Preemptive Apologies

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    Does anyone ever have the need to preemptively apologize for something they said or did?

    Sometimes, I’ll make a remark or say something that, later on, I’m worried may have offended someone or had them think less of me.

    There’s this energy build up inside that demands I follow-up and say, “I’m sorry if I offended you” and get some validation that the relationship has not been tarnished in any way.

    Sitting with the energy usually allows it to dissipate, I realize that my worries are unfounded, or the person and I will have a completely unrelated interaction where I get an implicit validation that things are okay between us.

    My question is where does anxiety / worry / stress even come from? How can I prevent it from even arising?

    • This topic was modified 11 years ago by John.


    The cause of stress, anxiety and worry is always attachment, as described by the Buddha’s description of the four noble truths. In the case where we worry that our words are doing harm, we have a desire for our words to have an effect in the other. It might be more closeness, their growth, their validation that we are good people. Those are all hindrances.

    Instead, we can breathe in and breathe out. We listen, do our best to speak truly, kindly and meaningfully, and then let the seeds go. When we worry, we are preoccupied by the infinite potential of how that moment of exchange may look from their side. This makes our next breath more of a gasp, as we try to draw in peace of mind from the other.

    What we give up is the need to appear favorable to others. Sometimes what feels best to say is shocking or painful to those we say it to. If said from compassion, then it is truly our best effort, and how could we do better? Sometimes a shock will awaken the sleeper inside.

    Remember that the Buddha taught different things to different people. The dharma is a universal vibration, but adaptive. A hungry man needs food, a thirsty man needs water, and egoic know-it-all needs a stick. Compassion is the willingness to give hugs or slaps depending on what our heart inspires us to do… even when the other may not enjoy what is done.

    I have been slapped many times by teachers, and at the time I recoiled and cursed, called them names and demonized them in my mind. After the recoil, there was gratitude, because they did the right thing… and I was a little closer to freedom each time.

    Obviously, we don’t just go around beating people up… our heartfelt expression is the anti-suffering to their suffering. We open to the moment, breathe it in and give it back on the outbreath. Then again. Then again. There is no need to get in the way. If our out breath contains self-grasping, we’ll know it because it is painful for us. So we do the same thing for ourselves… breathe in the pain, accept the self-grasping, and let it go. The self settles, the pain subsides, and the energy of the dharma flows again. With each time we let go, we get cleaner, more attuned to the eight fold path, and closer to the freedom for ourselves and everyone else.

    With warmth,


    “…the need to appear favourable to others.” Bang on!

    It’s amazing how deeply engrained that need is. All of my material possessions could be lost in a fire, my family could be whisked away by a tornado, I could lose my job, my money, and become homeless, I could even contract a terminal disease, and to be honest, all of these things pale in comparison to my fear of not being liked or having someone be upset with me.

    Every day, I find myself walking a very slim tight rope balancing between inferiority and arrogance resulting in a constant checking (see my other post on self-doubt).
    On days when I do feel confident, I fear my ego getting the best of me and quickly compensate with false humility, docility, and subjugation.

    I can see myself wavering between all three states (inferiority, confidence, arrogance), but it’s so difficult to remain on the middle path. There’s a constant slippage as I’m testing and exploring the boundaries of each.

    I know it’s the Eightfold path I’m striving to follow, but those eight “rights” are not easy to locate especially around “Right speech” and “Right action”.

    If you Matt, or anyone else, has any good resources that elaborate on what is meant by “right”, I’d love to read it.



    Consider reading:

    Its lengthy but does explain what the “right” aspect is describing. Essentially, right begins as a morality and evolves into a clarity.

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