What is the phrase that can be used to describe the situation when someone tries to justify himself, even when he knows that he's wrong.

The situation is when the person didn't complete his duty, and tries to explain that he did nothing wrong, by using lame excuses. So, my question is about doing something incorrect rather than doing something morally wrong.

It is not about internal reasoning, it is about someone trying to deflect blame being placed (rightly) on him by others.

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    When you say "even when they know they're wrong," do you mean "morally wrong?" Or just "incorrect?" Is this person trying to talk themselves into doing the wrong thing? Or talk themselves out of doing the wrong thing? A little more clarification would help quite a bit. – J.R. Oct 28 '13 at 11:46
  • @J.R., I have updated my question, with the relevant information. Hope that now it is clear. – saji89 Oct 29 '13 at 6:10
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    I would say that person is trying to justify their actions. – J.R. Oct 29 '13 at 8:58
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    I think there is a further ambiguity between “reason with yourself” and “tries to explain”. The former is understood as an internal "conversation", while the latter is more likely to be an intentional deception of someone else. Are you asking about someone making himself feel better about a mistake or someone trying to deflect blame being placed (rightly) on him by others? – Tyler James Young Oct 29 '13 at 14:59
  • @TylerJamesYoung, I have updated the question to clarify your question. – saji89 Oct 30 '13 at 11:51

Based on point #2, I would say that he is trying to pass the buck:

Fig. to pass the blame (to someone else); to give the responsibility (to someone else). (source: The Free Dictionary)

  • +1, Thankyou. It seems to fit my scenario clearly. Hoping to see some more answers, before I accept this one. – saji89 Oct 31 '13 at 5:06

In OP's context, if the person is trying to convince other people that's he's blameless, he might be...

justifying himself
to explain to someone the reason why you did something, especially when they think you have done something wrong.

If he's trying to convince himself, one might say he's trying to...

rationalise his actions
attempt to explain or justify (behaviour or an attitude) with logical reasons, even if these are not appropriate.

Note that both verbs can also (but less commonly) be used in the other context.

  • Thankyou for the answer. Is there any phrase that I can use to denote this scenario? – saji89 Nov 4 '13 at 7:00
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    @saji89: I'm not sure what you mean by phrase ... to denote this scenario. As my answer implies, it's not clear to me from your question text whether you mean the person is attempting to convince himself that's he's not to blame (usually, self-justification), or to convince others of that (usually, rationalisation, though this term may be used to "explain away" anything, not just one's own possible guilt). – FumbleFingers Nov 4 '13 at 14:59
  • The question has not been edited, along with title. Is my question clear now? – saji89 Nov 6 '13 at 4:51
  • @saji89: Well, comments to the question itself make it clear there are several possible meanings which are subtly different. But you yourself have endorsed Hellion's pass the buck - which isn't really about justifying ones own actions (except peripherally, in that it means assigning blame or responsibility for decision-making to someone else; by implication, the "buck-passer" can't be responsible, since someone else is). I think in the end you have to choose between "justifying" (the action was not wrong), and "deflecting blame" (it was wrong, but someone else's fault). – FumbleFingers Nov 6 '13 at 21:25

There is no difference between the two previous scenarios. "Justifying", does define the "deflection" described. Saying that you did what you did because of a past experience is a "justification"!!!! No matter if you choose to recognize the behavior as wrong or not. "I know what I did was bad, but I did it because someone did it to me." = JUSTIFICATION!!!


For a common (American) idiom, I think you would say that the person is trying to weasel out.

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