Is “be the bigger person” always the best lesson?

Like most people, I learned the lesson growing up that sometimes life wasn’t going to be fair. Things don’t always work out the way that we feel they should, but that it’s more about behaving as a good person that will hopefully make a difference in this world. If we all gave up on being good people, the world would go into decline – someone has to set a good example.

When I was little, my mom used to refer to this as “taking the higher path”. There are always options in life, we can behave in a myriad ways, but it’s by choosing to be a better human that we can do good and hopefully move other people to do the same. It’s important to me that I raise Harley to be a good person, but I’m wondering what that actually means.

There have been many times in my life when I’ve been forced to be the bigger person, as I think everyone has. When faced with idiots, assholes or simply distressing situations, we have a choice to sink to the level of others, or rise above it. My friend Sadaf used to joke that for someone so small, it’s unfair that I always had to be the bigger person. And maybe it’s not about being a “better” or “bigger” person, but simply trying to be a peace maker, trying to make things better instead of worse. Whatever you want it call it, it’s something that’s been important for me in many instances, but I’m increasingly struggling to see value in.

There are some people out there who will never change. Whether they are ignorant, stubborn or just plain damaged, no amount of good modeling or influencing will make them see the error of their way. Perhaps one day things might change for them and they will behave differently, but most of the time it boils down to fundamental disagreements that can’t be resolved no matter how high a path I take. I’ve encountered this before, and eventually decided to simply not engage with those people any further, choosing distance and avoidance over feeling like I was hitting my head against a wall over and over.

Recently, some friends and I seem to be facing these types of people again in different parts of our lives. How many chances to do you give someone before you accept that this is just who they are? How many times do you need to try and be the better person before it becomes smarter to just distance yourself? How much energy is worth expending on fixing something before it becomes more worthwhile to just walk away? And even when money or investments are at stake, sanity and safety are more worthwhile.

I want Harley to grow up to be a good human being, someone who knows how to behave in all kinds of situations with all manner of people. Life doesn’t always mean interacting with easy people – sometimes we have to face difficult situations and I want her to be equipped with the tools to tackle those problems, not to run away or to be a doormat. But I also want to make sure she knows that sometimes it’s okay to not be the bigger person, to not take the higher path, but simply to walk away. It’s taken me a long time to realize that my time and energy has value, and not everyone is worth it; it’s a lesson I sometimes need to relearn. Walking away or refusing to cooperate with certain people sometimes is the best course of action.


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