I Can Not Walk In Your Shoes

I had a discussion today with someone who I happen to love very much.  It wasn’t an easy discussion.  It was actually full of pain for both of us.   One comment made was that I, nor anyone else, has walked a mile in another’s shoes.

No I haven’t.  And I can’t.  I can not do that.   Nor, can anyone else walk that proverbial mile, in my shoes.

If I walked a mile in your shoes they would no longer be your shoes.  They would be mine.  I may be traversing a path you had set upon but my feet will not travel it the same.  I will step differently.  I will tread heavier, or lighter, or skip when you plod, or slow down where you may sprint.   Nor will my heart, my thoughts, and my reactions be identical to yours.   And even if I walk with you, no matter how closely I walk with you I can not walk a mile and experience your mile.

There are people in my life who I love very much.  And though I love them deeply and feel very close to them I don’t know their experiences like they know their experiences.  And they don’t know mine.  I hurt for what I perceive to be their pain.  And I celebrate what I perceive to be their joys.   But I bet I am not always right.  Because I know moments of my own celebrations I have stood alone because others didn’t understand.  And my deepest sobs were heard by no one but God Himself, because my pain was not felt by any one else.

I couldn’t ask another to walk in my shoes.  I couldn’t.  I think there are things that have happened in my life that I would never want another person to experience.  I have lived through them, and know that I can, I would not want anyone else to take that chance.  It was mine to face.   And face it, I did.

I wouldn’t ask another to walk in my shoes.  I wouldn’t!  I believe there are joys in my life that I would not want to give away to another.  They were mine to celebrate.  And celebrate with joy and gratitude I have.

My sorrows and my joys were experienced by me in the way that I was intended to celebrate and suffer them.  And even in the suffering, I learned there is joy.  There is joy in surviving, conquering and smashing the pains.  There is.  That is part of my path.  That I have discovered.  What if someone else, in their willingness to take my miles for me, missed the steps or stepped wrongly when I walked it myself and I found my strength.  My courage.  And my abilities.  What if in their generosity they walked my mile and tried to skip over and through the part that I dragged myself through to find my peace when I got to the end.  When, at that mile’s end,  I stood dirty, torn and battered.  But in my heart I carried the hope that I found in that very hard mile.

I do, sometimes, wish I could take my brother’s shoes and put them upon my feet.  My sister’s shoes.  My parent’s shoes.  My children’s shoes.  My Husband’s shoes. My friend’s shoes.   I wish I could walk in their shoes and experience for them the things I wish they did not have to experience.  But I know, deep down, I would not be able to do it.   Though I struggle with this, because it makes me feel like I have failed, failed you in your time of need.  It is sometimes more painful than I can express.   I suspect that any one of us has had this feeling, a helpless feeling of not knowing what to do so we resort to wishes.  I wish I could take the pain for you!  I wish I could get you through this!  I wish I could be the one because I could do this for you!  I wish…I wish it was different.

I recognize that I can not walk in your shoes.  The hardest miles of my life may very well be the miles I can’t walk for you.  The miles I walk that don’t include you.  The miles that pass beneath my life that you have walked out of.    If you would let me, I can walk by you.  I can walk with you.  I can walk to you.

In all truth I have not failed by not being able to walk in your shoes.

I fail, if I can not walk in mine.

33 thoughts on “I Can Not Walk In Your Shoes

  1. This is so true. No matter how hard we try to be objective we always look at things through glasses colored by our own past experiences. I’m sure everyone who reads this can apply it to people in their own lives. All the time I see people and wonder why they make the choices they do, but I never know their whole story. I’d like to think they are doing the best they can based on their situation and life experiences. I’m sure there are people who have questioned some of my choices, but they are my choices and I’m doing the best I can.


    • It’s so hard to see what others do and the choices made and not thing “we” could do better. But “we” don’t know that. I thing you’re right. And I think you’re doing the best you can all the time.


  2. Brilliant insight, my friend. Totally frickin’ brilliant. So many people don’t understand this most basic reality and therefore fail to live their own lives fully–so worried about what others think about this or that, that they forget to live the life they were called to. Love the line above about being able to walk with or to another. I’ve never heard that articulated quite so well. And if we don’t experience and feel our own pain fully, then we can’t experience the joys either.
    GREAT post!


    • Thanks Kathy! I find myself sometimes taking that “wishful” stance. And the frustration at not being able to “do” for someone is so heavy sometimes. And there were likely many times in my life that I thought “why me”. Well, why not me? I have to go through my life “on my own two feet”. No one else can do it for me. And I shouldn’t want them to. Thank you so much! Hugs! to you!


      • Oh, you are so welcome. I understand wanting to be able to walk in someones shoes for them–to take their pain–but it’s amazing to me, the more I realize pain is always personal and individual and even intensely private at times. I had forgotten about that, until I read your post. Hugs back atcha!


        • I know sometimes the pain is very private. And sometimes when you don’t want to be alone in your pain, you are. It’s so difficult, once we learn some of these lessons. It’s not easy, being human, is it? 🙂


  3. Perhaps you cannot (it’s oneword) walk in Husband’s shoes but the two of you are truly meant to share one life together. The same life.

    However, I will be happy to let you walk in my Japanese wooden clogs.


  4. Very perfectly stated. I am giving you a standing “o” for it….seriously. Not in my shoes, because I don’t wear them in the house 😉 An excellent piece of work.


  5. This is amazing because it tells the truth-we cannot walk in other people’s shoes, no matter how we keep saying we ought to. I just think we should accept that we can’t know another person’s experience and leave it at that. Accept people for what they are and walk away if we don’t like what they do. A wonderful article and real food for thought. Thank you so much.


  6. Very insightful article. How important it is to accept we may not be able to understand what someone is going through, but by own experiences we can offer them hope in time of distress and share in their joys in time of blessings! Patty


  7. Oh my…. how beautiful your words are… so powerful, meaningful! I loved how you wrote and described ‘walking in someone’s shoes’. Do you know that in my whole life I’ve never heard another person ‘say it so well’…. my hat’s off to you. Just …. beautiful… Granny Gee


  8. Very well put, you must be a wonderful friend. I think about what you say, try to relate it to my own life and the things I am trying to stop doing. Being a “pleaser”, taking responsibility for other peoples lives, feeling guilty because someone is going through a hard time. It is so hard when people you care about are struggling. Letting them struggle is probably the most loving thing we can do. It is their life, it will make them stronger and it is just life. For all of us. Love to you for being such a caring and wonderful person and being there for your friends.


    • Thank you, but this was just as much a reminder to me! It is often just as difficult being in our own shoes when someone else is suffering. And we “can’t” make it better. I agree with you. Loving others isn’t always easy! Thank you for your very kind words.


  9. What do you say to someone who seems discontent with life and whenever you try to encourage him, he says “Walk a mile in my shoes”.


    • That’s a tough one. I’m not sure. I guess it would depend on how close I was with him. Maybe offer to walk WITH him a mile. Or invite him to walk a mile with you. There’s so many reasons someone might say that. I hope you don’t give up on him. I know it can be discouraging when someone is unable to deal with their discontent. Sometimes all we can do is offer, and watch sadly as they make their choices. Heart breaking.


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