Walk a Mile in My Shoes

Gonna change directions here today as the death of Whitney Houston coincides with something I am seeing more and more in the disability community.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you like Whitney Houston. What I am disappointed to see is some of the comments and “hatin’ on” this artist since her death. I actually saw on one person’s Facebook that drug addicts and alcoholics get what they deserve. “Someone with so much talent shouldn’t have wasted it”

Wow. I mean REALLY?

Unless you were thrust into fame and fortune at a relatively young age…

Unless you had to deal with the media on a daily basis, giving up any hope of privacy…

Unless you married for love and were crushed by disappointment…

Unless you raised a child as best you could in the backdrop of an industry that can be unforgiving…

Unless you developed an addiction because of life’s crushing problems and entered rehab while the whole world knew it…

Unless you made mistakes and fell back into bad habits – all while the whole world watched…

… then keep your mouth shut about Whitney Houston.

Why Does This Upset Me? Why Should it Upset YOU?

Anytime people begin to criticize and judge someone else a change takes place. Amnesia.

I rarely hear someone criticize and judge someone who is just like THEM. It usually happens when someone is different than you are. Criticizing is easy when we don’t walk in that person’s shoes. Judging is a simple task when we cannot hope to understand what really caused someone to do something when they are different than we are. We forget all the times we have been hurt for being judged and criticized by people who do not understand our own choices in life.

Wanna get me ticked off? Criticize and judge someone who chose to mitigate their disability with a service dog when you don’t live with a disability. Sometimes even others within the disability community may scratch their head and wonder why a person would choose a service dog when “they have the same disability you do”. What they may not know is that there ARE various differences between your disabilities. Your lives may be different. They may have 24/7 help that you do not have access to in your own life. Why don’t we celebrate “whatever works”?

In the hearing loss community, I know people who criticize people who don’t allow “nature to take its course” and embrace their deafness. To some, if you do not learn ASL then you are shunning a community that could be your family. For others who have accepted technology and/or surgery to stay connected to the hearing world, they may criticize those who have learned ASL for various reasons – personal reasons! I know people who criticize other people’s choices about hearing aids or cochlear implants. Why are we prone to criticize anyone who makes a different choice than what we have made for ourselves?

I think perhaps it is a form of self-protection. We may somehow feel that if someone who is very similar to us chose another path, that their choice may mean that our own path was a wrong one. It may be a form of defensiveness. If we see someone successful at living life with a disability, we may feel the need to criticize because we still have some problems with our own disability. If we see someone floundering at living life with a disability – and they chose another path? Many point and say, “I told you so”.

We could all learn to be more compassionate. We could all learn to listen more and keep our mouths shut.

When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” –
Wayne Dyer

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” –
Mother Teresa

What May Happen if You Reserve Judgment

If you can keep your opinions to yourself, you may just make some discoveries:

You didn’t understand why they did what they did until you got to know them better.

You misunderstood their choice

After learning more about the person, you actually agree with their choice.

After time you find that you still would have done it differently yourself, but it seems to work for them.

If you can keep your negative opinions to yourself and instead pray for and encourage that person, you may discover a…

FRIEND who has the same taste in shoes!

Denise Portis

© 2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

4 thoughts on “Walk a Mile in My Shoes

  1. Denise – This post rings so true to me. Before my hearing loss diagnosis, it was easy for me to judge anyone I found odd or struggling. It took years and years of losing the ability to hear—not being able to hear my children cry as babies, or hear them laugh in the back seat of the car—before I learned one simple word. Compassion.

    My heart aches for the Houston and Brown families. My heart aches for the pain that Whitney endured. Someone very close to me who is no longer with us struggled with the same kind of pain. For the longest time, the one regret I had was that I didn’t show as much compassion to my loved one when she was hurting. Could I have done more to help her? Could I have been more understanding in some way?

    My hearing loss journey has taught me that pride always come before a fall. When I am feeling good about myself (only to make fun of others), I am one step away from a traumatic lesson. Every day is a gift to love others. If I choose today to love instead of ridicule, I am learning compassion. If I choose to keep my judgmental thoughts to myself, I am learning self control… and compassion.

    It all comes back to the one word.

  2. Denise, I have connected with you as a friend of a friend, at first to be Farmville players. I feel fortunate to have made the connection because you have opened my eyes (ears) to being more aware of people with visible and invisible disabilities. Thank you for being so open in your sharing and helping those of us who do not share your particular disability to better understand what it means to you. This post will help me remember not to jump to judgement–of all kinds of folks.

  3. Denise– This is so true and one of my petpeeves– People judging others based on whatever and dont take a minute and think that one day it could be them walking in our shoes…. I always try to show compassion towards others that are not as fortunate as I am… Yes we do make our choices in our life journey but it is OUR choice not others… We choose to define ourselves with what would be best at that particular moment in time..

  4. Denise,

    Thank you so much! Really, all of us, even Christians, should take inventory of ourselves by reading this article and hopefully walk away with a better understanding of how we relate to people.

    RIP Whitney!

    Angela Hill (Profoundly deaf)

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