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”

 

12 thoughts on “Depeche Mode, “Walking in My Shoes””

  1. Hey, there, down under. I also thought Miss Swiss’s comment was interesting and shall go visit her blog soon, something I’ve not been doing enough of these days for some reason..not visiting new blogs, I mean. Anyway, this whole Depeche Mode song is fascinating because (to me) it reads like one big rationalization of one’s self indulgent behavior they’re really not looking for a clearer conscience or really reptentent of anything, but just the admonition to try walking in my shoes and then we’ll talk.

    You seem to saying quite clearly you have some regrets. I think your song is more truth filled.

    Maybe I’m not reading it right? Or hearing it right? You are not the only one to go off a bit too quickly. Ahem. Not that I know anyone like that at all…

  2. Pat

    I can see why you think of it as merely a self indulgent rationalisation, and I’d like to add that, that is what I think we forget to look at. It’s so easy to write off people’s excuses, but I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you that the reason why people feel the need to self justify is also an interesting thing to take into account, to help understand where they are coming from.

    Of course (as I’m sure you also know, but I’m letting you know, I know) it’s also unwise to shine too much of a spotlight all at once on the sorts of things that so many people have had hidden under the rocks in their heads for so long. As an old friend of mine once said to me, “you’re such a terrier the way you go after people and corner them”. He then went on to say to me, “when you corner people don’t be surprised when they come at you like a trapped rat”.

    Sure I’ve got regrets (who doesn’t?) but I’d like to think that I’m slowly reducing their frequency,…. and amplitude as well for that matter.

    I guess the point I was trying to make is that I’ve found it beneficial to try and “walk in other people’s shoes”.

  3. Points taken and all worth pondering for sure. As to sure I’ve got regrets (who doesn’t?)…I know many who do not. Don’t you a few? I’m wagerin’ the one who wrote the Depeche Mode song is one of them. Yep, it’s interesting to try and understand why someone would self justify…but, in my experience a bit more easily done when you are not in a close relationship with them as they are doin’ their self-justifin’.. Proximity to knee jerk self justifications can suck the oxygen right out of a relationship. That’s why I think your approach is refreshingly candid.

  4. Putting yourself in others’ shoes is universally good advice, I think… as is asking others to do the same for you (as in the song). But as with most things, moderation should rule. Otherwise it could be possible to lose oneself in an ocean of empathy.

  5. Pat

    I think that people who say that they don’t have any regrets are either straight out lying, in denial or just haven’t lived full lives.

    Wizzythestick

    Thanks for dropping by.

    Donald

    It’s funny, but as I get older, I realise how totally un-empathetic I was for most of my life. I’m sure some would say, borderline sociopathic.

  6. Personally, I’m a slow burner and a quiet thinker. I do like to move with some speed and determination, but when it comes to people, I tend to cut them a lot of slack, right up until they are either rude or cruel. THAT gets me and I have to work hard at not doing or saying something I’ll probably regret. I try to be a positive force. That’s the best any of us can do, after all. It’s just that it’s not always the first impulse. Sometimes, not even the second, fourth or twelfth. It’s the twelfth that’s the tough one.

    -TP

  7. Hi Razz! Thanks for checking out my blog. I had no idea anyone would see my post to the old thread, but it’s an important topic. Thank you very much for getting into it.

    This is discussion is just as interesting. I’m so happy to find blogs like yours.

    It’s fascinating where this thread has taken this quote. And it’s brought to mind another part of understanding that I hadn’t considered, which I think would be seeing where someone else is coming from in an argument, rather than being hot headed. I hadn’t even thought of that.

    That quote, to me, summed up everything I had been thinking for a while about hate. Racial tensions, civil unrest. Gangs..
    I was working with Salvadoran kids a few years back. The buzz was all about the incredibly brutal MS13 gang. But I realized what people weren’t talking about was the civil war that the country was still recovering from. Many of the gang members had been brutally assaulted by the paramilitary groups during the war. Kids had their parents killed in front of them; they watched their brothers and sisters get mutilated. They grew up with hate in their veins. And they have perpetuated what they have experienced.

    The wisdom, for me, in this quote, is for us to see that those who are committing violence, acting in this way, are often horribly wounded themselves. I think this is one of the most basic ways to rise above the injustice that has been done to you. To realize that the person who hurt you is just as hurt themselves. If you were abused by your father, realizing that your father was probably abused also. You feel his pain, and understand and maybe find the common ground to forgive. To release the hate in yourself. Then maybe because you no longer have so much anger and confusion, you are able to step outside of that pattern when it comes to your own kids…

  8. Turkish

    I think most people have good intentions, I just have to keep reminding myself.

    Swisses

    One of the good things about WordPress in that it let’s us know when comments comes, no matter the age of the original post.

    Your comments about the gangs reminds me of experiences my Step-Father (Manfred) had in Germany in the Second World War as a young teenager. Manfred saw his sister raped by Russian soldiers; had his cousin shot in the head as he was standing next to him; saw a summary execution carried out in a backyard by the Russians and his father was taken away to a concentration camp in Russia, never to be seen again.

    When people have been so brutalised they often cope by becoming quite callous and hard. I didn’t get along with Manfred for years, but as I’ve gotten older, I find it easier to understand his behaviour when I take into account his early experiences. It’s not that I’m trying to make excuses for Manfred, because he is a great guy, It’s just that it’s taken me years to see his inner beauty.

    Once again I return to that 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.”

    It’s just too bad it took me so long to learn this for myself.

  9. Myself and a friend bring up this question occasionally:
    “If you go through life thinking you are the greatest and everything you do is great, is that such bad thing?”

    I know why it’s wrong, from my point of view, on several different levels … but if the person living with this delusion never sees any negative aspects to their reality, does it make any difference to them?

    I’m still trying to find an answer to this one.

    Like Turkish Prawn, I’m slow to burn and can put up with a lot, but sometimes some people seem to ask for more than a lot … and then I will give them a lot of nothing forever after.

  10. Gosh. This is a deep thread. Firstly, having met you now I can say that I find you opinionated in a positive way. That’s probably because I’d rather be in the company of someone who tells it as he sees it rather than a fence sitter. Sure, we don’t always agree (but more often than not) but I’d rather be challenged by an opposing opinion than always agreed with. I think part of succeeding as a human is to recognise our own flaws before jumping in and judging others. My mother taught my brother and me to never judge others until we at least attempted to work out why they might be the way they are and why that might feel uncomfortable for us. So the walking in another’s shoes analogy is key to our upbringing. Although I must say that some of the greatest disappointments we’ve had is not being afforded that same consideration. Razz, I will sign off with this: in your life, what’s done is done. We all cringe at our past faults but you are a fine soul and the gentle, intelligent woman who saw the best in you should make you feel proud of yourself and your accomplishments. She married you for a reason and I am proud to have you both as friends. I

  11. Ross and Epic

    Sorry for taking so long to reply but I’ve been off line for four days now as I’ve be re-doing my study area.

    Ross

    “They” say, “ignorance is bliss”, which is fine for the ignorant but a pain in the butt for many of the others who have to deal with them. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that if one wants to participate a little more fully in society, it pays to give some consideration to where other people are coming from.

    Epic.

    Thank you so much for your lovely words. It’s a real shame you live so far away as I’d love to have you and your new husband over to dinner every now and again so my friends could meet you and, you them.

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