In Another’s Shoes

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

I read a quote yesterday that has stayed with me. I thought that it may be a quote that can help me in my work with parents in family court, but it is really an excellent quote for everyone and every situation. The quote comes from the book, “The Art of Crossing Cultures” by Craig Sorti.

We cannot put ourselves in another’s shoes,

or rather, we can,

but they are still our own two feet we will feel.”

~ Sorti

What is your journey? Can anyone else ever fully understand it?

In my own journey, I’ve been a mediator, trying to balance the needs and goals of two or more people. Being the middleman can be difficult work, but with the right skills, you can drill down to shared goals or underlying issues and try to find common ground. While there is often common ground to be found, no one is really ever in the same exact place with the same footing. Life experiences are different. Motivations are different. Our choices are our own. Other people may not agree with a choice someone makes because it would not be the choice they would make if they found themselves in the same position, but that doesn’t mean that it is a bad choice. It may lead them to get something else they really want or it may simply achieve peace instead of equality. As long as the person understands what it is they are agreeing to, the choice to do so is their own.

No matter whose shoes you are wearing, the feel of them is your own. You are accountable for the choices you make. Make them wisely. You are responsible for the way you feel. Own your feelings. The shoes you wear are not what will get you to your destination. Shoes can’t get there on there own. They are a tool for you to make it easier to walk the path and to protect you when you encounter hurtful things along the way or when the path feels too hot or too cold for you.

For the past couple of decades, there has been a focus on empathy, meaning to put yourself in someone else’s shoes as if you were them. Empathy has been the goal of almost every system known to man for at least 20 years. While empathy is a good thing, some of the impact of being focused on others more than self has brought with it a society that can’t figure out who they are or where they want to go in life. It was always based on a lie. We can put ourselves in someone else’s shoes but we will never be them. Never. All we can do is imagine who we want them to be or who we want to believe they are.

A lot of these trends have come from Emotional Intelligence. While I am a big fan of emotional intelligence and often teach people about the topic so that they can work on developing their people skills, I have to say, I have seen the trend of putting all of one’s focus solely on the needs of others lead to confusion and relationship problems. As Aristotle said:

Self awareness is the beginning of wisdom.


But even before Aristotle, God demonstrated the way to all understanding:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

James 1:5

The power to have deep, meaningful relationships involves wisdom, understanding and a well developed sense of self. the knowledge of who you are and what you need has to come before trying to figure out who others are and what they need. When people focus on others without knowing themselves or loving themselves, they tend to try becoming who the other person wants and not who they were created to become.

Accept the feet you have and the feel of the shoes you wear. They are a symbol of where you stand. If you don’t like where you stand, move onto somewhere else, but you don’t have to do it alone. You can find someone who is comfortable in their own shoes and invite them to walk beside you. Most of all, don’t forget. To really know yourself is to know God so you can ask him about your purpose and find out who He created you to be.

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