Thinking Citizen Blog — The Moccasin Test — How to Recognize Hypocrisy
Thinking Citizen Blog — Saturday is Justice, Freedom, Law, and Values Day
Today’s Topic: The Moccasin Test — How to Recognize Hypocrisy
Have you ever given yourself the moccasin test? Have you ever witnessed some one else administering it to themselves and changing their position? What is the moccasin test? That’s my spin on the proverb that you not judge a person until you have walked a mile in their moccasins. How hard that is to do is indicated by the difficulty most people have at identifying the legitimate principles and incontrovertible facts that undergird their opponents’ positions. This week I found out that the saying may not really be Native American in origin as I had assumed for decades. Rather it comes from a poem “Judge Softly,” written by Mary Torrance Lathrap in 1895. Perhaps she was inspired by a Native American legend, but there is apparently no evidence of that. The more likely source is the Bible, namely, Matthew 7:1–2: “Judge not, lest ye be judged. Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” In any event, I decided to do a little research on the poem and its author and share the poem and a few biographic notes with you. It’s not Shakespeare. It’s not Emily Dickinson. But the message is worth etching in your heart, mind, and soul and worth remembering every time you are tempted to judge another by the color of their skin (black, white, other), the size of their bank account (small, big, other), or their gender (gay, straight, other). Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
“JUDGE SOFTLY” (1895) — Mary Torrance Lathrap (1838–1895)
1. Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps, Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears, Or stumbled beneath the same load.
2. There may be tears in his soles that hurt Though hidden away from view. The burden he bears placed on your back May cause you to stumble and fall, too.
3. Don’t sneer at the man who is down today Unless you have felt the same blow That caused his fall or felt the shame That only the fallen know.
NB: You may be strong, but still the blows That were his, unknown to you in the same way, May cause you to stagger and fall, too.
“DON’T BE TOO HARSH TO THE MAN THAT SINS” (continuation)
1. Don’t be too harsh with the man that sins. Or pelt him with words, or stone, or disdain. Unless you are sure you have no sins of your own, And it’s only wisdom and love that your heart contains.
2. For you know if the tempter’s voice Should whisper as soft to you, As it did to him when he went astray, It might cause you to falter, too.
3. Just walk a mile in his moccasins Before you abuse, criticize and accuse. If just for one hour, you could find a way To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.
NB: I believe you’d be surprised to see That you’ve been blind and narrow-minded, even unkind. There are people on reservations and in the ghettos Who have so little hope, and too much worry on their minds.
“BROTHER, THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GO YOU AND I”
1. Brother, there but for the grace of God go you and I. Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions And see the world through his spirit and eyes Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.
2. Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders. We will be known forever by the tracks we leave In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.
3. Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.
MARY TORRANS LATHRAP (1838–1895) — “the Daniel Webster of Prohibition”
1. “Poet, preacher, suffragist, temperance reformer”
2. “President of the Michigan Women’s Christian Temperance Union (1882), co-founded the state’s suffrage organization (1870).
3. Born Mary Torrans on a farm in Jackson, Michigan, she began writing for local papers at age 14 and married Carnett Lathrap, an assistant surgeon in the Ninth Michigan cavalry in 1864.
FOOTNOTE — the moccasin test in the form of a three by three matrix
1. The second step in the seven step guide to thinking citizenship that I outlined in 2015 was what I then called the “Other Side Matrix.” I had almost called it the “Moccasin Test.”
2. Since then I have called it the”Principles, Facts, and Solutions” test.
3. If you have not yet taken it, please give it a go.
NB: The website begins with a video that will help you get started. The appendix includes my best attempt at modeling the exercise. After watching the video you might want to try Step #1 before moving on to Step #2.
A LINK TO THE LAST THREE YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED BY THEME:
Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to justice, freedom, the law or basic values. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to justice, freedom, the law, or basic values. Or just some random justice-related fact that blew you away.
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart.