Insights from the Pavement: Learning to Stop Apologizing


Many times in our lives, we feel compelled to take on the perspective of someone who should be sorry for circumstances that often are not our fault.  This happens for a variety of reasons.

Sometimes it’s to simply alleviate pressure from a tense situation, sometimes it’s to avoid a conflict.  Most of the time, it’s just to take a detour around continuing what could otherwise be an uncomfortable situation.

Whatever the case in each situation that this takes place, we can be sure that we need to begin to be mindful of how often we use this tack.

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Pensive Passion in Sapa Valley, Vietnam.

As many a traveler will say, sometimes we make decisions that land us in a less than optimal situation.  Not only is this inevitable due to our inability to read every circumstantial element around us, to know the future and to understand the agenda or motivation of those around us; it’s also necessary.

As we travel on the physical plane from place to place, or on the metaphorical plane from situation to situation, we are undoubtedly faced with situations where there are endless motivating factors that may, at times, work against us to create difficult conditions.  But while it’s impossible to know the end results of every possible choice we might make in these situations, it is possible for us to be conscious of how we internalize them.

While traveling, we bump into one another, intrude on privacy, interact with resentful, uneducated or even deeply ethnocentric people who may be displeased simply by our presence in their homeland.  But in all of these cases, it is never about you as a person.

If we think back to the last time someone cut us off while driving or gave us a dirty look at the grocery store, we can, with great certainty, recall that we didn’t know these people – it was a random passing of a stranger with whom we didn’t share any previous negativity.  This may not have stopped us from being deeply offended by their actions.  But, just as we don’t know enough about the other person to have anything personal against them, we should always keep in mind that this was not personally directed at us.  And these actions speak more to their place in life than our own.

Having been to enough places to realize that I may not be wanted in the host country, I have come to realize that it is not me that they don’t want in their town.  It’s simply a foreigner that they don’t want around.  And this takes a lot of the pressure off me to feel sorry for having offended someone for having done nothing other than be present.  And looking back on these times, the prejudices of others have never burdened my travels, but rather reminded me of how the next visitor to my home might feel if I am less than welcoming.

After all, how much could simply your presence possibly offend someone?  There’s almost always something else at work.  And it’s rarely your self that is the problem.

Like the photo from this journal?  Check out the album HERE.

Insights from the Pavement is a new style of blog that I am trying out.  These will be posted a couple times per week for the next few months.  And I am interested in what my readers and passersby think of them.  So be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

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