Their Shoes

Their Shoes” is the name of a poem in my book, currently in publication. The excitement is building. It highlights the need to withhold judgments. Until we have the entire story. Why do we judge? This is my take. For some, it’s second nature. It’s simpler to assign labels. They often facilitate interaction with others. It’s also a form of laziness. Really, who has time to figure it out? It’s better than being wrong. Unquestionably so.  Furthermore, it defeats the purpose of what we are trying to sell. Who hasn’t labeled someone? Or something? I have. You too. We are scared of what we don’t know. Especially if it threatens how we see the world. How things should be. Or not. We’ve all felt the sting of being judged unfairly. A bitter taste in the mouth.

 At first glance, some people seem worthy of wrath. Judgment. Condescension.  Let’s be honest. We’ve all appointed ourselves as chief prosecutor, jury, and judge over a person. Situation. An opinion. A lot more. Some judgments have been swift. Harsh. Unforgiving. They came as fleeting thoughts. Non-verbal actions. Turning the head in another direction. An outright, thoughtless remark. Regretted later. Or given justification for thoughts. And actions. Let’s examine a few circumstances.

The homeless and indigent. Yes. Let’s go there. We’ve all done it. Avoided eye contact. Crossed swiftly to other side. Secretly hoped not to be noticed. Squirmed when discovered. We’ve judged them. Scowled. Eyed them in disdain. Chose your narrative. Logical arguments exist for helping. Or not. In comparison, some have given spare change. Or food.Clothing.Volunteered at a local shelter. Stopped to chat. If you have. Thanks for your example. Your giving heart. Kind nature. I would like to think no one would choose to be homeless. Furthermore, I can safely assume you’ve never been homeless. My apologies if you have.

Permit me to extend an invitation. To all of us. The next time we see someone sitting on the ground. Panhandling on the busy highway. Standing with outstretched hands. Think for a moment. It could be me. Refrain from categorizing them. I bet it’s safer to do so. Homelessness is not a disease. Nor a raging virus. A homeless person is someone’s son. Daughter. Brother. Sister. Parent. With real feelings. Character. Hopes.

A wife in an abusive relationship. Come next year, I hope to extend my volunteer interests to a local battered women shelter. Chances are we know someone who has been abused. Or worse, in our eyes, stays with an abuser.  I won’t sugarcoat the issue. Unless you have lived with an abuser. In any form. Physical. Mental. Emotional. Sexual. Verbal. Psychological. You have no clue what an abused person must endure. You hear stories. See the scars. The bruises. The distant, drawn, painful look on their faces. You can guess. Empathize. You still have no idea. Sure, she can just leave. Take the kids. Before something truly serious happens. Or worse. Do this: Google “power and control wheel” See what you discover. Or think you know about domestic violence.

Ever wonder how things got out of control? Why she seems to allow it? I often wonder the type of childhood an abused wife had. I wonder if she has anyone to turn to. Maybe she tried to leave. But he always finds her. Made threats on her life. She is broken. Spent. Empty. There is nothing left to give. Her eyes are distant. Hollow. A shadow of her old self. Why can’t she just get up and walk away from it? I mean who would stay? Stop. Wear her shoes for a minute. A day. The years she has endured.

We have all done it. Passed judgment. Committed victim blaming. Condemned her to remain in her rough life. After all she chose to stay. Here are some reasons why women stay. The kids. Famous reason. Typical answer. Learned behavior-it happened to their mothers. They don’t know any other way. Trauma also affects a victim’s way of thinking. They employ short term coping strategies. Eventually, a woman will empathize with her abuser. Forgive. Even pity him. Some are unable to step back and look at the situation. So. Next time, you meet a woman who stays in an abusive relationship. Do not be so quick to judge. You do not live her life. You don’t know why she chose to stay. Instead, try to offer support. Encouragement. A listening ear. It could be you. Or your daughter. Mother. Niece. Sister.

An addictive personality. We all have vices. Sometimes they transform into addictions. Food. Drugs. Sex. Exercising. Attention. Internet. Alcohol. Painkillers. People pleasing. Shopping. Gambling. Pornography. Too many to list! It’s not always easy to recognize an addiction. Many are adept at hiding it. There is no single cause to explain addiction. It can be biological. Social. And psychological. It starts with an exposure. Then shifts to dependence. Addiction is a broad, all encompassing topic. This post barely skims the topic. Furthermore, we might never know the reason(s) behind someone’s addiction. The battles they fight within the confines of their hearts. We don’t know what it feels like to put on their shoes every morning

In our shoes, it’s easier to point the finger.  Shake our heads in disbelief. Spew words of condemnation. Criticize. Adjudicate. In their shoes. It’s a constant daily struggle. One you and I will perhaps never experience. The dependence has taken over their lives. Held them hostage. Giving the appearance of failure. In their eyes. The eyes of their family. Friends. Anyone that matters. Perhaps you and I have never suffered from an addiction. Be thankful. Pray that it never happens. Because tomorrow, it could be you. Or me. Or someone we know. Likewise, if you have had to overcome an addiction. You have worn their shoes. You know what it felt like.

The purpose of this post is to highlight the battles others face. Battles which make it easier to judge. Get on soapboxes. Hold meetings. There are many evils in the world. Things of greater consequence. Do not add to the hate. The strife. It is very rare when we can do a lot, by doing nothing at all. In this case, by not judging. Yes behaviors can be frustrating. Hard to understand. Painful to watch. Cause sleepless nights. But, we can try to develop the ability, to see life through their eyes. To avoid arguments as much as possible. Try to understand what a day in their life is like. Perhaps write about it. Research. Continue to love them. Regardless of your feelings toward the addiction. Someone else might need to walk in your shoes. One day.

Love this:” Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that who cares?…He is a mile away and you’ve got his shoes” Bill Connolly.

This is my take, what’s yours?

Until the next post…


Juan Williams

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