Depeche Mode, “Walking in My Shoes”

Today I was checking out the blog of Miss Swiss who left a very thoughtful comment here recently. 

The first post that I saw on her blog contained the following quote by William Wordsworth, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should see sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” With the text was a photo from the war in Cambodia of young Khmer Rouge soldiers. Although the post was fairly short, and on the surface, very simple, it put the finger on something I’ve been grappling with for some time.

I would say that one of the things that has characterised my life is poor impulse control.

I remember about 12 years ago, I was crossing a rather wide and busy road that had some construction work with low barriers in the middle. I quickly walked across, and as I neared the barriers I broke into a run to vault over them, but for some reason I hesitated and stopped at the barrier, which was a good thing because there was a 10 metre (about 30ft) drop onto the road of a tunnel that was being constructed below. Every now and again I remember this incident and it nearly makes me sick to think how close I came to either death or at the very least, serious harm.

It’s not just the near misses I’ve had with physical dangers that make me wince with horror, it’s also some of the thoughtless things that I’ve done socially. 

Over the last decade or so, I’ve been trying to control my urge to charge into judgement and conflict with other people, by holding back, and trying to think about another’s position. Once in a while my hesitation has saved me from embarrassment and anguish as further information has come to light. Just like the near miss at the road barrier, the thought of how close I’ve come to trampling over other people’s feelings has made me mentally groan with white hot shame at how my instincts can be so hair-triggered and so wrong.

In his very famous book,  “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, Dale Carnegie uses as an example, Bruno Hauptmann’s (the guy that was sentenced to death for the abduction and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s baby back in 1932) opinion of himself as a basically decent person (it has been since argued by some, that he was innocent).  I suspect that the point that Carnegie was trying to make, was that for most people there is some kind of justification that they can use to rationalise their motivation to do things, that others would think of as wrong.

This takes me back to the Wordsworth quote at the beginning of this post and how it reminded me of how it can be instructive to try and see why other people have the “stance” that they do, and to try and figure out what their motivations are. 

As I was thinking about these matters, Depeche Mode’s song, “Walking in My Shoes” started to play in my mind.

[youtube t5EO8tEpVYg]

“I would tell you about the things
They put me through
The pain I’ve been subjected to
But the Lord himself would blush
The countless feasts laid at my feet
Forbidden fruits for me to eat
But I think your pulse would start to rush

Now I’m not looking for absolution
Forgiveness for the things I do
But before you come to any conclusions
Try walking in my shoes
Try walking in my shoes

You’ll stumble in my footsteps
Keep the same appointments I kept
If you try walking in my shoes
If you try walking in my shoes

Morality would frown upon
Decency look down upon
The scapegoat fate’s made of me
But I promise now, my judge and jurors
My intentions couldn’t have been purer
My case is easy to see

I’m not looking for a clearer conscience
Peace of mind after what I’ve been through
And before we talk of any repentance
Try walking in my shoes
Try walking in my shoes”