One of my strong beliefs is that people understand another person’s situation only when they have been in the same situation as the other person. We can pretend to understand how the other person feels or what they are going through, but we only truly understand the other’s true situation when it happens to us.
I myself have been in a situation that has taught me that one should never pass judgment on another’s situation unless they have walked in their shoes.
People often understand those with whom they share similar experiences better. However, I occasionally encounter people who do not appear to understand or sympathize with others who are in a situation similar to their own.
Let me illustrate with an example. Consider those in positions of authority.
Power can be political, in the form of a top managerial position in a company, or even over our own children. People in positions of power frequently show little sympathy for those over whom they have authority.
These people may have spent their childhoods in extreme poverty and misery, but when they reach the pinnacle of their careers, they forget where they came from. They act in ways that would be uncharacteristic of those they lead today.
People in positions of power forget that they, too, were denied basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter as children.
People at the top of the corporate ladder forget that they were once rookies with little work experience and low pay. They forget that they were once ordinary employees who struggled to pay their own bills. Parents forget that they were once teenagers with inappropriate behaviors that were frowned upon by their own parents and older community members.
People tend to lose sight of reality on the ground as they advance in age, education, wealth, and power.
People in positions of power often lose sight of the reality of the people they lead. They lose sight of their grave responsibility to the powerless and vulnerable people they govern.
They’ve forgotten what it is like to be the people they are supposed to lead. I am curious why.
It is not often that I hear of people from remote areas of Ethiopia who achieve success in education, wealth, and power, to return to their society and think, “I should do something for the community that brought me to this stage of my life.” Many people cannot imagine returning to that community and living there.
Somehow, success becomes blinding, and one is always looking forward to the next level of wealth and power. We stop sympathizing with those who are still in the situation that we were in prior to any of our successes. Some may even regard those who remind them of their unfortunate past lives as their enemies.
I believe it is beneficial to remain humble and to remember where we came from whenever the thoughts of vanity and pride enter our minds. At some point in our lives, each of us had been much weaker, powerless, uneducated, inexperienced, and unskilled than we are now.
So, when we achieve success, let us not forget our roots by mistreating and undermining those who are weaker, powerless, uneducated, inexperienced, and poorer than us.
Let us remain humble, because humility keeps us grounded in reality. Only by remaining grounded in reality will we be able to effect meaningful change.