The Problem with Saying “I Can’t” or “I’ll Try”…

The other day I got done teaching on the power of forgiveness and someone said to me, “Well, I can’t forgive.” Saying “I can’t” is something I’ve heard so often; I had to call this person on it. I said, “Is that true?  You can’t?”. Well, no. She said she just didn’t want to. Ahhh… big difference.

Saying “I Can’t”

saying I can't

Is it true that “you can’t”? Or is the truth that you won’t?

Saying “I can’t” is a way to justify in our mind why we won’t. That’s our subconscious way of resolving an inconsistency in our logic.  We know that we don’t want to forgive (or whatever it is we are facing) but we know that’s not a good enough reason, so saying “I can’t” is what we often do to convince ourselves. We hope it convinces others as well and gets us off the hook.

From Saying “I Can’t” to “I Won’t”

Saying “I won’t” reminds you that you are making a choice and forces you to take responsibility for your choices.  You are choosing your future.  Sometimes we don’t want to admit that. Saying “I can’t” implies there is no choice involved.  You simply have to do it. It removes any sense of guilt or responsibility. It’s much easier to live with.

I’m trying

Another phrase that causes me to question people is “I’m trying”. Maybe. But more often than not “I’m trying” means “I’m putting in the minimal amount of effort to keep me and others off my back. I’m not expecting to change. I don’t even want to change. But I can’t stand the pressure. So I’m just telling people that I’m trying.”

Just be honest

What if you start being honest with yourself and others? Start saying “I won’t do that” or better yet “I’m choosing to not do that”. The result is the same as “I can’t” or “I’m trying” but it forces you to deal with the deeper issue of why you don’t want to do it.  It forces you to deal with the fact that you are making a choice.

Maybe there are good reasons why you won’t do something. Saying “I won’t” will cause you to find those reasons. At the same time it will also cause you to consider and come to terms with the wrong reasons for not doing something.  It will also cause you to take responsibility for your actions and the future you are choosing.

Over time you might consider another phrase….”With God’s help, and the help of others, I CAN change. I will change.”  And then shortly after that you can start saying…”I AM changing” and eventually…”I’m a new person!”.  Or as the Bible says…old things have passed away and all things are new“.

Words have power. Some  words keep us stuck in the past. Other words open the door to a better future.

Question: What words or phrases keep you stuck? Leave your comment below.

  • Moving On From the Hurt (

This post was adapted from my new book STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships


4 thoughts on “The Problem with Saying “I Can’t” or “I’ll Try”…

  1. Reid Olson

    Thank you. Could it be true that some people enjoy the misery of hanging onto the pain of the past? Like, could the pain of the past ever be some kind of addiction for some? I have worked with teens for 22 yrs as a youth pastor and have seen addictive cutting based on using pain as a propellant and wonder if people choose to keep their pain as a fuel and therefor don’t want to move to forgiveness and change habits. Just a thought. Thanks for the article.

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      Well…I’d hesitate to say that they “enjoy the misery”. That’s overstating it (at least I hope it is. there are people who enjoy misery in an upside down form of logic). I’d say that they are comfortable with the familiar and change is threatening. It’s a form of denial. Forgiveness and change is a very threatening world if you’ve never been there before. People need a lot of assurances that if they go there they won’t be alone.


  2. Teresa

    The first time you forgive someone is uncomfortable. You feel hurt and justified in your anger. When you have truley gone through the process of forgiving a person and end up on the other side of love and serenity you really want to do it again.
    Do it once and the next time you won’t hesitate.

  3. Pingback: Forgiveness Changes Lives - F. Remy Diederich

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