I’ve been living barefoot for a long time now. In fact, I’ve been going barefoot long enough to “mature” somewhat as a “barefooter.” Lately, lots (and I mean LOTS) of new barefooters have been coming to me for advice and here’s something I’ve noticed: all of them are frustrated and many of them are acting like jerks. Looking back it’s painfully obvious to me that I also acted like jerk when I first started barefooting. Let me explain...
Going barefoot is natural and healthy; wearing shoes is unnatural and unhealthy. When a person first makes that discovery and begins taking his or her first bare steps into a new way of living, they often feel liberation, exhilaration and sometimes evangelistic. They have had an “ah ha” moment after all, a life-changing epiphany. They realize that they have discovered something wonderful and transforming while everyone else around them is still in the dark. Those unenlightened, shoe-touting people that surround them constantly warn of the hazards of going barefoot, of the necessity of good support, of the diseases just waiting to get picked up, of the laws and health codes that prohibit free feet… all the things the new barefooter has just discovered is absolutely untrue and indeed completely opposite from reality. This, this is the source of their frustration.
Then their frustration is magnified by intolerance. For all the self-praise we heap on ourselves for being a tolerant nation, we are shockingly intolerant of bare feet. No one enjoys being confronted, especially by a complete stranger in front of other people, but when you first start going barefoot in public in the USA confrontations are almost guaranteed to happen. As a culture we seem to celebrate the unnatural (such as tattoos, body piercings, industrial diets and walking on 6-inch high heel stilts)* while reproving the natural and healthy (like going barefoot). Unfortunately, for many of us, confrontation brings out the jerk in us. We are confronted and we retaliate, feeling wrongfully mistreated because we know, after all, that we are right. We are angered because that idiot restaurant manager should know the health codes that govern his business, right?
Confrontations led by emotions like these are bound to backfire. What started as a relatively minor incident (in the mind of the manager, not the barefooter who was already terrified in the parking lot) has now exploded into a major ordeal that Mr. Manager will not soon forget. Bare feet are now officially banned and on the radar. You, the barefooter, have blown it and you and your feet are not welcome here.
There’s a better way to handle these confrontations.
Going barefoot is a joy, or at least it should be. Don’t let the ignorance of those brainwashed into believing all the wrong things about feet and shoes steal that joy away from you. It’s so easy for both parties in a confrontation to become defensive and argumentative. Resist this urge. Instead, always try to educate with joy bubbling from your feet and a huge smile on your face. It’s not about proving you are right, it’s about liberating another person, planting a seed of revelation in them that can grow. You will often have to retreat before the other person will hear you, but in this case retreat is not defeat. Leave them with some information to chew on. If you care this much about going barefoot, then take the time to make a business card or brochure (or use the ones already available on the internet). Most of all, leave them impressed with how happy and polite you are, not with the feeling of ‘what a jerk’ that barefoot person was. Remember that you were once a brainwashed, shoe-wearing person, too.
Go barefoot. Go happy.
PS. Here’s another little secret about public barefooting: You can go into a store one day and be kicked out, then go back the next day and be accepted. Whether you are accepted or rejected depends largely on who is working that day and what kind of mood they’re in… unless you put up a fight. Then, you will always be rejected… banned and on the radar. Don’t fight!
*For the record, I have nothing against tattoos or piercings, I’m merely pointing out that they are unnatural.