“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.” - Jack Handey
Humor aside, Handey had a fine point when he stated this quote. I’ll be the first person to admit to being a critical person; I offer criticism of everything from society to politics to human behavior.
On a more personal level, I think many of us tend to look at the people around us and come to inaccurate conclusions about their choices and attitudes. I know I certainly do. I sometimes look at other people who I perceive as living a good life and think, “How on earth are you not jumping for joy everyday with the life that you’re living? I would give anything to have the experience(s) you’re having.” Or I look at someone else who may not be making the choices that I would make and I wonder, “Why? Why on earth would someone make such a “bad decision?”
Have you ever done this?
It’s easy to forget that most of us present “our best selves” to those around us. We try to hide our imperfections and insecurities even to those we’re close to. I know I do sometimes. None of us want to admit that we have weak moments and terrible failures and that we hurt; and some days we hurt deeply.
Recently, I had dinner with a friend and to many people, she is someone they would trade lives with in a heart beat. She is beautiful; and not your every day beautiful girl but someone who literally turns heads. Then there is the fact that she is one of the most intelligent people you will probably ever come across. She’s educated, and has had the privilege of having some amazing world experiences. She’s cultured and fun to be around and most importantly, she has a good heart. When I’m hanging out with her, sometimes, I feel a little inadequate.
I’ve known her for only a short while now and we’ve both bonded over our failures in the last year. Life has just not gone the way we’ve planned. But when I look at her and the choices that she has at her disposal, I think, “How on earth can you complain?” I do this because I forget that her hurts are her own and I will probably never understand them and feel them like she does. Her insecurities and uncertainty about the future is something I can’t understand because I am not the one living them; I’m not the one in her shoes.
That’s the thing we forget whenever we compare our lives to others. We see this picture of a beautiful life; a life without struggle, but we don’t see the pain and the hurt; we don’t walk in their shoes.
With this in mind I guess Handy’s quote may be a little unpractical in everyday life so perhaps it’s worth it to leave you with another reminder about offering our criticism to others. Trying to walk in someone else’s shoes is a little difficult; maybe it’s not really possible so before we draw our conclusions, it would do us some good to think of this:
“Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something.”