In many cultures there is a saying that goes something like this: “Don’t judge someone else until you have walked in their shoes for a significant amount of time.”
If you’re like me, we give that saying lip service, but I’m not sure any of us really do that. So…
I wonder what would happen if we weren’t given a choice about it. What would happen if we woke up one morning and found ourselves walking the path of someone we had made judgments about?
I think it would be very uncomfortable–and we would be shocked at what we would discover.
What if I–as a white female–woke up and everyone saw me as a female of color? How would I be perceived? Would I be seen as someone who is obviously dependent on food stamps? who spends her day “gaming” the system? Would I be seen as someone who is sexually active and who doesn’t bother with birth control…because the government will pay for any kids I have? Or would I still be respected for my education and my abilities? Would people hear my words as being of value? or would they be dismissed because “they all say that”? Would my concerns about my children be heard? or would I hear “Just obey the law and there won’t be any problems”?
What if I–as a straight woman–woke up and realized I loved another woman? How many times would I be told that my love wasn’t real? How much trouble would I have finding a place to live? or even a job? And if I had a job, would I be able to put pictures of the one I love on my desk without fear of being harassed? or fired? Could I walk down the streets holding hands with the one I love? or would I be afraid of the looks I would get? or whether or not I might be attacked?
What if I–without a criminal record–woke up behind bars? How would I be treated…by the guards? the court system? others who knew of my record and judged me without knowing how I found myself there? And what would happen when (if?) I got out? Would that record keep me from ever being able to make the changes I would want to?
What if I–a follower of Christ–woke up and others saw me as a Muslim? Would they be willing to be friends with me? Would they be interested in trying to understand my religion? Or would I be judged by the actions of a few who misrepresent my faith? Would they turn away from me in fear? or tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about when I try to explain the path to peace in my faith tradition?
Obviously I’m not going to be able to totally walk the path of someone else. But if I’m not even willing to try, then how can I expect someone else to be sympathetic to my own path? How can I expect them to listen to my own story?
The video below deals with patient care–but the message is true in whatever situation we find ourselves. Let’s be willing to take the time to walk in someone else’s shoes before we judge.