Sunday, September 14, 2008

Confusion is Not an Excuse

I am a teacher, and I coach the boys’ track team at our school. Track practice takes place every weekday after school throughout the season. It’s always been that way, and probably always will be. One week I learned that a school dance was scheduled for Friday afternoon right after class ended. Because the dance was going to go well into the night, I told the boys we’d have track practice after school like usual, and they could head over to the dance when they were finished. I told them I was well aware of the dance, but practice was still on. I thought I’d made everything clear as the boys headed to their locker room after Thursday’s track practice.

On Friday, about five minutes before the last bell rang, I noticed a DJ setting up his sound equipment for the dance in the school gym. Since our track team practices right outside the gym, I knew the boys were going to be frustrated when they heard the music and saw fellow classmates dancing. I wondered if some boys might still be tempted to skip practice, so, for good measure, I decided to make one final announcement over the intercom as a reminder. Over the loud speaker came the words, “There will be track practice as usual immediately after school today for the entire boys track team.”

Right as the announcement ended, eight boys from the track team walked into my classroom dizzy with confusion. One boy conjured up his best look of bewilderment and asked, “Coach, do we have practice tonight? We were wondering because nobody really knows.” When I again confirmed that we did, another boy quickly asked, “What happens if we don’t come?” My reply was simple: “You’ll be punished.”

Confusion was not limited to this group of boys. Many members of the track team lingered in the hallway—debating about whether or not there was track practice. One boy approached a team manager and inquired about it. The manager supposedly told him, “I think there’s practice…but it might be optional.” That was all that the boy needed. Now armed with words straight from the mouth of the team manager, he could claim ignorance and later justify the reason he followed his desires and went to the dance.

As I left my classroom to head to the track, another boy stopped me to ask about practice. I looked right at him and said, “Yes, we have practice.” He went to the dance.

The track boys who chose to go to the dance could actually see their teammates running warm up laps on the track outside as they walked into the gym. Yet these boys remained “confused” as to whether or not there was track practice.

Confirmations about track practice that had taken place:
1) I had announced there would be practice on Friday and even warned the boys that there might be some confusion because of the dance, but that shouldn’t change anything. 2) An announcement was made over the loud speaker moments before the boys had to make the decision whether to go to track practice or the dance. 3) Some of the boys had approached me even after hearing the announcement, and I told them face-to-face, “Yes we have track practice.” 4) The fifty-eight boys who showed up for track practice were running right outside the gym, and the boys who were dancing could actually see their teammates—thus confirming that practice was indeed taking place.

When all seventy track boys showed up on Monday, I asked why twelve of them had missed Friday’s practice. The excuses were varied but all came back to the same claim: they were in a state of ignorance due to so much confusion. Some insisted that I hadn’t made it clear. One blamed the manager for saying practice was optional. Others swore they forgot. And all the boys who went to the dance confirmed each other’s confusion by contending that there was just no way of knowing whether or not we had practice. Their strategy involved insisting on confusion. They figured if enough people said they were confused, I would have to accept it as a legitimate excuse. But I didn’t. The confused boys lost the privilege of running in our first track meet.

As I stood there on Monday afternoon at track practice surrounded by the track team it became very clear to me that in life people choose to be confused. I could not have done anything more to help get them to track practice other than to pick them up and carry them from the school to the track. Even then some of the boys would have slipped away to the dance while I wasn’t looking. With all my effort to communicate a testable and provable obvious truth almost 20% of those I communicated with remained confused. Many of the things in life that we claim to be confused about are as obvious. I will even say many of the things we just can’t “wrap our minds around” are testable and provable. It is not that we can’t “wrap our minds around” them but we don’t want to “wrap our minds around” them.

Today in the United States of America many people have found comfort when faced with moral decisions, personal responsibility and spiritual realities by using the same excuse as these junior high boys. We are looking at a growing cultural pandemic that is more dangerous than any threat the media is covering. Our society is conveniently confused about what is right, what is true, what is moral, who is God, who should be responsible, who should be honored and who should be shunned. America apparently hopes to be able to cry out for mercy because they are just so confused. How can God expect us to be moral, responsible people when there are so many things to be confused about!! Right?

I suppose if I had not announced there would be practice or had failed to realize there was a conflict with the dance the boys would have had an excuse for being confused. Likewise, if there is no way of knowing what is right or moral how could we help but be anything but confused. If God had never communicated with man nor had the concept of God ever crossed man’s mind then man could be excused from having failed to come to grips with his Creator. If that were the case then I suppose mankind could claim to have an excuse.

I have learned that claiming to be confused is not the same thing as being confused. Likewise, searching for a reason to convince yourself you are confused is still not an excuse. Even if you find a whole group of people who all claim like you to be confused, this still does not mean anyone of them has not heard the truth and rejected it only to later claim to be confused.

I suppose that claiming to be confused after rejecting the truth is no different than claiming to be in the dark after you shut off the light.

(This is blog is taken from chapter one of Galyn's book "Hope for America's Last Generation")

Galyn Wiemers