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A Shoes Tale

One of the most essential aspects to our wardrobe is none other than our shoes. Archeologists have uncovered evidence they first existed nearly 40,000 years ago. However, it wasn’t until the last 8,000 years that they have become prevalent in most civilizations. There is little doubt that their main purpose is to protect our feet, but they have evolved into a versatile and fashionable part of our attire.

Sometimes shoes are too large, too tight, old and worn, or so new we’d rather not take them out of the box. We may receive them as gifts or hand-me-downs. They have been known to be a point of contention and one of great admiration. In many circumstances, it would be impossible to leave the house without them or your feet may be in grave peril.

The one thing, however, we rarely do is ask a person to wear their shoes. A friend may be sporting a comfortable sweater and eagerly want you to feel its softness or warmth. Shoes, on the other hand, we tend to protect more carefully and don’t want any toes infringing on that space except our own.

A sight to see

Whenever we talk about wearing someone else’s shoes figuratively, it always signifies that we are perceiving life’s events from their point of view and perspective, including their experiences, opinions, and understanding. Perhaps this is the reason we do not ask about wearing other’s shoes specifically so we don’t have to understand things as they do.

When was the last time you had a discussion with someone and you diligently listened and got a clear grasp of what they were saying and why they were saying it? Conversely, when was the last time you were absolutely committed not to give any credence to what the other person’s opinions were, and purposely distracted yourself by a conversation in your own mind?

An argument, by definition, implies each person is trying to change the other person’s mind. If your only intent is to win the other person over and refuse to hear their side of the story, is it then wrong for the other person to share those exact sentiments?

Many times, we have no intention whatsoever to pay any attention or give credibility to what the other person has to say. However, being overly engrossed in our own sense of rightness and wrongness won’t allow us to consider for one second, the viability of their beliefs, ideas, or attitudes.

I am not saying one should never take a firm belief in their viewpoints or weaken our morals, but if you are sold on your opinion and the other person has no chance of being correct, would it then be wrong for the other person to think the same thing of you?

Our current environment unfortunately is geared toward this line of reasoning and makes it very easy to get in a virtual, verbal spat with anyone. The algorithms on social media appear to be programmed to heighten the temperature and fertilize the seeds of contention. Stories of violence, discord, and hate grab the headlines while the tales of kindness, gratitude, integrity, and understanding life through the eyes of others all too often happen with no fanfare or spotlight.

A sight to experience

If you’ve ever engaged in a conversation with someone who was diametrically opposed to your opinions, yet you felt they still paid close attention to what you were saying, you can at least appreciate that they did listen regardless of your words having any impact.

But when was the last time you were the one paying the attention to someone with whom you completely disagreed?

Let’s take this one step further with this challenging exercise. Think of someone with whom you are fully aware will have a conflicting opinion. Choose a subject. It doesn’t matter if it’s political, religious, or socially based, as long as their opinions are the polar opposite of yours, you’ve selected the right person.

Now try your hardest to see things from their point of view. Slip on their shoes for just a few minutes and delve into their thoughts, mindsets, and experiences. You don’t have to agree with them but strive to understand why they believe in something you feel is illogical, absurd, or erroneous.

An exercise such as this has many benefits. It teaches patience, empathy, open-mindedness, and open heartedness. It’s a practice in kindness and may strengthen your original thoughts on the subject. It doesn’t mean you are converting to their way of thinking but taking this approach will calm the waters instead of inciting a storm. We expand our awareness and learn not to get caught up in our own world that seldom ventures beyond our reach.

For the last several decades, we have witnessed the misguided approach of only accepting our ideals and doing our best to weaken and destroy those who believe differently. It has successfully divided families, organizations, and countries with its lure of false power while emboldening animosity, inspiring anger, and promoting arrogance.

It appears to be the favorite choice of many seeking to be leaders, despite the mounting evidence against this line of reasoning that eventually produces a harvest of distrust, hostility, and division.

It’s time for all of us to do our part to gain a greater understanding of everyone, including those whose ideals are in direct opposition to ours. It is the road that leads to hope and a thriving future for our children.

It’s true that when someone is “willing to give you the shirt off their back,” that that person is considered generous. But when we are able to truly listen and see things from the point of view of others, we may just find that those are some pretty big shoes to fill.

My thanks to Shelbey Fordyce on Unsplash for the wonderful picture and I look forward to your comments.

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