Maybe you’ve seen him on the side of the road. Or at an intersection, holding a cardboard sign. And it’s easy for you to jump to conclusions about him—his choices, his work ethic, how he would use any money you give him, how he would treat you. But when was the last time you stopped to listen, to hear someone’s story?

Yes, everyone has a story. And if we take the time to listen to their story, it helps us be more sympathetic. But I think we can do better. I think in an effort to truly seek to understand others, we can endeavor to get inside their skin—to feel what they feel.

Pastor Ben Palm

Take our friend holding the cardboard sign. How is he feeling as he is standing there? Maybe he’s nervous. Ashamed. Maybe he’s feeling ignored. Value-less. Maybe he’s felt ignored for years, and the multitude of people trying to avoid his gaze is just adding to how he is feeling. He has a story. He has a reason he is out there. He has a name. Every person on this earth has a name, given to them by someone that loved them.

I would encourage you to try to climb inside someone else’s skin, especially if you’re feeling angry or frustrated with them. I try to do this as I’m driving in my car. Every time I drive somewhere, I’m almost guaranteed to have someone cut me off, drive too fast, too slow, or too reckless for my taste. 

Instead of being quick to judge and yell, I need to get inside their skin—to try to understand what may be causing them to act that way. Maybe they’re a new driver. Maybe they just got some bad news and are rushing to the scene. Maybe their morning has been awful and they’re not processing it well. I would certainly be better off extending them some grace, giving them the benefit of the doubt.

But this idea carries so much more power when you put it into action with the people who are the closest to you, because it isn’t as hard for you to get inside their skin. You know them. You know how they think. But you can so easily get frustrated because what they said was hurtful to YOU. Take an extra moment and get inside their skin. Then you may better understand what they’re trying to say and hear it differently.

Christians teach how God did this for us. Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus “…emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Jesus got inside our skin to set an example. He showed us the best way to understand each other. We need to do the same for others. I need to do the same for others.

It is easy to inadvertently create distance. Maybe when you look around you, all you see are people of the same race. Or religion. Or background. And so maybe it is hard for you to get inside the skin of someone who is different than you. 

Take the time to get to know someone who isn’t like you. Someone you might be quick to make assumptions about. Get inside their skin so that you can understand them better. The more we all do this, the more compassion and grace we will be giving to others. And the more compassion and grace will be given to us.

Ben Palm is the outreach pastor at Morgan Hill Bible Church and a member of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance. He is also a chaplain for the Morgan Hill Police Department. Ben can be reached at [email protected].

Previous articleNurses go on strike at Saint Louise, county hospitals
Next articlePanthers win season opener against Rattlers


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here