I'll Take the High Road
When you encounter a person, situation or circumstance that requires you to make a choice about how you are going to handle a situation by either reacting or responding.
Which do you do more often, react or respond?
The distinction between these two is simple.
To react means that your reply is led by your emotions.
To respond means that you have risen above your initial emotionality and have consciously chosen what to do or say.
The other day, in a session with a client, the presenting challenge was how this man could best deal with his ex-wife who was bitter from a cancer diagnosis and ultimately, her divorce from this man.
While married, he sacrificed a great deal of himself to nurture and care for her. He pulled double duty as mom and dad, limited his career expansion to care for her and made sure that the truth was told to the doctors about how severe or small her symptoms were during follow-up appointments.
Co-parenting fell to the waist-side and they are now at constant odds with one another about caring for their children.
In describing his efforts to interact with her, he said he would take the high road and not get sucked into her jabs and insults.
I asked him what he meant by that statement: taking the high road.
He said that it meant not stooping to her level and not arguing.
I mentioned to him that all too often, people say that they are taking the high road as if it were some "virtuous characteristic."
I encouraged him to think about what he was really saying.
He really wants his ex-wife to see how her unyielding daggers directly at him and how her negative talk about him to their children, impacts her quality of life and the legacy she leaves her children.
But, you can't make someone be something they aren't and you can't make someone have an a-ha moment when the timing isn't right.
All you can do is focus on yourself; usually resulting in a change in dynamic in the relationship because you have shifted the conditions by which you interact with someone.
I asked him to notice how the characteristics he was describing about himself had nothing to do with taking a higher road or doing something noble.
The characteristics that he mentioned about himself have everything to do with walking his path.
There is no high road or low road. Just HIS road and HIS intended path.
Whatever he chooses to do represents who he is, not a higher road.
Having reframed his perspective in this way allowed him to refocus on himself, rather than her, and to begin to highly value the characteristics that he already possesses and wants to revere, as well as those that he wants to imprint on his children.
Determination, love, loyalty, compromise, and compassion towards himself and others were but a few of the described characteristics that he already possesses.
You see, he didn't have to do anything BUT BE THAT WHICH HE ALREADY IS.
This is his PATH.
The road on which he travels.
We all have the choice about how we think of ourselves as well as how we want to portray ourselves to other people.
You can be a united person who has a standard of living that is consistent with who you really are or you can be multiple people to multiple people.
But acknowledgement from others, about our virtuous qualities, doesn't come from "acting a certain way."
It comes from BEING those things.
My father taught us, early on, about "earning your keep."
He did not refer to how much money we made.
He referred to how we lived each day.
"Did you do what was right for yourself and others?"
"Did you work hard and help people?"
"Did you earn your self - respect today?"
These are the questions that fall under the phrase of earning your keep.
So, there is no high road.
There is just a choice to live by your desired ways of living and choosing to honor those characteristics within you that allow you to create a "higher life" for yourself; and not for any other reason other than that.
If you were to draw a picture of a road, what would you include in your picture? Would it be aligned with a sea of green healthy trees with the sun shining or would it be barren and dark, with only a worn double line leading you forward?
If you were to write down all of the characteristics that you value in the middle of your pictured path, what words would you use?
I imagine that you will, as we all would, add desired qualities in your road that you aspire to have, but think you don't have.
That's actually, quite good. It gives you a chance to evaluate of what you are really made and to refine those qualities that you wish to refine, if you choose.
I have found that with this exercise, clients will write down the characteristics they possess and live by.
And, once the picture is drawn, it is kept in a place to look at each day to figure out if they have "earned their keep" and what they want to work on to increase those odds.
It is not often that we take the time to acknowledge our strengths; we are usually undermined by all of the attention we give to our perceived limitations.
I highly suggest that you take a moment and draw your road and fill it in with your words.
You will see how you truly live and who you really are; and both of these truths, how you live and who you are, reside in the space between you and your relationship to God; since there are always opportunities to fake who you are for your own ego purposes.
No more "high road" traveling, ok?
Just "your road" traveling.
In love and light, Janis www.cohenfamilycounseling.com