer, because if it wasn't for whatever illness they might have, they might have to change their lifestyle. Instead of talking about what (and why) they can't do: they would have to compete with (and incur the expectation of) those who are doing.

I understand this attitude, because I've been there myself. It's certainly not the proudest episode in my life, but it helps me to understand the phenomena. Since turning thirty, my direction has turned around and I try to achieve some degree of success (not "win") in every arena that confronts me. I try to look to the best I can do, not the worst. As I watch those who seek every excuse to not better themselves, I envision the man who said he was out of gas, but probably didn't even have a car.



"The only man who is really free is the one who can turn down an invitation to dinner without giving an excuse." ~Jules Renard

"Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure." ~Don Wilder and Bill Rechin

"Don't make excuses - make good." ~Elbert Hubbard

"He who excuses himself accuses himself." ~Gabriel Meurier

"Several excuses are always less convincing than one." ~Aldous Huxley

"Maybe you don't like your job, maybe you didn't get enough sleep, well nobody likes their job, nobody got enough sleep. Maybe you just had the worst day of your life, but you know, there's no escape, there's no excuse, so just suck up and be nice." ~Ani Difranco

"How strange to use 'You only live once' as an excuse to throw it away." ~Bill Copeland

"Don't do what you'll have to find an excuse for." ~Proverb

"No one ever excused his way to success." ~Dave Del Dotto

"Excuses are the tools with which persons with no purpose in view build for themselves great monuments of nothing." ~Steven Grayhm

"And oftentimes excusing of a fault Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse." ~William Shakespeare

"Bad excuses are worse than none." ~Thomas Fuller

"A lie is an excuse guarded." ~Jonathan Swift

"Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anyone else expects of you. Never excuse yourself." ~Henry Ward Beecher

"If you don't want to do something, one excuse is as good as another." ~Yiddish Proverb

"We excuse our sloth under the pretext of difficulty." ~Marcus Fabius Quintilian

"Whoever wants to be a judge of human nature should study people's excuses." ~Hebbel

"We have more ability than will power, and it is often an excuse to ourselves that we imagine that things are impossible." ~Franççois de la Rochefoucauld

"Two wrongs don't make a right, but they make a good excuse." ~Thomas Szasz

"Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts." ~Edward R. Murrow

"Pessimism is an excuse for not trying and a guarantee to a personal failure." ~Bill Clinton

"Destiny: A tyrant's authority for crime and a fool's excuse for failure." ~Ambrose Bierce

"Every vice has its excuse ready." ~Publilius Syrus

"We are all manufacturers - some make good, others make trouble, and still others make excuses." ~Author Unknown

"One of the most important tasks of a manager is to eliminate his people's excuses for failure." ~Robert Townsend

"Your letter of excuses has arrived. I receive the letter but do not admit the excuses except in courtesy, as when a man treads on your toes and begs your pardon - the pardon is granted, but the joint aches, especially if there is a corn upon it." ~Lord Byron

"Bad men excuse their faults; good men abandon them." ~Author Unknown

"He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else." ~Benjamin Franklin

"It is wise to direct your anger towards problems - not people, to focus your energies on answers - not excuses." ~William Arthur Ward

"Any excuse will serve a tyrant." ~Aesop

"We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse." ~Rudyard Kipling

"The person who really wants to do something finds a way; the other person finds an excuse." ~Author Unknown

"Justifying a fault doubles it." ~French Proverb

"The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours - it is an amazing journey - and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins." ~Bob Moawad

"The absent are never without fault, nor the present without excuse." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things." ~Russell Baker

"Sometimes I wish I had a terrible childhood, so that at least I'd have an excuse." ~Jimmy Fallon

"Never ruin an apology with an excuse." ~Kimberly Johnson

"Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired. "~Jules Renard

"Tomorrow is the only day in the year that appeals to a lazy man." ~Jimmy Lyons

"It's true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?" ~Ronald Reagan

"We have produced a world of contented bodies and discontented minds." ~Adam Clayton Powell

"The time will come when winter will ask you what you were doing all summer." ~Henry Clay

