The benefits of taking the high road

“Take the high road.”  I cannot tell you how many times I heard this advice from my parents, my dad, in particular.  This advice usually arrived in the throes of some controversy I was having with a friend, a co-worker, teammate, or even family member. Taking the high road means being nicer, not addressing a slight (or a perceived one), not “telling someone off” when that’s your initial reaction (or your default). In other words, it is being the bigger person. Sometimes it is so natural for us to want to get back at someone for what they did to us. It is tempting for sure. Earlier today I had the opportunity to engage someone who was emphatic (more so than I felt necessary) and somewhat insulting in an email. I thought about taking on the fight for a minute. But then I decided it was not worth my time or energy.

In taking the high road, we can exhibit kindness, forgiveness, and maturity. And we can model appropriate behavior for that person, others (I’m thinking of my child especially) and even ourselves. Also, not reacting to the mistreatment with more mistreatment means we are in control. There is something freeing about not having my actions controlled by others’ actions and other circumstances entirely outside my control.  I have never felt bad about my behavior when I have taken the high road. Indeed, I felt better being the person who remained calm, didn’t fling insults, and didn’t “go there.” I like the idea that I can avoid taking the bait. A certain part of me feels glad I foiled the attempt to make me lose my cool. But that’s really just a small piece of it.  I feel bad after letting someone have it. In fact, there are few times, if any, that I didn’t feel bad after taking the low road.  Some might say you’re letting someone get over on you or you should not let someone walk all over you, treat you that way, etc. There is a way to prevent that by being firm but still respectful and civil.

Taking the high road does not mean being mistreated with no reaction. It means you choose to have a different reaction for any number of reasons. I mentioned kindness above. In taking the high road, you are being kind because you’re not mistreating the person. You’re not buying into the “do unto others as they do unto you” philosophy and you’re reacting in a way that you choose based on your beliefs and desires. You are forgiving the person for what he said and did and acknowledging that we are all human. Maybe the person is having a bad day and took it out on you. If we treat that person in a forgiving way as others have treated us in the past on a bad day, maybe even after we blew up at them, then we are paying it forward as they say. And we are modeling how Christ wanted us to treat each other. Just as He treated us. The benefit of taking the high road is that you are being Christ-like. What would Jesus do in that situation? Try to follow that and you cannot go wrong.

What challenge are you facing where you might take the high road and be the bigger person? I’d love to hear your comments about it!


Nicole Hancock Husband is an attorney and Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (“CPCC”). Nicole graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1996 with a Juris Doctorate and from Ohio State University in 1993 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration, with a Finance/International Studies double major and Spanish minor.