You can't actually walk in someone else's shoes. Ever.
I like the impulse. It reflects a desire to understand and connect. It reflects a desire to love. And that's great. But where does it lead?
I've seen so many people who have what I'd call "a false perception of understanding." We think we understand what someone else is going through or we think we know what it's like to be someone else. We then feel justified to speak for others or offer confident critiques. We stop listening and asking questions.
When you try to walk in my shoes you end up making them your own. My feet have their own shape and stink. My legs swing in their own particular way. I have particular paths that I walk. You can take my shoes, but you can't actually walk in them.
This is actually a warped application an idea from the ancient philosopher Heraclitus, who famously said that "You can never step into the same river twice." Both you and the river change continuously. I change every day. My shoes change every day. How can you walk in them?
Here's the thing: relationship can go where understanding can't.
I'm never going to fully understand you but I can know you. You'll never fully understand me but you can love me. We can't walk in each other's shoes, but we can walk together.
[Note: this idea has tremendous implications for our thinking about Christmas and the incarnation]