Last week, I wrote about a situation where I disagreed with someone dear to me. I talked about why I should have taken the time to walk in her shoes – and how I wished she would have walked in my shoes. I related this to the phrase,”Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” This was post #218 if you have a desire to go back and read it.
Today, I was talking with this same friend, and as I was leaving I mentioned the idea about walking in each other’s shoes.
She commented, “That’s my problem, I am so busy trying to help others by walking in their shoes. I don’t walk in my OWN shoes enough.” Then she continued, “Do you think that’s because I don’t want to deal with things in my own life? It’s easier to walk in their shoes than my own?”
My immediate thought… “What is she TELLing me?” Does she really think she was walking in my shoes the other day?
It sure didn’t feel like it… Instead of judging and responding, I decided to be still and ponder.
Besides, as I mentioned, I was walking out the door at the time. Now, I can’t help but think deeper about this as I write this blog.
Through the years of studying interactions, I have noticed the pattern of trying to help others progress or helping others move toward success. “I’ll do whatever I can think is possible to help them create a better life. I’ve tried this…. I’ve tried that…. I’ll do whatever I can just for them…”
Does whatever you’re doing help? How does the person respond? What message are you really TELLing this person?
One the one hand, it’s admirable to have a desire to help others be better; I believe we all should have that desire! Yet, is this really what they are doing? Are they really helping the other person? I decided to go back to the quote.
The saying “Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” does not mean you take your shoes off and you control the steps ahead. When you do that, you are walking in their shoes, but not really. You’ve just borrowed the shoes for a moment.
For example, I love to borrow shoes from mom when I visit her. She has many; I have few. She buys cool shoes, I buy practical ones. But, she wears a 6 1/2 shoe, I wear a 7. Because of our size difference, some of the sandals fit, but not all; certainly none of the closed-toe shoes fit comfortably. In other words, some shoes I can walk in, others no way! They hurt!
If the size and style fits in the moment, the walk may be okay, but if it is not a good fit, the walk is painful!
If the message you are sharing fits the other person, they may agree and the walk together may be okay. They may even appreciate your advice. But if your ideas do not fit with theirs, or they are not willing to listen, the result is pain. It may still feel like you are helping, but to the other person it feels like judgment because you are not really walking in their shoes – you borrowed their shoes for the moment.
Walking a mile in their shoes really means walking the journey together. You are walking with them in their shoes, not for them. It means letting them be a part of the steps ahead, not you taking over and controlling their steps. You allow others to evaluate what is acceptable and unacceptable. You allow the person walking beside you to have a thought in the next step.
“Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” has a deeper meaning than the majority of people ever consider.
Today, think about how you walk a mile in someone’s shoes. Do you borrow their shoes and still do the walking by yourself, or do you walk with them in their shoes? Do you walk and listen to them; do you allow them to share thoughts and feelings on the walk? Does your walk and talk teach, encourage, and love others to decide which step is needed to move forward? It’s not until we walk with them, in their shoes, that we begin to better understand and help one another.
My friend’s full statement today was “That’s my problem, I am so busy trying to help others by walking in their shoes. I don’t walk in my shoes enough.” Then she continued, “Do you think that’s because I don’t want to deal with things in my own life? It’s easier to walk in their shoes than my own?”
Her latter comment I am still contemplating – and need to talk further with her about this — maybe you’ll be reading about that in another blog! In the mean time… #TELLforGood.