What comes to mind when you hear, “When they go low, we go high?” Playing nice with the opposition by gently telling them they’re loved and they could do much better than the current outrage they inspire? Probably something like that. It can descend into well-meaning tone policing.
Let’s talk about what that phrase. I want to suggest we use it to mean more.
It’s an appeal to stick to love. Let’s keep that part. It needs to be at the core of our principles.
Let me tell you… When someone has really hurt you, one of the most brave and loving acts one can do is to tell that person, honestly, unflinchingly, how what they have done has hurt you, and showing them demonstravely how you feel. There are other actions that are also brave, true. Leaving someone abusive also requires bravery. We can think up other scenarios and contexts and actions all day, we can think up times we’ve received that well or poorly on the other end, but stay with me on just that moment of standing up that way. It’s at once powerful, vulnerable, principled, and loving.
It’s “going high” in a way I’m betting most haven’t considered before when they inject that proverbial maxim into public discourse.
I want you to know that “going high” requires honesty and principle. No sideswiping other injured groups out of carelessness. No resorting to lies, or carelessly repeating lies that others tell. (There are ways to fact check.)
But I also want you to know that it means not silencing others that are injured who are being honest about their plight and their wounds.
And I really need you to get this down solid. “Going high” does not preclude showing you’re angry. Furious. Grieving in tears. Full of mistrust of future actions. Fearful. Wounded and lacking the ability to accept replies at face value.
Because honesty is not going low. It’s going high with an amount of love that isn’t even asked for or justified by what’s happened. It’s based on a small tiny shred of hope that somewhere in the rest of the people receiving this that there’s some empathy and compassion in someone, anyone out there.
Don’t you DARE quash that last shred or hope by silencing it.