I’ve been discussing passive-aggressive relational postures on and off for the last few weeks. It’s worth lifting up the hood on this basic relational orientation because it is so pervasive and so subtle.
Many Christians are self-deceived into imagining that passive-aggressive attitudes and behaviors are somehow closely related to cruciformity and humility.
But they most certainly are not. They are power-plays and manifest hearts of bitterness and anger.
Drawing this discussion to something of a conclusion, let’s get practical.
How would you counsel people who tend toward passive-aggressive postures? How do they need to change and what practical steps can they take to relate to others in life-giving ways? I’d love to hear from others who have reflected at greater length on this than I, but here are some starters:
First, cultivate the habit of believing the best of others. Passive-aggressive postures involve putting others in the role of injurer, imagining they are out to do harm.
Learn to hope in others. After all, true love “hopes all things,” thinks well of them, is confident that they will do good when given the opportunity.
Second, learn to receive the love of others. Passive-aggressive people can’t truly receive and enjoy the love of others. A typical response upon the reception of a gift might be, “well, it’s about time.” Similar back-handed compliments or snide remarks reveal a heart of deep resentment. Such sentiments prevent a gift-giver from reveling in the joy of doing good.
Reveling in the love of another person puts to death deep anger and dissipates long-held resentments.
Third, learn the skills associated with frank speech. Be honest and direct. I’m not commending unkindness or hurting others with words.
Passive-aggressive people have a hard time being straightforward about what they want or their intentions. When their unclear communication doesn’t connect, their suspicions of others’ evil motives are confirmed.
Frank speech can be used, however, to put others in a position of freedom to choose how they will act. Direct speech brings clarity and keeps manipulation at bay.
Well, there are undoubtedly many redemptive practices that can help us love others and enjoy others’ love more fruitfully.
What are they?