The Bigger Person

Division is, and has always been, a constant state of being in our society. There was division when the United States was founded, when the slaves were freed, and when women and people of color fought for equal rights. Every significant historical event has been met with opposition to one side or another.

Whether it be an issue on a global scale, such as a war we should or shouldn’t be part of (arguably Vietnam, Iraq, and many others), or a battle for societal change on our home-front, division and dissent seems to be the common theme.

Standing up for what you believe in is important, but the issue within every society eventually becomes about conflict resolution instead of ideology defense when numerous convictions clash. Too often we see protestors on each side shouting obscenities and attempting to drown the other out, but by the end of the day the conflict still exists. Both sides wind up going home with either more anger at their adversaries or defeated because they didn’t have as much support as the other side.

Sometimes, as we’re apt to witness, people sink below the acceptable level of discord. Random acts of violence seem to mar attempts to assemble and protest in peace. Violence aside (I say that with the assumption that most people understand we shouldn’t drive cars into people or commit any atrocities that inflict physical pain on others), there is another ugliness that afflicts and impedes upon an argument’s legitimacy: a lack of decency and a tendency to try and force others into understanding our point of view.

I saw a video on CNN recently (I can’t find the direct link now, but once I find the source I will attach it) where a man was dressed as a Confederate soldier and saluting a statue of General Robert E. Lee that is slated to be removed. Of course, people gathered around him to protest the action. I don’t have a problem with the protest or the divisiveness of the issue since both sides were expressing themselves. The problem I have is with the protestors. Instead of gathering and stating their position with eloquence, they berated this man for something he learned to believe, likely, since he was a child.

I watched as the people I consider to be on the side I typically support curse at this man, call him names, and throw things at him. There was even one woman who confronted him by standing directly in his line of sight with both middle fingers raised as he continued to salute a statue of a man he deemed a hero.

Unfortunately, this is a common theme for many dissenters which has prompted me to write this post. What those people were doing to that man was not going to change his mind. It was only going to reinforce his already deeply held beliefs, especially since he was the only one that made them clear with civility (one could argue that the statue and his dress represents a level of discord, but that is a point to be made at a later time).

There was another incident recently where a Missourian lawmaker said ‘She Hopes Trump Gets Assassinated.’ If that were the other side’s president and someone said that, there would be outrage, albeit rightfully so. There is outrage now and it is understandable. Wishing death on someone, and their family is not a good way to state an opinion. It will validate detractors’ opinions of their opposites as the irrational ones.

Too many times I see people rushing to shut down other’s opinions by screaming names/labels at them: bigot! Racist! Sexist! Ignorant!

Those names are nothing compared to some of the language that come from people’s mouths, but calling them names won’t change the way they think or behave. It’ll only make them defend their actions instead of taking a deeper look at themselves, which is pointed out in this article I found on

Without getting into too much detail about what makes people tick, we need to look at the various reasons why people become consumed by hatred, argue against popular social opinions, and generally, are the way they are. The only way to do that is to have a meaningful conversation about a topic where two sides don’t always agree. We need to understand their side and articulately explain why there’s is wrong in regards to our own.

I’d like to argue that the best way to get a point of view across is by being the bigger person. Don’t sink to the level of your adversaries by calling them names, that’s what they do. Don’t make fun or belittle them because you think their beliefs are stupid, they think yours are just as dumb. Meet their arguments with a response that lets them know why you are upset and guide them through your logic. They’re more likely to consider what you say when you’re not yelling or doing things the opposition does. They are also more likely to retain that information for longer periods of time. Meeting anger with anger creates only creates more of it and gets us nowhere.

“Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”–Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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