“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.” ~ Jack Handey
I remember one time, my youngest brother thought it would be clever to carve his initials, “J.D.B.” into the wet concrete in our neighbors freshly-poured driveway. Probably what you expect from a 13 year old! He and his buddy thought it would be funny, but what he did was selfish. He wasn’t thinking of the impact it might have on someone else, just did it for a good laugh. Maybe your kids have done something similar? Maybe you have a similar memory from your days?
There was much punishment involved (including paying for the repairs and also, writing the neighbors initials in sharpie on the face of his iPod…my parents were painfully clever!), but one in particular that I’ll never forget. My dad made him wear other people’s shoes for a month. If they were going to someone’s house, he would ask them to let Jacob wear their shoes while they were there.
Dad called me on the way to Arkansas one day and asked Val and I to set out some shoes for my brother while they visited over the weekend. I watched him walk around in my wife’s shoes…which was quite entertaining…but those expereiences were also eye-opening for him. I asked him what he had learned from the experience and he said, “I guess I was so wrapped up in my own little world that I forgot that people are affected by things I say and do. It makes you wonder where these shoes have been - how my words and actions might affect someone.”
Now he has certainly grown out of that stage of life, and is an incredible young man, but there is certainly something I think we can all take away from this.
"The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues." ~ Proverbs 17:27-28 (NIV)
Sometimes I think we would do good to walk in someone else’s shoes for a while. How often do we say and do things to people without even a thought of how it might affect them? Are we more concerned about putting other people down so we feel better about ourselves, or are we adding value to their lives?
I found this poem a few months back and I’ll leave you with this thought: What kind of trails do you leave?
“Every person has the power to make others happy. Some do it simply by entering a room others by leaving the room. Some individuals leave trails of gloom; others, trails of joy. Some leave trails of hate and bitterness; others, trails of love and harmony. Some leave trails of cynicism and pessimism; others trails of faith and optimism. Some leave trails of criticism and resignation; others trails of gratitude and hope. What kind of trails do you leave?” ~ William Arthur Ward