A vote of thanks to First Lady Michelle Obama for her example of grace and strength, including the memorable phrase she taught her children and her country: “When they go low, we go high!”
We know what that means in social interaction and communication: When we hear a degrading comment, we don’t respond by trying to degrade the speaker. When people engage in name-calling, we zip our mouths or simply say, “No. That’s not appropriate.” When we read messages and even “news” that seem to be lies, we don’t reply with alternate lies, but we investigate the truth and correct untruths when we can.
I’ve been thinking about other ways to “go high” when they go low.
A “low blow” is underhanded, unexpected, taking advantage of a weakness that’s not someone’s fault, conspiring to undo another person or group. When someone deliberately stirs up fear and hatred to motivate others, that’s low.
We can go high by staying focused on issues, not personalities. We can go high by being open and transparent.
Low means descending into what used to be called vice – that is, corruption. It is selling out your principles for money or other advantage. When a congressman who usually takes strong “states’ rights” positions suddenly votes against states’ rights on an issue where the Koch brothers have a big interest, you can guess what happened, and you’ll be right.
Go high by reflecting on how you are consistent with our fundamental principles. If you are true to yourself, you are going high whether anyone else notices or not.
Lowering our sights is another way to go low, by putting material rewards ahead of everything else. That invites greed and envy to rule our personalities.
We can go high by investing time and energy in the non-material aspects of our lives: love of family and friends . . . generosity of spirit toward others . . . thinking about the long view, the far horizon, and the big picture.
Alternatively, in lowering our sights we fall into despair, when we fear that “nothing good will ever come of this,” or we stop trusting people.
Go high: elevate your vision by looking for the sensitive soul that animates everyone – even if its current expression is distorted.
Going low is crushing individuals for the sake of an “ism.” Whether it’s nationalism or globalism, racism or feminism, socialism or communism, an “ism” reduces people to cogs in an impersonal system.
Go high, remembering that the success of the human experiment depends on the unfolding of the potential of individuals – here, there, and everywhere.
Lower than low is nihilism — not caring what you destroy, whether it’s the beauty of this planet or the achievements of previous cultures.
High is honoring all life, preserving the achievements of the past, appreciating the gifts left by those who loved life, and paying them forward.
High is cherishing this place where we live, remembering there is no PLANet B.
Going high isn’t the opposite of going low. No confrontation needed, no argument. We’re just on different roads. And we’re not competing with each other. When we really go high, each of us has our own ladder, and from its upper rungs we can truly see.
Think of other ways of going high? Let us know by clicking on “comment.”