“Always take the high road!” was the mantra of the long-time marching band director at our local high school. The year both of my children were in the band together was the first I remember hearing him say it. Chaperoning the band during home games and seeing this mantra painted in huge letters on the top of his conducting stand further hammered it into my memory. And he meant it, too! When other schools’ bands would continue to play piece after piece from the stands during a football game, leaving no time for our band to play, he would remind the kids, “take the high road!” If the other football team was not playing fairly, or the referees made a poor call, he would stand up before the band, and gently remind them, “take the high road!”
He took this life lesson one step further during each home game by sending his student leadership to meet the student leaders of the other band and present them with a small welcoming gift. No matter how the other team was playing, no matter how the other band was acting, our student leaders always walked around the football field and presented a gift. And with that gift came the opportunity for the band leadership to put the saying into practice.
The band director’s words continue to resonate in our minds even though he has retired. His modeling of the words, as well as the way in which he helped his students to practice them have left a lifelong impact. Our family continues to quote him, reminding ourselves and each other to take the high road.
Sometimes I have heard people encourage their children to “shake it off.” This can be a useful statement (especially if there’s a spider on them!), and is a good place to start for negative attitudes, experiences, and words. But it seems to me that “shaking it off” is only part of the solution. Shaking off something is a mental release of the anxiety or anger that a negative situation can present. Of course, that is necessary for moving on in a positive way. “Shaking it off” is a good start as one leaves something negative and perhaps painful behind and moves away from it.
But as Christians, are we not called to much more? Christ Himself extended grace and forgiveness to those religious leaders who, in their great religiosity, were actually leading people away from Him, although He is God. He extended that same grace and forgiveness to the very people who were crucifying Him. He even extends it to me, a sinner, and to you as well. Our Lord does not just shake anyone off with a thought of “good riddance!” and leave them behind. Instead, He tries to help them see the Truth, and when they choose not to, He asks God to forgive them. He always takes the high road.
“Always taking the high road” takes “shake it off” to the next level. If one takes the high road, not only are they releasing the negative event, or “shaking it off,” they are taking it one step further by doing something positive in its wake. By doing so, they are not just helping themselves, but they are also blessing and benefitting the others around them. In doing so, they are most likely even including those who may have caused the issue in the first place. They are acting just as Our Lord Himself did.
Taking the high road will very often include extending forgiveness. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Eph. 4:32) is not easy to do, and sometimes we get tired of forgiving the same person for the same sins against us. But how often do we commit the same sins against God and yet He forgives us? In the scriptures, we’re instructed to forgive and forgive others. For example, Matthew 18: 21-22: “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” It seems like 490 times is a lot of times to forgive the same individual. But again, how often do we commit the exact same sins against God and yet expect Him to forgive us?!? Forgiveness plays a major role in taking the high road.
Our Lord was not the only one who took the high road. The saints have done so, as well. They have also encouraged others to follow suit. For example, St. Ignatius of Antioch spoke about taking the high road. He also suggested a way to successfully do so: through prayer! “And pray ye without ceasing in behalf of other men. For there is in them the hope of repentance that they may attain to God. See, then, that they be instructed by your works, if in no other way. Be ye meek in response to their wrath, humble in opposition to their boasting: to their blasphemies return your prayers; in contrast to their error, be ye steadfast in the faith; and for their cruelty, manifest your gentleness. While we take care not to imitate their conduct, let us be found their brethren in all true kindness; and let us seek to be followers of the Lord (who ever more unjustly treated, more destitute, more condemned?), that so no plant of the devil may be found in you, but ye may remain in all holiness and sobriety in Jesus Christ, both with respect to the flesh and spirit.”
It is imperative that we teach our children to love, to forgive, and to shake it off. Because we are Orthodox Christians, it is even more important that we teach them to take it a step further by always taking the high road. Forgiveness and prayer are great partners that will help us to do so. Imagine what a blessing the Church could be to our world if each of us would truly take the high road all of the time?
May the retired band director’s mantra resonate in all of our minds. And may we live it well! Let us always take the high road. And let us teach our children to do the same.
Here are additional thoughts and ideas of ways that we can teach our children to always take the high road:
Read another mom’s blog about teaching her child to take the high road: http://lifeonmanitoulin.com/2013/01/taking-the-high-road-things-we-teach-our-children.html
St. Paul wrote an encouragement to help the Ephesians take the high road, in chapter four of his letter to them. See a chalk artist’s rendering of it here: https://scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xfa1/v/t1.0-9/s720x720/223932_10150977305710909_151627035_n.jpg?oh=1415bf672acc4f66298da7825ea35dff&oe=567EEFFB
Print and frame this verse from James to remind yourself and your family of how important it is to extend mercy while taking the high road: http://homewiththeboys.net/wp-content/uploads/Kind-Mercy-James-2-13.pdf
Go for a walk in a place where you can choose a steep, high road or a flat/downhill one. Lead the family up the high road after walking on the low one, and talk about the difference. Is it easier or harder to take the high road? Apply this physical experience to the concept of “always taking the high road” so that the children know it is not the easy way out! But point out the difference in view: which way allows you to see better? The high road! Then discuss this quote: https://meetville.com/images/quotes/Quotation-Rachel-St-John-Gilbert-work-strength-effort-Meetville-Quotes-274567.jpg
One way to take the high road is to THINK before we speak. http://www.courageouschristianfather.com/before-you-speak-think-acronym/
Taking the high road makes us better citizens of our country, as well. Find ideas (sorted by age level) for helping your children become more responsible citizens here: https://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/citizen/citizen.pdf