The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

Three Reasons to Take the High Road

Posted on: April 25, 2017

GREAT REWARDS AWAIT US WHEN WE RESPOND WELL TO DIFFICULT PEOPLE

Have you ever met a person who just seemed to ooze grace and dignity, whose actions and words were conspicuously polite, tactful and well-mannered? Or perhaps you have seen someone on television or been aware of someone from history who possessed those qualities. When challenged or confronted, rather than to react in kind, they do not take up an offense and instead, return “good for evil.”   (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

Have you ever wondered why it seems to be so easy for some and hard for others?

To be sure, I think that some people may be polite and tactful because they lack ego strength or fear conflict. Sometimes, people might be accommodating out of personal weakness.

On the other hand, I’m talking about those people who appear to be polite, tactful, and well-mannered out of strength of character… who inspire confidence and admiration because, whenever confronted with potential offense, they always seem to take the high road.

So back to the question, why aren’t we all that way? I think there are a couple reasons why.

First, we often do not see these qualities modeled in our childhood. For example, the culture I grew up in, and that my family and friends were part of, did not champion elevated levels of diplomacy, politeness, and manners. My culture was more of a “tell it like it is” culture.

In fact, both the British and Americans tend to find great humor in Winston Churchill’s exchange with Lady Astor, with whom he had an ongoing feud. In exasperation, Lady Astor said, “Winston, if you were my husband I would put poison in your coffee!” To which Churchill replied, “And madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it!”

A second reason has to do with temperament.  Some of us are just not naturally wired that way. I would not have come by the finer qualities of diplomacy easily even if I had grown up in a culture that exalted them. I resisted other admiral qualities that were modeled to me, so I’m sure I would have been capable of resisting the examples of conspicuous diplomacy, politeness and good manners.

So, since being overtly tactful, polite, and well–mannered are not part of typical American culture, and since many of us do not ascend to those qualities naturally, are we doomed, by the luck of the draw, to be rude and abrasively undiplomatic when affronted?

The clear answer from Scripture is that we are not doomed to our past or our temperament. We can rise above them both. The Scriptures call us to higher ground, and the Holy Spirit draws us to higher ground:

  1. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… (Galatians 5:22-23)
  2. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:6)
  3. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)
  4. And then there are the four great qualities of love from 1 Corinthians 13:5…
    1. Love does not act unbecomingly
    2. Love does not seek its own
    3. Love is not provoked
    4. Love oes not take into account a wrong suffered

Taking the high road means responding positively when affronted. However, because of the power of modern culture and the drag of inherited temperament, all too many Christians are shaped more by our culture than by the Scripture.

So, the answer is found in that superabundant passage, Romans 12:1-2:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

There are three points in this passage that show how we can rise above our past and our temperament:

  1. Transformation begins with deep commitment (living sacrifice, vs. 1)
  2. The commitment is to mental renewal. (vs. 2)
  3. When our minds are renewed, our lives will be transformed. (vs. 2)

We can rise above the culture around us, as well as our own inherited temperament, by

  1. Committing to rise above our culture  
  2. Feeding our minds those things that help us rise above our culture
  3. Trusting and waiting on God to bring about our personal transformation.

As you can see, this all begins by wanting to be more than we are. We must embrace the fact that we can be like those people whose lofty qualities we admire. We must want to leave behind small attitudes, values, and behavior… and rise to greater ones.

Three reasons to take the high road with difficult people:

  1. It will spur spiritual growth. It is extremely difficult to do… extremely… and it will only happen consistently as we remain committed to it.
  2. It will make life easier and more enjoyable. It will deepen our relationships with others, reduce our conflict, and increase our self-esteem as we rise above our natural level.
  3. It will yield disproportionate eternal reward. “The sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)

If you feel the pull of the Holy Spirit as you read this, drawing you to this higher ground, then make the decision that you will become that kind of person. Understand that transformation takes time… it is a process that is slow and imperfect. We will try and fail, but we will be better off for trying and failing than if we never tried at all.

So if in your relationships with other people, someone takes the low road, you must take the high road or you will be just like them. If you respond in kind, then you are no better then they are. You have no moral ground to disdain their behavior. (Ephesians 4:29)

  • When an acquaintance says something tacky to you, take the high road.
  • When a coworker makes you look bad by trying to make himself look good, take the high road.
  • When a spouse says something that could be taken the wrong way, take the high road.
  • When a church member says something careless, something they should not have said, take the high road.
  • When someone says something that is downright wrong, malicious, and inappropriate, take the high road.

Don’t settle for small attitudes, values and behavior. Rise to greater ones. Jesus walks the high road, and he calls us to walk it with him.

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