The Light Touch and the High Road

It was a season of incredible turmoil.

It happened almost 15 years ago, but I can remember it like it was yesterday.  The intensity of the anxiousness was overwhelming.  Sleep was a luxury my body was not afforded.  My mind was running like a lost child through the woods, stuck on the endless loop of trying to “solve” my church’s crisis.

I reached out to many wise friends during this season.  With each one, I rehearsed, in painstaking detail, all the drama, the twists and turns, the multiple failures of leadership.

I was hoping for direction, for clarity, and, if I’m honest, for justification that my indignation was justified.  Most of all, I wanted to fix this thing.

A number of my friends shared my outrage, others gave sympathy, others detailed advice.  But after 15 years, I only remember one response.

One of the wisest friends I have ever had now serves as an executive pastor at a 5000-member church and, curiously, is also an absolutely brilliant spiritual director.  I was sure she would give me some clear guidance, and at the very least, that she would at least be empathetically “on my side.”

After receiving my lengthy, detailed email, she responded with one simple phrase—not even a complete sentence:

The light touch and the high road.”

It was disarmingly simple and unnerving at the same time. This was not a way to calm the turbulence (what I wanted) but a way to ride the rapids with integrity, a way to calm my reactivity enough that I could be present, both to the people who were “on my side” of the conflict as well as to those whom I was convinced were dead wrong.

The details of the conflict faded from my rearview mirror over a decade ago, but my friend’s profound counsel have never been far from me.

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