We’ve all heard the saying “Never judge a [person] until you walk a mile in their shoes”
according to lexicographer Harris Collis it is one of the 101 most frequently used American proverbs, (Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings)
Although the origin of this statement is unknown the intent has echoed for years...
from the book To Kill A Mockingbird:
"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."
To an Old Native American Saying:
"Great Spirit, Let me not criticize another until I have walked along their path."
Even a version that can be traced back to the Ancient Greek story of the Sword of Damocles:
"Judge no one happy until his life is over, and you can walk in their footsteps"
No matter the origin the meaning is clear; it is impossible and unfair to criticize someone’s actions until you have taken the effort to truly understand their challenges and situations.
In Stephen F. Covey's bestseller ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ He outlines this idea and the importance of interdependence. Habit #5 in his book is the idea of “seeking first to understand…” Mr. Covey presents this habit as the most important principle of interpersonal relations.
Walking in someone else’s shoes is not simple “effective listening” just echoing what the other person has said through the lens of our own experiences. But rather, it’s putting ourselves in the perspective of the other person.
So with this in mind I’m calling us all out for a challenge, it is as simple as it is complex because it requires very little outward action, however it does take an attitude shift inward on our part, in that it requires us to try and put ourselves mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually in an empathetic mindset.
So the challenge is this: As you go through your week Attempt and try to understand 5 different people…maybe it is someone that you have always had an “issue” with or maybe it’s someone that you have had a hard time understanding why they do the things they do, someone from a different background, political affiliation, or religious belief.
Then when an opportunity arises, complement their shoes.
Think about it, it’s a win-win. You’ve made their day by telling them that you appreciate their taste in footwear, and you’ve also taken a step (pun intended) towards understanding that person and their situation in life.
Extra Credit: Download the song ‘Walking in my Shoes’ by Depeche Mode (yeah… old school!!!) listen to it on the way to work or school, listen to the lyrics and prepare your heart and mind to unleash some authentic love!
“Now I'm not looking for absolution,
Forgiveness for the things I do.
But before you come to any conclusions -
Try walking in my shoes.
Try walking in my shoes.”
Read all the lyrics here: http://www.elyrics.net/read/d/depeche-mode-lyrics/walking-in-my-shoes-lyrics.html
Make sure to share your findings and stories here on the comments section.
- Erik Ewing is a Team Member of The Authenticity Project and Director of the Definition Collective.