THE BLOG

Walk in the Shoes of Another and Watch Extreme Views Soften

03/27/2013 06:30 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

Sen. Portman has changed his views on gay marriages. While in Congress, the conservative Republican senator from Ohio voted for a bill prohibiting gay couples in Washington from adopting children. He voted for the Defense of Marriage Act and supported the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Then the personal reveal happened. His son shared with him that he is gay and suddenly the strong views and beliefs softened and his political position changed. He announced publicly that he is now in favor of gay marriage.

After the announcement, some have lashed out and listed him in the ranks of famous "political flip-floppers," some are suspicious of his political motivation and timing of his change in views and still others are singing his praises for this "brave" public change of heart.

I tend to lean in the direction of believing that the easy path is to maintain strong beliefs and opinion that are unwavering. To stand on a platform of absolutes and to hold firm to black and white thinking of what is right and wrong not only for ourselves but for other as well. A much more complex and difficult path is the one that makes us look at the world through the eyes of another. To walk in somebody else's shoes, which forces us to challenge our biases and preconceived beliefs and it opens us up to the possibility that we can never really know the right path for another.

It is certainly easier to think like Mr. Gingrich, who was quoted as saying, "I think when you have somebody in your immediate family who comes in, you have three choices: You can say, 'I believe my principles so much, I'm kicking you out.' You can say, 'I still believe in my principles, but I love you.' Or you can say, 'Gee, I love you so much I'm changing my principles.'" Perhaps Mr. Gingrich missed the point. It doesn't have to be about changing our principles but rather about dictating those principles for others.

It is clearly easier to judge others and stand on a platform and proclaim to know the absolute truth not only for yourself but for others as well. Then when we are confronted with an opportunity to walk in the shoes of another, it suddenly seems more complicated. However, walking in the shoes of another is not a simple task. It requires us to actively listen. That is, to mute our loud filtering voice, the one that is already making assumptions and conclusions before we even enter into the conversation. It requires the ability to truly step into what is being said and hear the words and listen to the meaning while consciously monitoring our voice of bias and judgment. It is only then that we are truly able to walk in the shoes of another and understand the world through their perspective.

To quote Thoreau: "Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?" This is a strong reminder for all of us but particularly for individuals who have been granted the authority to make decisions for others.