Imagine this. You are in a room with a bunch of people you have never met. They come from varying backgrounds, races, religions, ethnicities and countries – a complete melting pot. You are then told that you need to place one of your shoes in the center of the room.
And, just when you think you’ve been pushed out of your comfort zone, there’s still more to come!
Once all the shoes are gathered in the center, a further instruction follows. You must return to the center to put on the shoe. But wait! Not your own shoe! You must pick from the vast array in front of you and put on someone else’s shoe.
Now visualize this. There are sandals, boots, trainers, stilettos, red, black, navy blue. Some are glittery, others are matte; some are squeaky clean, others desperately need a wash; some are brand new, others need to be disposed of. Would you be comfortable putting your feet into a stranger’s shoe? Would you be willing to walk a few steps in that shoe?
Take a moment here and write down or verbalize to yourself the words that come to mind on how being in this experience would make you feel.
Space for your expression in words:
Imagine now the owner of the shoe. What do you think he/she would be feeling watching you in their shoe?
Now you’ve given this more thought (I hope), can you wonder what the point of all this is?
Think back to your recent past. Think of the judgements you formed about strangers you saw and never knew. Many of us love to people watch (many restaurants face outward for this very reason, so you can have a place to sit, enjoy your meal and observe the passers-by) so now that you can, think about that time you noticed the way someone was oddly dressed, the way they walked, spoke and looked and how you chose to see them. Judgement. Preconceived Judgement. Labels. Your version of the truth – not theirs. We’re all guilty.
But what if the very person you judged had a story that would soften you, a story you never know when you judged them? Perhaps all of the trauma that could fall on someone fell on them, trauma resulting from loss of loved ones or chronic and severe illness. Perhaps they were a victim of abuse, bullying or other vices. But when you judged them you immediately forgot that behind all that judgement was a real being. One who has experienced pain that you never have, trauma that you hope to be spared of and a desire to be heard, supported and held.
So, the next time you are about to judge a random person, try to picture your life in their shoes. Try to keep in mind that you are judging a tiny aspect of their complex being, of which you know nothing about. And maybe this exercise will come to mind and remind you to be more consciously aware that your judgements hurt you more than the one you judge. It damages the essence of your soul and scrapes away at the essence of who you are by hardening your heart. And when many of us function in this manner we lose focus of the very purpose we have been created for, to live wholly, co-existing in a peaceful and caring coexistence. Let this be the motivation you need towards becoming a more empathic, supportive, less judgmental version of you.