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  • Jered Stewart

Keeping the Bar High

“We are addicted to outrage,” read the article headline. Sounds about right to me, I thought, although I never read the article. It certainly seems to be the case, that anger is at an all-time high. No matter your side of the aisle or issue, you can be sure that someone will be passionate about their position. Passion isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes misplaced passion becomes anger. Add some entitlement and self-righteousness and you end up with a dangerous recipe.

Over the years I’ve encountered many people who always seem to think they are right. They are so convinced, and sometimes convincing, that they are right, that they will adamantly stand their ground regardless of evidence or claims to the contrary. I’ve always found this interesting. How can anyone be so certain? From where does this conviction come? You want to have a conversation with them? No thanks, I’ll pass.

Kids are like sponges, they soak up everything. As a parent, I do my best to impart wisdom on occasion, and I sure hope they’re listening. The funny thing is they often have memories of things I’ve said that I don’t remember saying. And worse yet, sometimes they remember things I wish they didn’t…. but enough about that. My point is that as a child, I remember often hearing things like, “Don’t stoop to their level,” or, “be the better man,” or, “take the high road.” These were common sayings and something impressed upon me by my parents and family. It was important to be a person of character and integrity and to not stoop to someone’s level or to engage in vengeful behavior. “If you stoop to their level, you are just like them!” That’s what I was taught, and I’m glad for it.

The days of taking the high road seem to have faded in the rearview mirror. No longer do we seek the high road, but we do the opposite. We think, “I’ll show you!” and then we stoop to their level - and below. We go right to the basement. It is ugly. I’d like to take the next exit and find our way back to the high road, please.

Our societal GPS seems to be broken. It keeps taking us on the low road headed right into the river. Or perhaps we ignore its instructions and just go the way we know how because we think we know best. “Recalculating…” In the past, we would’ve said our compass was broken. And at the end of the day, I think that’s the underlying problem. As a society we’ve lost our compass. How can we find it? Perhaps the first thing we can do is all commit to taking the high road, stop stooping to the lowest level, and take a step back and consider that we might not always be right. How about those old-fashioned values of civility, respect, compassion, and patience? Perhaps we should start trying to change ourselves to be better for the world, than trying to change the world to be better for us.

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

John F. Kennedy

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