Don’t Apologize For Your Station in Life

Photo by  Ben White

Photo by Ben White

You didn’t choose to be born rich or poor.

It’s easy to take things for granted.

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to be continually exposed to many third world countries and the poverty that exists within their communities.

It instilled in me a gratitude that has been cultivated and grown over the years. Repeatedly witnessing the stark contrast that exists between these places my stomping ground in American suburbia, it was impossible not to feel grateful.

My family, the resources, and the support systems that have always been available to me took on new meaning.

What always troubled me, however, were the feelings of unworthiness and shame that tended to accompany my trips to impoverished regions. I felt bad about my station in life. What had I done to deserve all the wonder that I’d been given?

Seeing children far younger than myself who had been working in the streets for their entire lives didn’t strike me as fair. And it isn’t fair.

This was a harsh truth to come to terms with in my formative years. I’d been raised in a bubble. Superficial ‘first world problems’ were about the extent of what I’d been exposed to, like kids not giving one another a fair turn on the playground.

There are two primary lessons that I’ve gleaned from this exposure that I relearn frequently, to this day.

1. Don’t assume you are better off.

At first, I assumed that all the ‘suffering’ people I saw were unhappy. But, save for those who don’t have enough food or water to live, I’ve found it to be arrogant to assume that we are ‘more fortunate’ than another person.

Fortune is subjective.

Many of the people I witnessed led simple lives. They were born and raised in the same villages and communities that their parents and their parents’ parents were, rarely straying outside of the 50km radius surrounding this place. They ate, they worked, they played, they slept.

There is so much to be said about this simplicity. The benefits of minimalistic culture, lack of technology, farm-to-table living, and the plethora of other new-agey trends were inherent to their ways of being. They didn’t think to much, weren’t plagued by the dilemma of having too much choice, and existed with a beautiful presence that I’ve only really seen elsewhere in life-long spiritual teachers.

The simplicity of their lives allowed them to focus more on the intangibles in life, and less on the vapor (wealth, fame, arrogance).

Families, for example, are often nuclear in eastern culture. They virtually always live in close proximity to one another and have a sense of acceptance and community that I’ve been unable to see in most ‘fortunate’ households.

Families also aren’t limited to blood-relations. The community that these people have are incredibly supportive, welcoming, and accepting without hesitation.

The kids I saw were always smiling, leaning on, and playing with one another.

It occurred to me, in these moments, that they were actually far happier, easy going, and present than I had ever been despite my ‘fortune’.

2. Don’t apologize for your station in life.

The world’s population is approaching ~8 billion people. That’s a lot. Statistically speaking, it’s likely that there will always be someone who is less ‘fortunate’ than you. The metric doesn’t matter here; whether it be financially, physiologically, or otherwise, there will always be someone richer, more in love, more developed, etc.

And, similarly, there will always be someone ‘worse off’.

We don’t choose our stations in life. The families that we’re born into, or the lifestyles that we’re given.

What we do choose, is how we use them.

Feeling bad for others doesn’t, in my mind, do a whole lot.

Doing good for them does.

Harboring apology, and feelings of not deserving, if anything, just wastes the catalyst with which you’ve been blessed for achieving your version of fortune in life.

Occupy your station.

Be grateful for what you’ve been given, whilst not getting lost in it. While materialism may separate us by ways of class, geography, etc., we are not differentiated, at our core, by these worldly things.

If you feel bad, asking a waiter or, in a third word country, a servant, for something, you’re doing no one any favors.

It is unbecoming to feel this apology.

It is simply how it is. People like doing work, having things to do.

If we treat others like a human beings, realize that they likely harbor no resentment for getting food for polite, good hearted people, everything runs smoother.

Take the energy that you have feeling bad or undeserving, and channel it towards doing good.

If you enjoyed this article, I encourage you to explore some of my other pieces.

Thanks for reading!