Bob Nugent was a year behind me in grade school. We didn’t really have much contact until college where we were both involved in student government and wound up spending lots of time together as part of an interesting (at least to us), somewhat nerdy political clique.
At one point, several student organizations found themselves embroiled in what passed for college campus controversy in those days. Let’s just say, it was quite a bit less important than the anti-war protests of our predecessors on campus years earlier.
As various groups and individuals were angling for the upper hand in what might be the ultimate resolution of the issue, Bob talked about the necessity of “maintaining the higher moral ground.”
By this phrase, he meant the importance of displaying the upright conduct that allows you to deflect criticism potentially coming your way. The phrase “higher moral ground” resonated so strongly, I’ve used the idea repeatedly in reminding myself of the importance of not extending your own moral point of view beyond a standard against which you are willing to be judged.
Years later, I discovered the concept addressed in a New Testament passage from the letter to Titus:
“…show(ing) yourself as a model of good deeds in every respect, with integrity in your teaching, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be criticized, so that the opponent will be put to shame without anything bad to say about us.” – Titus 2:7-8
When I first heard it, I was clear this was a description of the “higher moral ground.” Bob’s words from college came full circle for me as a foundational life practice.
Maintaining the higher moral ground is a challenging standard for anyone, but in an age when there’s such interest in seeing people fall, it’s never been more important to be able to live it out successfully.