What Does “Being The Bigger Person” Really Mean?

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

Kind of in the same vein of yesterday…

It’s interesting to me that after this whole experience, I’ve started to question what certain words and concepts really mean to me – one of them is what it means to be the bigger person.

I always sort of thought of it as somebody wrongs you, and you decide to kind of rise above it and forgive them anyway.

(There was a good episode in season 2 of How To Get Away With Murder that included a large storyline about the mother of a man who was shot forgiving the man who did it.)

To me, there’s something that can feel really empowering about being the bigger person. You can feel good about yourself. You can leave your anger behind. You move on, and you look and feel great doing it. How amazing does that sound? Sign me up?

But one of the problems I found, if I would gather all the strength inside me, and try oh to hard to be the bigger person, was that sexual assault guy would try to really show me how much I wasn’t be the bigger person because “actually, he did nothing wrong, and I’m just being one of those ridiculous women-folk!” or “actually, I’m upset about [whatever whatever ¬†thing here]. How can I forgive the thing I’m not aaaaactually upset over.” Or he’d goad me so that “actually, you’re still upset.” (In case you can’t tell, my life was a near constant barrage of actuallys when I was around him.)

And sometimes it’d be frustrating, and it would feel like, “Why aren’t you just allowing me to be the bigger person?! Let me be free here!”

…But do you actually need permission to be the bigger person?

If you’re just straight-up Dalai Lama calm, being all, “I forgive you. I forgive you…” And the person is yelling that you can’t because they did nothing wrong, or that you’re crazy… Are you becoming like them? Are you being manipulative and trying to goad them – knowing your aloud forgiveness will make them upset (since they would never do anything wrong to you – and certainly never disrespect a woman (*eye roll,* remembering that being told to me). So, are you becoming them? Or are you just being transcendently¬†calm?

You could always just choose to forgive someone and deal with the fact that they don’t accept and/or believe your forgiveness. You just quietly do it alone for yourself because they don’t care (or maybe they even revel in what they did)…

And that’s the true definition of being the bigger person, isn’t it? I kind of always thought being the bigger person came with a pat on the back from somebody… Somebody involved, or from the person who needs your forgiveness in the first place, or I dunno – just somebody. Some acceptance of “ah yes. You are doing this. I see and acknowledge it. And now all is calm and in a nice little bow. There’s been some kind of resolution. Everyone can breathe again. Go enjoy a vegan cake pop.”

But that’s really not how it works, is it? Because “being the bigger person” inherently means someone is being the “smaller” person – they’re being upsetting. So, even if you decide to “be the bigger person,” what makes you think they’re gonna listen to what you have to say, or accept your forgiveness?

…When I started writing this post, I was basically gonna ask if you even *can* be the bigger person if someone doesn’t accept your apology or listen to you, and you decide in your apartment, alone, “I am letting go of this anger. What you did was horrific. But I’m not longer letting it control me.”

But now, by the end of the post, I feel like I’ve come to realize… that is actually the act of being the bigger person, isn’t it?

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?