Monday, February 6, 2012

Walking in another's shoes

Sometimes, as much as we want to understand and help another person, we cannot unless we have walked in their shoes.  My dad always had a little wooden placard on his dresser in his bedroom.  It read,
"Never judge a man until you walk a mile in his moccasins".
Our actions teach our children more than our words.  That placard was backed up by how my dad lived. 

The twelve step programs understand this saying.  They are entirely based on the belief that only another person so affected can help, and in so doing help himself. 

I cannot understand what it's like to be homeless, alcoholic, or an addict.  Nor can I understand what it's like to be rich, or a women or mother, or a person of color.  I can do my best to understand but I should always remember that I cannot walk in their shoes.

Others cannot know what it's like to be me, understand my issues, my concerns, my fears, my hopes, unless they also share them.

One of the problems in society, and this includes work, is that people don't remember this concept. 

They think they understand what others are going through and they think others understand what they are going through. The only way we can hope to understand each other is to be in the same trenches with each other, to walk in each other's shoes.

I'll share with you a scene from West Wing.  Josh has cut himself in a fit of anger and has just come back from talking with a councilor about it.  Leo, a recovering alcoholic, tells him this story.

            Prayer of St Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

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