PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE (adj.)
Denoting or pertaining to a personality type or behavior marked by the expression of negative emotions in passive, indirect ways, as through manipulation or noncooperation (stubbornness): of or relating to a personality that harbours aggressive motions while behaving in a calm or detached manner.
If we are honest with ourselves we have all been the giver or taker of this emotion. Being on the receiving end it’s almost unbelievable how a person can go from being super confident, to belligerent and stubborn. Now, if we are the one dishing it out, where is our example to glean from? How do we move forward? How can we practice not doing this in the future?
LUKE 1:18-23 KJV18And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. 19And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. 20And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
In the verses above we see Zacharias being the giver and the angel Gabriel being the receiver of passive aggression. As we wrap up Zacharias’ story there is a lot to unpack.Not only had Zacharias been faithful to God but, he walked righteously in His commandments. So how does a person living a life as he did have the audacity to question God’s messenger? Passive aggressive emotion. If you haven’t come across it in your life or don’t know what it looks like a part from the biblical example, allow me to paint a picture. Imagine trying to explain something to someone. You are calmly if not methodically attempting to be as careful as possible with your words as not to confuse the other party. However, as you continue your explanation it is suddenly met with yells of: I can’t ___, I won’t___, I don’t understand ___, it doesn’t work that way for me…and so on. This is just one example. Hopefully you recognize it in yourself or in others.
These melt downs, by adults and children alike, is the outward expression of failure to understand. It may be accompanied by whining and manipulation at some point. It is normal; however, it can be very dangerous if the “receiver” is not in a good place emotionally and the behavior is never acknowledged by the “giver”. It can destroy bonds very quickly because, it is a difficult emotion to grasp and the triggers may be too laborious to pin down. It can also dilute conversations, as certain topics are avoided at all costs and claiming no knowledge (even if you’re the expert) is considered a crisis avoided. We all have passive aggressive tendencies, how we maintain control over it is knowing why it happens and in what situations. What are we resistant to learning? What are we afraid of missing? How will this effect relationships going forward? This is when mindfulness kicks in. When we pause long enough to ask ourselves: am I being resistant to someone who is trying to help?
But what if we prayed for help or an answer….
The angel Gabriel was trying to deliver good news to Zacharias, letting him know that he would be a father, what to name his son, and that he would feel a great sense of joy. But, Gabriel was met with the “I don’ts”. What should have been a resounding relief and unimaginable joy at receiving long-awaited confirmation, was handled in a passive aggressive human emotion. We should not miss that Zacharias was made silent and unable to speak (Luke 1:20). He would have no way of uttering a word or connecting with people verbally. I think this is what passive aggressiveness eventually does to us if we remain oblivious. Our circle grows smaller and as time goes on, no one desires to talk to us…. rendering us silent.
I recognize how and when I have a passive aggressive attitude toward someone or something. The best way to thwart it is by being open minded and listening. We do not learn in the same manner as everyone else and that’s OK! Before we ask for help let’s pause and pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide our words, open our minds, and allow knowledge to be received. If we stop telling ourselves that we have a hard time, or we can’t do something, we will be able to have an intelligent conversation through listening, develop our communication skills and learn a new lesson as well.