Friday, August 22, 2008

Walk in my shoes...

There is this to be said for walking: It's the one mode of human locomotion by which a man proceeds on his own two feet, upright, erect, as a man should be, not squatting on his rear haunches like a frog. ~Edward Abbey

Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes, that way when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

Before I judge my neighbor, let me walk a mile in his moccasins.~~Native American proverb

To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus explains to Scout that "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it"~~Lee Harper

Yesterday something happened that made a friend of mine sad. The rest of us talked to her, trying to cheer her up. But it wasn't until each of us shared our very similar experiences that she really felt like we knew what she was feeling.

It's not enough to say that you know. I think those are the times that you must demonstrate that kinship by sharing your experience. If you don't have that experience, then don't use that expression because the brutal truth is--you don't know. It would be better to say, "I feel bad for you."

I learned this lesson when my children were teens and I was forced to admit that I needed some help with parenting. The kind of help where the kid has twenty-four hour supervision outside of my home. I have to tell you--no one else knows how that feels unless they've been there. No one. When things were better, when I was on a more even keel, I chose to share my experience with other grieving parents in the same circumstances. Because the truth shines through when you truly can say "I know how you feel."

Something happens when you share kinship experiences. I haven't quite figured out what it is. But there is an old expression, "It takes one to know one." I believe this is true--especially in catastrophic, traumatic experiences. There is just something there that creates a bond, something that allows both people to reveal a secret, hurting part of themselves.

Not everyone can accept that gift, of course. Some are too angry. Some are too deeply damaged. But for those who can, the shared kinship can help them heal, help them move to the next step, whether the original experience is a dark traumatic event or simply something that has hurt their feelings.

So, if you've walked a mile in someone else's shoes, consider sharing your experience with them. Both of you may find something positive in the sharing.



  1. It's funny. I've done therapy. Even group therapy during times of stress and trauma. The simple act of sharing/talking/fessing up with others of like minds is cathartic. I don't believe we have to be in a therapy group to find this. All it takes is honestly and reaching out to others. And NO, you never know a person until you've walked a mile in their shoes.

  2. I would never do therapy as I believe I would send the therapist mad as I am not one to agree with Freudian theories. The therapist would have to go into therapy after me. I do believe in sharing sucky experiences because people need to know thay are not alone.

  3. I don't think that even if we've shared the exact same experience as someone else, we can truthfully say "I know how you feel." Because every person feels different, in a way unique to them, about every experience.

    What we can say is "I've been there, too, and I'm here for you now."

  4. I think that's something that's easy to forget the older you get, we tend to get less flexible. Good reminder.

  5. I'm with Elissa. And when something traumatic happens to me, I need to talk it out. I don't want advice, I don't want to have to worry about another person's trauma which was similar to the one I am currently experiencing. Not until later when I can see the parallel. When it first occurs, I need to work through it, alone. Then I need to work through it with a friend. The parallel is a final stage for me, not a first.

  6. And I'm going to slide somewhere in between. When things are bad I don't want to hear. "It could be worse." Of course it could. If I'm upset about a broken finger, I don't want to know about your two broken legs. My finger still hurts, only now I'm ashamed for letting it. But having someone simply let me know I'm not alone? Yeah, that can mean a lot. Like Kelly said, I don't always want advice. But support? That's always good.

  7. My thoughts exactly, Cindy. If I'm hurting, I want someone to listen as I vent and offer support, especially if the other person has been through a similar situation. Maybe they have insights that I don't. But don't simply try to one-up me with your problems. I need support, not hearing about how it could be worse.

  8. Excellent post Anny. I have no sage words, I'm just absorbing.

  9. I'm one who internalizes. It's not that I can't accept help, well maybe it is partly. It's more I don't want to bother anyone with my troubles even when I know they've been through something very similar. Why? It's in their past. I don't want to bring up painful memories because of me.

  10. Interesting post..! Will continue to think good thoughts for you.