We know variations of the old saying, “Walk in my shoes…” but all state the same basic fact: One could not truly understand the depth of another’s experience until they experience it personally.
A deeper look at, “Walk in my shoes… ” Is it always necessary? When it is and when it isn’t, and why!
Some, challenge outsiders to walking for a mile or experience at least for a day in order to understand another’s situation. The question is, for what purpose? Why? Is the purpose to judge or to empathize?
There is a huge difference between doubting the degree of pain or emotional distress another is experiencing, or morbid curiosity and the process of empathizing with someone you respect and value.
In my opinion, “judging” another is a negative action implying whether the reality of a person’s situation is true.
“Empathizing,” on the other hand, is a positive effort to understand another whom you value regardless of their situation. It implies willingness, knowledge and effort.
For these reasons I applaud those who empathize with the person experiencing a dire situation directly and feel sorry for those who judge. It is the latter group to whom the saying “walk in my shoes needs to apply.”
This being said, the function of closed support groups is invaluable. Emotional support groups, such as most survivors of suicide loss groups only accept families and friends affected directly by one of life’s major emotional tragedies, including the facilitators.
All support groups to which I belonged in one capacity or another were closed groups and at the time I was convinced anyone who hadn’t been personally affected had no place in the group.
I’m still convinced of the value of personal experiences to truly understand, but is it always the best? How about professionals who spend a life-time studying a topic and helping people without necessarily having gone through it personally?
This is an open question and would love to hear your opinions.
Is WALKING IN ONE’S SHOES ALWAYS A MUST AND WHY?
With best wishes,
M.S. Counseling and Clinical Psychology
(Life’s Cross-Roads Coaching)