Before the new year begins, I thought it would be apropos to talk about a subject that most of us don’t usually think about, but should!
Your husband had a heart attack a few months ago and has started to drive you crazy about absolutely everything: What you serve him to eat, how you drive the car, how loud you play your favorite CD. You’re ready to explode, but do you ever stop to think how HE FEELS? How scared he may be since his heart attack?
Your 19-year-old son is miserable at college–really, really miserable– is getting horrible grades, and wants to drop out. Sure, you’re hysterical about the fact that he may “lose his way,” but do you ever stop to think how HE FEELS, and why?
You decide to drop into your sister’s house whenever YOU FEEL LIKE IT. Do you ever stop to think whether that’s really acceptable to her, even though she never says anything about it to you?
When your best friend learned she had a mass in her groin and needed surgery, her husband became hysterical and cried to her, “What am I GOING TO DO IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO YOU?” Did he for a moment think what SHE WAS GOING THROUGH?
I think we’d all agree that “walking in someone else’s shoes” is one of the hardest things any of us can do in our lives, and even if we claim we do it, most of us can’t quite master the practice as well as we profess it.
On the face of it, the concept is easy to understand, if not to achieve. We should recognize–and accept–how other people might feel in particular situations, not just how we FEEL. And if we can’t literally know how someone else feels, we’ve got to try and put ourselves in his or her place.
And, just as we should do our best to “walk in someone else’s shoes,” we’d like those we love to do the same for us.
So, let’s say you were the one who had the heart attack in scenario #1, rather than your husband? You’d want him to understand what you were going through if you started picking at him, instead of getting mad at you. Or, let’s say you were going through a rough patch, financially. You’d prefer if your wealthy cousin didn’t brag so much about the new house she’s building and the jewels she’s recently bought. Yeah, she worked hard to become rich, but maybe she can try to walk in shoes other than Christian Louboutin’s.
As a mother and mother-in-law, girlfriend and former wife, sister, friend, employer, publisher, writer and editor, I deal with all different kinds of people, all the time.
And, over the years, I’ve been known TO DO ANYTHING BUT walk in the shoes of those who I love, and those with whom I work–and play! Although I’ve become much better at it during the last five years, I work hard all the time to become even better.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, when it’s not actually a sign of goodness to walk in someone else’s shoes. It might even be better if we actually walk away from her or him, temporarily, or even permanently. I’d put incessant complainers, self pitiers, and narcissists into this category. It’s one thing to “feel” for someone if she’s experiencing a rough patch; it’s another to feel as if she’s dragging you into an abyss.
TELL ME, ARE YOU GENUINELY ABLE TO WALK IN OTHERS’ SHOES?