"That destructive siren, sloth, is ever to be avoided." ~Horace

"How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?" ~Paul Sweeney

"The present generation, wearied by its chimerical efforts, relapses into complete indolence. Its condition is that of a man who has only fallen asleep towards morning: first of all come great dreams, then a feeling of laziness, and finally a witty or clever excuse for remaining in bed." ~Søøren Kierkegaard

"It is easier to mend neglect than to quicken love." ~Saint Jerome

"The modern sympathy with invalids is morbid. Illness of any kind is hardly a thing to encourage in others." ~Oscar Wilde

"We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes nonwork." ~Milton Friedman

"I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts." ~John Locke

"Well done is better than well said." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Between saying and doing many a pair of shoes is worn out." ~Italian Proverb

"After all is said and done, a lot more will have been said than done." ~Author Unknown

"The shortest answer is doing." ~Lord Herbert

"Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement." ~Alfred Adler

"We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action." ~Frank Tibolt

"A promise is a cloud; fulfillment is rain." ~Arabian Proverb

"An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied." ~Arnold Glasow

"Inspirations never go in for long engagements; they demand immediate marriage to action." ~Brendan Francis

"Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned." ~Peter Marshall

"Never mistake motion for action." ~Ernest Hemingway

"There are so many things that we wish we had done yesterday, so few that we feel like doing today." ~Mignon McLaughlin

"A barking dog is often more useful than a sleeping lion." ~Washington Irving

"Action is the last resource of those who know not how to dream." ~Oscar Wilde

"Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action." ~Walter Anderson

"Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold - but so does a hard-boiled egg." ~Author Unknown

"If ifs were gifts, every day would be Christmas." ~Charles Barkley

"Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other." ~Edmund Burke

"Be content to act, and leave the talking to others." ~Baltasar Gracian

"All know the way; few actually walk it." ~Bodhidharma

"Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live." ~Nicolas de Chamfort

"The first step binds one to the second." ~French Proverb

"I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on man unless they act." ~G.K. Chesterton

"If your work speaks for itself, don't interrupt." ~Henry J. Kaiser

"There is no moment like the present. The man who will not execute his resolutions when they are fresh upon him can have no hope from them afterwards: they will be dissipated, lost, and perish in the hurry and scurry of the world, or sunk in the slough of indolence." ~Maria Edgeworth

"Deliberation is a function of the many; action is the function of one." ~Charles de Gaulle

"Action is the antidote to despair." ~Joan Baez

"Ironically, making a statement with words is the least effective method." ~Grey Livingston

"He liked to go from A to B without inventing letters between." ~John McPhee

"Action worships the deed." ~Nathaniel LeTonnerre

"The great composer does not set to work because he is inspired, but becomes inspired because he is working. Beethoven, Wagner, Bach and Mozart settled down day after day to the job in hand with as much regularity as an accountant settles down each day to his figures. They didn't waste time waiting for inspiration." ~Ernest Newman

"We are all inclined to judge ourselves by our ideals; others, by their acts." ~Harold Nicolson

"The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps - we must step up the stairs." ~Vance Havner

"He who has made a thousand things and he who has made none, both feel the same desire: to make something." ~Antonio Porchia

"Don't find fault. Find a remedy." ~Henry Ford

"What ought to have been done, and what shall be done, often stifle doing between them." ~Augustus and Julius Hare

"Success will never be a big step in the future, success is a small step taken just now." ~Jonatan Måårtensson

"Nature takes away any faculty that is used." ~William R. Inge (altered)

"He that waits upon fortune is never sure of a dinner." ~Benjamin Franklin

"If I set for myself a task, be it so trifling, I shall see it through. How else shall I have confidence in myself to do important things?" ~George Clason

"In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"One's action ought to come out of an achieved stillness: not to be a mere rushing on." ~D.H. Lawrence

"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." ~James Baldwin

"Action will remove the doubts that theory cannot solve." ~Tehyi Hsieh

"Men expect too much, do too little." ~Allen Tate

"When deeds speak, words are nothing." ~African Proverb

(For more quotes on this subject, see: Viewpoint: Inspiration)

From the Bible

11I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. (Eccl:9)

23Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, 24Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. (Luke 13:)

24Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1Cor 9:)

27To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily. (Col 1:)

13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (Eph 4:)

5If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. (James 1:)

13Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:)

1Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (Heb 12:)

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