Walk A Mile In Their Shoes?
"Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes."
Never criticize anyone until you put yourself in their place?I suppose the idea is that you must empathize more & criticize less. And that you shouldn't talk unless you know from experience that in the other person's place, under the same pressures you would have made better choices.
This quotation or something equivalent are often thrown at me. Am accused of being too critical. Seems I've been that way since early childhood. A teacher wrote in one of my second grade reports that I would do much better if I spent less time correcting the other student's work. It's true. Have memories of teachers yelling at me to go back to my seat when I'd be standing behind one of my friends, telling him or her what they're doing wrong.It started with my friends asking for my help but then it became a habit.
And now?Have I managed to stifle the urge to correct?Unfortunately not. Seems to be getting worse with old age.
Going back to the above quotation, why does it make such little sense to me?Several reasons:
1)For me criticism is usually an act of empathy in itself. Don't bother to criticize people unless I like/admire/respect/love or otherwise care for them & think they can do better & actually want them to. People I disrespect or dislike simply don't interest me or keep my attention long enough for me to analyze or criticize them. Added to which, if someone falls off my radar screen in that way I really stop having any good expectations of them so why bother to criticize them if they're hopeless anyway?
2)Seems to me that if you are not walking in someone's shoes, if you're the outsider looking in, then you're more objective because you're less involved.Stands to reason that it's harder to see the big picture when you're in the middle of it.Besides does it make sense that if I see someone about to walk off the edge of a cliff I shouldn't say anything to them because I personally never walked off the edge of the cliff before?Does it seem appropriate then to be thinking oh well they might have their own good reasons for what they're doing?If it was me walking off the edge of that cliff I'd sure want someone to do something about it!
3)The underlying assumption here is that if you criticize people a lot it must be because you think you're perfect or superhuman. In my experience this is false. If you have a critical personality you're usually difficult to impress or satisfy & you'll be that way with yourself more than anyone else because obviously you see your own imperfections more clearly than anyone else's. Criticizing others doesn't make me feel better about myself at all.Nothing really makes me feel better about myself if I think I've messed up.
4)Popular belief would have it that criticism discourages people. And that if someone is already upset or suffering from the consequences of their own actions you're being insensitive if you remind them of what they did wrong. Instead you should give them sympathy & help them to forget.
Am I the only ones who thinks this is nonsense?If I am feeling down NOTHING makes me feel worse than for someone to come give me a hug & say oh you poor, unfortunate woman etc...It makes me feel helpless & that makes me panic. Don't make me feel like a powerless victim. Don't encourage me to overindulge in self-pity. Nothing positive or encouraging about feeling sorry for yourself & mad at the world. Ok give me the hug but do please criticize. Tell me how I could have done better. Make me believe there IS something I can do to improve the situation. I'd rather make myself feel like the villain of the piece than the helpless victim. The villain has power - he can decide to reform himself. The victim can do nothing but take it.I'll never understand what comfort people derive from conspiracy theories & making themselves out to be victims. It seems so depressing to me.
Yesterday a friend(M. - the one with the husband who flirts online) was saying to me that she doesn't know why she keeps coming back to me with her problems when she knows I'll always blame her for them. Then she thought about it & decided that the reason is that on the rare(?) occasions when I say she was blameless it makes her feel like a saint.Didn't know quite how to take that.