Walk a mile in my shoes or situation ethics

Whether you’re watching the news or listening to a friend there is always a time that you will hear her a story and wonder, how could that possibly happen? There were many times when I would listen to somebody’s story and wonder, both out loud and in private, how could this possibly happen. Every day if you watch the news you will hear a story that would just make you shake your head in disbelief.
Many times, I would to try and explain why somebody did something, they would say – walk a mile in my shoes and you will understand. For example, there is a woman with three children who continues to be abused by her male husband or friend. It was in total discuss that I would listen to the woman first complaining about what was happening and then six months later go back to that same man. Or there’s the young man who sells drugs in the street and then is caught, only to go back to the same streets as soon as he gets out of jail. There is the young man who is a senior in high school and he attempts to take his life.
Each time I would hear a story I would get mad at the person telling the story or just shake my head in disgust. I would hear the term – just walk a mile in my shoes and find it to be a lame excuse for what was happening. Later on, in life I became familiar with the term situation ethics. This made me look again at my judgment and discussed of the many people who I meet working as a policeman. For example, the woman I keep going back to where the same man that beats both her and her children. In her own mind and life this person provided money and protection to her and her family. She felt that no one else would have her and that she needed to provide for children no matter what happened to her. In her mind her situation was hopeless without the abuser in her family. In her mind the situation ethics gave her a way to live in that lifestyle. I’m not saying that she was right, but I did begin to look at her situation and it helped me to understand where she was at. It also gave me a starting place to help change that situation and then her mind’s ethics that kept her in that place. I found that I could not continue to make her feel bad about her choices in life. Her situation was different than many others and her decisions were made on those situation ethics. Her situation was so dire that she’s able to accept the ethics that allowed her to continue living that way.
Let’s talk about the young man who sells drugs on the street and after being arrested and doing time in jail he goes back to the streets. For many young men who live mainly in the city but also in the rural areas of this nation, the only way to get money to feed his family and friends, is to sell drugs on the streets. He usually understood that his actions were viewed as being wrong. But after talking to many of those repeat offenders, I originally would preach to them about the evils of drugs. On several occasions, the young men would argue back that they had no choice but to sell drugs on the streets, so they could provide for their families. Their situation was dire and their ethics changed as the money they took in by selling drugs would go back to the family so that the family could survive. Many times, while speaking to the public, someone would pipe up and say that it was the mother or father’s fault that their children were selling drugs. But while investigating the many arrests I made I would find that the household usually had just one parent. For example, there is the mother of eight children from different fathers, who was unable to work because she cannot afford childcare and she has little or no education to support being hired for a job. As much is she preaches to her children that selling drugs are bad, she relies on that one child that sells drugs to provide income for food for the family. She knows that it’s wrong to sell drugs, but her situation makes the money that is brought in necessary to provide food and shelter for family. Her situation ethics continues to change in response to the environment that she lives in. Usually, the young man or woman, would relate to me that they feel there’s no other way that they can make the money that is needed to support the family.
Unfortunately, suicide takes from us some great young children. I have been present when a young person tries to take their life. I have spent hours outside the door of a person threatening to take their life only to find that speaking to end and when the doors opened the person has taken their life. I will admit I’ve been somewhat successful and talking people out of taking their life. In both conversations the person would described to me a situation that they were in that seemed hopeless. In their mind, the only way out of the hurt and pain caused to them or others was to take their own life. I don’t think that those folks felt that way all of their life, but the situation changed, it was more ethical in their mind to end their life. In the beginning, I would become very upset when I would lose one of those conversations. I would say that I did not understand why anybody would want to take their life. And I still feel that way, but I also know that those people considering suicide feel that their situation is so dire and unchangeable that their answer is to take their life.
I did not mean for this blog to be a bummer. But my thought is about situation ethics or the walk the mile in my shoes statement. Even today as people from South America marched to the borders of America to try to get in there is situation ethics happening.
The police department would have training days to try to help officers prepare for some bad situations. On one of those training days the situation was that a man who just killed a mother and father was holding two babies in his arms and two guns in his hands. He demanded that he be let go or he would kill one of the children. Now the instructor would ask the young officer in training, me, what would I do? I did not think it was in my nature to just shoot somebody and that may make me slow to make a decision. If you delayed in this exercise to shoot the person holding the children, he would (theoretically) shoot one of the children and hold the other child threatening to kill it. Remembering that the theoretical bad guy had already killed the baby’s mom and dad, I did not hesitate an I shot the suspect. Remember now, this is an exercise and I did not really shoot anyone. This was an actor with baby dolls in his arm. Before this exercise I did not believe that I would just shoot someone without trying to talk them down. The situation and changed in my ethics and changed for that situation.
Now why do I bring this up in this blog. I believe that you need to try and understand the situation that the person is in before you go and dismiss their judgment call. Most of us do not have the time to so-called – walk a mile in their shoes. But we do have the opportunity to act on any situation with the understanding that that person situation and ethics are different than ours. I certainly do not advocate battered women and children offenders. I do not advocate people selling drugs. I do not advocate that anyone should commit suicide. But I also take the time, to realize that in their minds their situational ethics allow them to do the things they do. I’m not saying that you forgive them or forget any of their actions. But try to look at their situation and before you condemn them or label them, see if you can recognize the situation and you can help to change it.
Sometimes, it is just being an ear for somebody to use. Sometimes, if you see something say something. Sometimes, your donation to a cause will help make the difference.
As I just said, sometimes. It depends upon the situational ethics that you live in. At least give it a thought. Pops

One thought on “Walk a mile in my shoes or situation ethics”

  1. Empathy, some people feign it and call it weakness to have it, but you’re saying it’s necessary, and that makes me feel better for having it. 😉

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