When someone we know goes through something difficult, it can be tempting to assume that how they feel in the midst of it is the same as what we would feel were we in their shoes. But we’re not.
Because we think we know how they are feeling, we assume we know what they need to do. But we don’t.
Years ago when I made the decision to leave my marriage I met with one of the pastors of our church. It was hands-down the hardest decision I’d ever made for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which was the poor light in which the church cast divorce. That being said, I felt certain of my decision, and hopeful for a different future. But sittting in his office I braced myself for his words, expecting to hear that while he might understand how I was feeling, he needed to help me see the error of my ways and how I could remedy them. However, after a few quiet moments, he simply said, I know what I am supposed to say, but I haven’t walked in your shoes. How are you feeling today? How can I best help you?
I’ve never forgotten that experience. Rather than burdening me with his expectations, he lightened the load of my experience. When someone is in the midst of the inevitable pain that comes with life, they are most in need of our quiet presence and a few simple words.
I know what I am supposed to say, but I haven’t walked in your shoes. How are you feeling today? How can I best help you?
With gratitude to DR for knowing that we wore different shoes.