John drove up to the drive through and ordered his drink. In a hurry for an important meeting, he was eager to get it and go. At the window he was mistakenly given something he had not ordered. In a rush, a bit anxious, he responded, “Oh no problem. This must be for the person behind me. (smiling) I’ll wait for mine. You must be cold in this wintry weather with the window open.” He could however have responded this way, (loudly, and scowling) “How could this be? I clearly ordered another drink. Do you have a hearing problem? Now I will be late for work! Could I speak to your manager?” Fortunately when John’s inner emotional glass was jarred, he chose kindness. Imagine how the barista felt. John had put on the her shoes.
Imagine your inner emotional world as a glass filled with all the raw emotions of life; anger, fear, kindness, joy, love, disgust, surprise, trust to name a few. At the moment your emotional glass is jarred one of those emotions will spill out. It may be reactive and negative, or responsive and positive. Given the stimuli you faced, this will say a lot about you, and what controls your inner world at that moment. It also speaks to how you choose in the moment. No matter how much time we have between stimulus and response, a choice is made. We can choose to put on the others shoes, or not.
How we nuance all human situations, no matter the jarring of our emotions without exception, is key. What spills out after being jarred speaks to who we are. And stepping into the shoes of the other frames our response.
Consider humor. This is a wonderful way of provoking laughter and amusement. It can be found in a simple comic book, a comment, a joke, simple irony, a comedic routine. Humor helps to release healthy emotions which might be pent up, and frozen, relaxing us. However some of humor can be defined within the scope of passive aggressive behaviour, which puts something or someone down, or is insulting. Comedians are the best at this art form. Not all humor from comics is passive aggressive. Passive aggressive comments come in the form of sarcasm, rudeness, insults, shaming words, guilt. Individuals known for this characteristic, are kept at a safe distance. It is for the most part maladaptive behaviour. Some of the worst bullies use this form of humour. They insult the shoes the other wears.
How we relate and communicate to others, and inwardly to ourselves, can come from a source of adaptive or maladaptive functioning. Another way of looking at it could be emotional maturity vs childishness. It can come in how we nuance comments, relationships and life in general. Gossip is a form of maladaptive behaviour. It murders another’s reputation and integrity. Maladaptive behavior can also be very manipulative. It occasionally speaks through covert comments, or double entendre. Foul sarcastic humour also serves a maladaptive purpose. It keeps others at bay. Adaptive people are the ones we like being with. They live within a world bounded by great integrity. These are the people we want to be around, and desire to emulate.
In the Christian experience, relationships are key. This is the Jesus way. For example; Paul said, “In all humility, consider others better than yourselves.” Empathy is about taking your shoes off and “putting on the others shoes.” When we have an advance sense of how the other will feel, we will want to moderate our comments. This is because we will have worked out what it is like having put on the others shoes. And we want the wearing of their shoes to be an emotionally comfortable fit. So when the glass has been jarred we want the response to be something we would want for ourselves. An important adage is, “talk to the other as you speak to a deeply loved person.”
When Jesus’ emotional glass was jarred God spilled out. Jesus always put on the shoes of the one he was addressing. The Fruit of the Spirit can be our response. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Self-Control. Under this influence, and like Jesus God can spill out.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15