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Walking a mile in another’s shoes can be a good thing

By Staff | Jan 14, 2011

I have often wondered why people are so quick to judge a situation and condemn without knowing the facts. It happens all too often.

My mom gave me the best advice I ever got as a child when she told me “Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you actually see for yourself.” I did not fully realize the importance of that statement until I was an adult, but I did learn the lesson as I was growing into adulthood. Even situations you think you see may have a very different explanation and it makes perfectly good sense once you hear it.

No one knows someone else’s job unless he/she walks in that person’s shoes. Even if you have done that particular job before, you may not know what thinking was behind any decisions made.

Once I knew a pastor of a church who was counseling a person who was struggling with life. The pastor was seen driving his car with this person, a young lady, in it. The immediate assumption by some of the people who saw them together was that they were having an affair. Speculation was rampant, just because the two were riding in the same car together.

The young lady was married with small children and the pastor was also married and had older children. The pastor had, most likely, learned that the young lady would speak her thoughts more openly if she didn’t have to look at the pastor while talking to him. Riding in the car is a great place to talk uninterrupted.

As time played out, the pastor counseled the young lady and she got her life back on track and even joined the church. There was no affair. Both people conducted themselves appropriately and both are still married to their spouses and raising their kids. But the damage to their reputations remains. All because someone saw something, interpreted it without getting the facts, and then “shared” their information with others.

How about if you were the one getting the counseling? You know you have integrity, so it would all be all right. Why not assume those other two people had integrity as well? Why is it necessary to “share” information we think we know? Why do we get to judge someone else’s situation?

Just recently, I heard two rumors that were being spread about town, these happened to be about businesses. I did what I usually do. I address the issue with the person directly involved and tell them what I have heard. In each case, the business person was amazed that the rumor was going around and responded that there was no truth in the rumor at all. In each case, they wondered how the rumors got started. I couldn’t enlighten them because I had heard it spoken as a ‘done deal’ from several different people.

Apparently, someone saw or heard something and without checking the facts, “shared” that information with someone else and we all know how that story grows as it is passed from person to person.

Before sharing information, put yourself in the shoes of the person whose information is being shared. Ask yourself the question, will anything good come from sharing this information? Maybe, you will want to reconsider.

Kelly Barta is The Tribune’s editor.

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