Among the several definitions of the word "excuse" is this:
But whatever definition is chosen for either the noun or the verb, still the word "excuse" always refers to something in the past.-- to make apology for-- to try to remove blame from
Like "explanation" and "belief," "excuse" derives its oxygen and its life-blood from something that was, and as a result brings with it an undercurrent of doubt and incompleteness. Individuals may refer to the past and find useful meaning in the past, but no one can grasp the past ... and any attempt to do so comes up against a brick wall: I can use the past all I like, I can be affected by it all I like, I can rely on it all I like, but the bald fact is that I live in the present -- a time that defies all excuse, all explanation, all belief.
Anyone who doubts this should trying sneezing some time. There is no ... doubt ... about ... it.
There are all sorts of gussied-up ways of saying "the dog ate my homework," of explaining or excusing or believing one aspect of life or another, and since it is so common, it would be churlish to snigger or disdain this aspect of human behavior.
I've got my excuses.
You've got yours.
What makes excuses worthy of examination is not so much that living in the past is a ridiculous exercise, but rather that living in the past always infuses the present with a scintilla of doubt, a sense of incompleteness, a mist of unsatisfactoriness. And it is this sense of doubt that deserves some attention and, from there perhaps, a bit of peace.
I think it is OK to say, "I'm sorry" and mean it.
But I also think it is OK to take a look at what can cause so much insistent distress.