A Mile In Your Shoes

a mile in your shoesOnce upon a time, I was much less refined than I am now.  I was dogmatic and saw so much of life as black and white rather than appreciating the tension that exists all over the place.  It was simple and easy to compartmentalize things in one place or another rather than dealing with the ugly and messy work of dealing with tension.

It’s so much easier to come out with such extreme and absolute statements like, “I would never….” until you actually have an experience or condition that makes you eat your words.  Case in point is those young couples who are in their honeymoon/pre-children stage.  How many times, those of us who once were there, did we confidently list off the things that we would never do once we became parents?  I will never let my children sleep in my bed with us.  I will never let my children wear character clothing.  I will never let my children wear light-up sneakers.  I will never tell my kids things that make me sound like my parents.

Lo and behold, we find ourselves in a place where we are eating our words when life comes along and hands us the unexpected.  We soon discover that making platitudes about situations that we have not yet experienced can easily result in us looking as foolish as others once looked to us.  We find out that until we’ve walked a mile in the shoes or footsteps of someone else, we can’t always presume that we will “always” react a certain way.

Now, this can easily turn into a slippery slope.  I am not claiming that there are no certainties, absolutes, or even “black and white” situations in life.  I believe in absolutes and I believe that there are situations where we might speak more strongly, but I think that we need to be careful to make such strong proclamations before we’ve actually been faced with certain situations.

Again, a case in point, if a certain leader were to make claims from their ivory tower that they would never make a certain decision such as going to war against a country without any other support from any of his allies.  What would happen If that leader were to find himself smack dab in the middle of a situation where he was faced with that very decision, not while looking down from his ivory tower?  What would happen if he were facing that very situation head on and in the midst of the trenches?  He may be singing a different tune and even realizing that his earlier claims looked very different now than they did before he found himself in the middle of that very situation.

It’s a valuable lesson to learn for those of us who find ourselves in positions of leadership.  Too many times, I can make snap judgments without really putting myself in the position of someone else.  While there are certain times that call for snap judgments, there are also times when changing your perspective can be helpful to see things differently.  Just some food for thought.

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