What it really means to ‘take the high road’

September 28, 2017 Published by
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What do the phrase “take the high road” and  the phrase “I am woman, hear me roar“ from a Helen Reddy song from the ’70s have in common? The song goes:

“You can bend but never break me

‘Cause it only serves to make me

More determined to achieve my final goal

And I come back even stronger

Not a novice any longer

‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul.”

It turns out a lot.

What does it mean to take the high road?

My father was a strong man. And yet, not a person who knew him, from his wife and children to a person who aggravated him, heard him raise his voice. He passed away in his late nineties.

A reporter, from the Chicago Tribune, phoned me a few days after my father’s death. He had known my father and wanted to tell his story, he wanted to honor his life.

“That is very kind of you,” I answered, “but, may I ask why?”

“Because I knew your father when I was a young reporter and followed the story of his life,” said the reporter.

I pressed him by saying, “The obituary page is left for the CEOs of large corporations and members of the community who have donated large sums of money and talent to their city. My father was not from Chicago and he was not the CEO of a large corporation.”

The reporter never explained. He just felt my father deserved a tribute and he wrote a three or four column story about his life on the obituary page in the Chicago Tribune.

If I were to write my father’s story I would title it, “Roy Lang: A Man Who Took the High Road.”

For you see, my father always took the high road. He lived his life by the highest standards.

My father would continuously tell me to “take the high road” and assumed, incorrectly, that I understood what the term meant. I thought it meant just what it said and so, I never asked him to explain. I took its meaning at face value: Don’t make waves, give in if you have to, peace at all costs. I was so wrong.

It took me until this year to grasp its true meaning, its value. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way. It is too personal to discuss because it has to do with an action and then a reaction within our family.

For all my readers I would like you to discuss with your children (it is never too late) and your grandchildren the true meaning of “take the high road” because dealing with problems in our families, the workplace and our relationships is an ongoing part of all of our lives. I plan to do the same. Our children and our grands have their lives ahead of them. Let’s pass this gift on. It is better than anything money can buy.

Taking “the high road” defines a person’s action. It is not the easy or popular path, but it is righteous and gives one a sense of empowerment.

Taking the low road comes from weakness

Our first reaction is based on emotion: Rage, hurt, embarrassment or disbelief. You want to defend, attack or even scream out in disbelief.

Our second emotion is based on defending ourselves: Knee jerk reactions instead of thoughtful response. You gain nothing. You feel weak and frustrated. You are coming from weakness, not strength.

Taking the high road comes from strength

You live your life by your moral code of values.

You do not let your emotions overtake your beliefs. This is your strength. This is your power. This is not about the other person or situation. It is about you.

I wish I could reread my father’s obituary and call the reporter. I will, next week, when my ultimate concierge, my pooch, Orchid, and I return to my beautiful Chicago. It will be the first thing I do when we enter our apartment.

My father took the high road making him a giant and powerful man, even more powerful than a CEO. I think the reporter knew this.

I spent the last year learning my lesson. I will always, in my future, ‘take the high road.’

“I am wisdom, born of pain. But look what I gained. I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman, hear me roar.”

How did you learn to take the high road, dear readers? Let’s talk!

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