“I Can't Help It.”


People with this thinking error will tell you they can’t help the way they act, that’s the way they’re wired.  Their excuse implies you’ll just have to accept their bad behavior, forgive them anyway, and not expect them to change.  Often, when living with someone who says this, others around will actually offer more excuses than the person himself (herself) does.

  • “That’s just the way he is.”
  • “He can’t help himself.”
  • “You know he’s got a short fuse.”
  • “That’s the way her mother was.”
  • “He’s having problems at work.” “
  • “He’s always been that way.”
  • “She’s under a lot of stress,”
  • “She just acts/reacts without thinking first.”
  • “He doesn’t know any better.”
  • “Such-and-such just happened, and she’s taking it out on you.”
  • “He’s just in a bad mood.”

These are just some of the lame excuses offered to explain unacceptable behavior. In the case of an abuser, it’s the wife who typically makes the most excuses, even though, paradoxically, she will also complain more about his behavior than anyone else.

There was a 62-year old pedophile who was finally arrested and sent to prison after 25 years of raping and molesting dozens of little boys. His wife knew he was a pedophile because he had spent two years molesting her own child, covered for him, and even babysat other people’s children and left them alone with him.  When he was finally caught, the wife said, “He has the mentality of a 14-year old”, followed by, “He’s very immature and thinks he’s on the same level as the children he rapes.” In other words, he couldn’t help himself.

Well, nice try.  This is just more hogwash invented by self-centered people and their enablers to allow them to get away with murder, so to speak. And it puts the victim in an impossible position.  How can we expect people who claim they can’t control themselves, that they can’t help it when they do things that are wrong, to be able to respect our own boundaries and limits?

1. One of the perils all people face day to day is temptation. Where do temptations to sin come from?
  c) (James 1:14-15)

2. Is it possible these excuses are valid – that we just can’t help but sin when drawn into or tempted by certain situations? It's our nature to sin, isn't it? Even when we know the consequences, we still do it.  What does God say?
  c) (Hebrews 12:1)
  d) (Galatians 5:16)

3. Read Genesis 39.  Joseph, a young man, in the prime of his life and possessing all the desires young men in the prime of their life possess, avoided the blatant invitation from Potiphar’s wife in verse 7.  Instead of thinking up reasons (excuses) to accept her offer, list some of the things Joseph did to help himself remain faithful to God and Potiphar in this situation.

4. Our Father in his infinite mercy does not expect us to patiently listen to the excuses people give us for sinning, and continue tolerating abuse with no hope of it ever ending.  What two things does He tell us to do in Luke 17:3?

5. What does Titus 3:10-11 say we are to do after we have warned a person two times?

6. Matthew 18:15-17 gives step-by-step instructions for dealing with people who sin against us, won’t accept responsibility for it, don’t repent, and refuse to change.

7. According to 2 Timothy 3: 5, what should we do when we find ourselves in the company of people people who pretend to be devoted to God and who make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they live the way they want - with handy excuses ready if you challenge them on their behavior?

8. How would you counsel a person operating under the “I Can’t Help It” thinking error?

Continue to Chapter 11

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