THE TWO ROADS.
As we travel through life, we often meet the splitting of our road. One road goes uphill while the other is a steep decline. The choice we make at the split can affect the rest of our life.
Earlier this year, I spoke with one of my fraternity brothers from college. While we have stayed in touch over the years, our communication has primarily been through Facebook and the occasional text. This day, he texted that he needed advice before making a decision. While I am usually the person asking others for advice, not giving it, I was ready to do my best.
Before I called, I thought about how I remembered him. We were both initiated into Kappa Alpha Order (KA) in college and learned the value of conducting ourselves as a gentleman, like KA’s spiritual founder, General Robert E. Lee. Admittedly, my brother was more the gentleman than me during those college years. He always valued honor before any virtue. Today, he is the president and CEO of a business he founded fifteen years ago. The once small startup now employs over 200 people in his community.
When I called, I could sense something about him that I had never witnessed; anger and bitterness surrounding his voice. After we talked for a while, he finally told me what happened. The marketing executive of one of his longtime competitors, who he had always had a good relationship with, lied to him and a large potential customer in order to get the upper hand in making them his new customer.
The executive eventually won the trust of the potential customer and began conducting business with the company. This “win” was primarily achieved based on the false representation made to my brother and the potential customer.
Consumed with anger, he wanted to confront the executive, let all of their mutual friends and acquaintances know what he did, and tell his new customer about the misdeed. Yet, something gave him pause.
When he finished, my response consisted of only four words: Take The High Road.
He must have known what I meant. A few weeks later, I spoke to him again. My brother’s voice was different. He seemed to be at peace. What he said next was something I needed to hear as a reminder to myself, “Jason, I took the high road. I did not confront him, speak ill of him, nor mention a word about his false representation. Instead, I prayed for him. I also forgave him.”
As Monique Honoman pointed out in her blog from 2014, “Taking the high road is a life philosophy that says you maintain your moral compass, your personal code of ethics, and your values, at all times. Taking the high road means you are able to look yourself in the mirror and be proud of how you acted, or reacted, in light of trying situations. It means that you had an opportunity to respond with equally nasty behavior, and you chose not to.”
Vengeance and “getting even” can be satisfying in the short-term. But, what about the long-term?
My brother is one of the most respected leaders in his industry and community. He earned this reputation because people saw that he was a man of strong character. While a fierce and successful competitor, he has always conducted himself like a gentleman, engaged his competition honorably, and given his time and financial resources to his community.
Choosing the decline of the low road and continuing to do so in future situations would have changed his character and placed him squarely on the path of fear, hate, and anger. His positive reputation would have deservingly become negative, his business would have suffered because of the loss of customers, his employees would have lost respect for him, his fierce competitive nature would have been negatively impacted, and the community would have lost a good man.
However, he now stands confident in how he responded to a negative situation.
As it turned out, karma could not stay out of the way. The executive’s lie was discovered by an employee of the executive’s company. The lie was brought to the attention of the new customer’s executive board.
Today, my friend and the executive’s former customer enjoy a mutually beneficial business relationship. The executive no longer works for his company or any other. His path continues down the low road.
Interestingly, it would be only two months later that I would face a similar situation. I am grateful that I had my brother’s example fresh on my mind.
God led me to take the high road.
Jason was honored and humbled when Rep. Randy Nix (LaGrange) gave the invocation to begin the 2018 session of the Georgia House of Representatives by integrating Jason’s column, “Take the High Road” into his speech. Randy is a good friend and good man. Thank you, Randy.
(Starts at minute 5:14)
The two roads