The High Road Principle

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Apr 18, 2009

"In the workplace, as in the rest of life, relationships get messy. Sooner or later, we will all be mistreated."
John Maxwell

Perhaps you heard the story of the Long Island, NY surgeon, Dr. Richard Batista. For years his wife, Dawnell had battled kidney disease until she desperately needed a kidney transplant. To everyone's surprise, her husband was a perfect match. At that time they were having some marital problems but Dr. Batista thought that by donating one of his kidneys to his wife, their problems would be reduced. 

During the next eight years their marriage unfortunately came apart. Dawnell had an affair with her physical therapist which ended their marriage. But rather than take the high road, Dr. Batista sued his ex-wife to have his kidney returned or pay him $1.5 million. Fortunately, the judge threw the case out of court. 

Although that is such a sad story, I did hear about someone who suggested it could make great lyrics for a country music song, "I gave her my heart and my kidney but now I want my kidney back." 

Acclaimed leadership author, John Maxwell, wrote a wonderful article titled "The High Road Principle." He describes how others can mistreat us and personally wound us but tells the importance of taking the high road. Whether someone harms us intentionally or unintentionally, Maxwell gives four (4) tips for applying "The High Road Principle." 

1. It's Not What Happens to You, but In You That Really Matters. Maxwell tells a story about General Robert E. Lee. Evidently, Jefferson Davis, President of The Confederacy, asked Lee about another general who had spread vicious rumors about Lee. Davis was considering that general for a promotion but rather than speak negatively, Lee endorsed and commended him. Observers asked Lee why he did that and he replied, "I understand that the President wanted to know my opinion of him (Whiting), not his opinion of me." 

Lee took the high road and we admire him today. 

2. High Roaders See Their Own Need for Grace; Therefore They Extend It to Others. "Let's face it," Maxwell says, "we all screw up from time to time. Each of us has quirks that we know can be annoying, and bad moments when we're not so pleasant to be around. People who take the high road recognize their humanness, know that they need to be extended grace, and accordingly are more likely to extend it to others." 

Because we're not perfect and we need the high road extended to us, it should be easier for us to extend it to others. 

3. High Roaders Are Not Victims; They Choose to Serve Others. The high road is rarely easily accessible. We don't stumble over it nor do we find it by accident. We do not just accidently come across the high road. As Maxwell says, it "goes uphill and takes more effort to travel." 

And when we do, as the author of Proverbs says, "It's a man's glory to overlook an offence." 

4. High Roaders Set Higher Standards for Themselves Than Others Would. The author James Michener was abandoned as an infant and taken in and raised by a widow. Since he never knew his biological parents, he adopted her surname. Each time Michener published a book, one member of the Michener family would send him a nasty note claiming he had no right to use their family name. 

Maxwell shares Michener's response to one statement his relative had made, "Who do you think you are, trying to be better than you are?" As Michener professed, "I've spent my life trying to be better than I was, and I am a brother to all who share the same aspiration." 

Michener took the high road. 

We live in an imperfect world. We are imperfect people. As Maxwell says, "Relationships get messy." And when they do, let's consider "The High Road Principle." 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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