Monday, July 25, 2011

You have to actually walk in their shoes

People are complicated.

Getting to truly know a person means so much more than I ever imagined. All I have learned in helping my children to peel back their many layers of pain and loss has forced me to view all relationships in the same light.

I would agree that you have to walk a mile in someone's shoes before you can actually comprehend and understand their truth ... their story ... their reality. Yet, those were words.

I now admit I spent most of my life not actually walking in the shoes of others. I looked at their shoes. I commented on their shoes. I saw the dirt and tears on the soles and I made assumptions as to how they got there. I always had an answer for how they could spruce those shoes up. I had read books and gone to conferences and sat through teachings on the cookie cutter models of (fill-in-the-blank-for-life's-problems).

But to KNOW a person took time that I had never taken. Really. I couldn't know them if they didn't trust me first. They didn't trust me if I wasn't a safe place for them. I wouldn't put in the time and energy to be a safe place for them if I didn't care and commit to that relationship, by first meeting them where they are.

Over the last several years, as I have slowly put on the shoes of others and walked their truth in a proverbial way, my life has forever changed. I have come to know one thing for sure:

I know nothing.

We are surrounded by insecurities and pain and guilt and courage and fear and unbelievable heartache. We all work through these things at our own pace, and when we dare to think some are not moving fast enough ... and when we take the time to know them ... when we put on their shoes and walk in them for a long time ... get blisters from the walking ... we come back to that one thing we know for sure:

We know nothing.

People are complicated.

Most of the time we don't know the whole story. To care enough to hear it means plugging in for a very, very long time. Sometimes we will never hear it all, because people are constantly coming to terms with it themselves.

In the meantime, we should just keep listening and hearing, knowing that in many cases we can never fully comprehend their journey.


Colleen said...

As wise woman knows she knows nothing at all.

Thanks for always sharing your truth with me.

<3 you.

Diana said...

That's what I love about you, friend!

I also believe that part of the process of getting to know very often means stepping back, swallowing our own pride, realizing we don't have all the answers, saying I'm sorry, and allowing them to teach us.

Anonymous said...

I realize that I know nothing almost everyday! It seems like the more we learn, the more we realize how little we know.

the wrath of khandrea said...

this may be one of the most accurate and meaningful things i've ever read. i wish more people truly understood this as a truth.

Annie said...

I was just admonishing myself last night - BE KIND. Always assume the best. Frankly, I'll admit that this is the way I'm made, to the point that I am criticized for it! And yet, I can see that even then, so VERY OFTEN I will fall into the temptation to judge.

My darling radish has begun to act out in public....regularly. In fact, it is as if just BEING in public is trigger enough to cause her to begin to act as awful as a person can act. In fact, I am pretty sure that by doing this she is taking control of the situation. She has become so terrified of people not liking her that she takes the reigns, and makes herself patently, unmistakably, radiantly - unlikable. She sneers, she calls me names, she has a running patter of negative, hateful tripe. She tries to look as much like a streetwalker as possible in her actually very modest clothing (and she pulls if off magnificently.)

So, I see people LOOKING. I see them wondering "Why doesn't that woman do something?" "Why doesn't she smack that brat across the face?" "Why does she let her get away with that?" (Not understanding that if I were to SAY anything in public, it would be like throwing a can of gasoline on a campfire.)

But, I KNOW that if I were them, apart from expecting the child to be smacked, I WOULD be making a few very harsh mental judgements.

This is one lesson I wish I hadn't had to learn the hard way, but I am once again committed to thinking the best, being kind and not judging. I cannot know people's stories.

ohchicken said...

hi my friend.

you write, "Over the last several years, as I have slowly put on the shoes of others and walked their truth in a proverbial way, my life has forever changed."

i would love to know--on or offline--what changed in you? what made you realize that you were shoe-gazing, and what made you decide to actually slowly put on the shoes? how did you figure out what the difference was?

biggest love.

Anonymous said...

beautiful. Needed to read it after a craptastic day.

Anonymous said...

I love this post, I am an avid supporter of Toms Shoes because it really does allow us to put ourselves in another's shoes and really get to know them, outside of just assuming what their story is from a distance.

I don't know if you are aware or not, but several years ago, the band Hanson - you know, the 3 blond brothers who sand MMMBop - dreadfully catchy, began a movement with Toms Shoes where before each show on their tours, they would meet in their fans in front of the venue they were performing at that night. They would encourage us to walk a one-mile walk barefoot around the city they in that day. Walking barefoot in places like Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit? People stopped and stared, said we were crazy, said we could get diseases, etc. That was EXACTLY the point. Millions of people, especially children, are forced to walk without shoes every single day because they cannot afford such a simple resource that we so often take for granted. We judge others by the conditions of their shoes, when so many more are going without none. To walk a mile in someone else's shoes, or lack thereof really changed my perspective and helped me realize even more how selfish I am and how much I take for granted.

Toms Shoes is such a great cause. One for one.