I’ve been exploring some of the dynamics associated with passive-aggressive postures. For a variety of reasons, such ways of relating are common among American evangelical church cultures.
Such relational postures seem acceptable because they give one the illusion that one is being humble, even cruciform (being shaped by the cross).
As Jamie commented a few days ago, a person can be self-deceived into thinking and feeling that “I had suffered the greater wrong, and was showing a noble character by being ‘patient in suffering’.”
What makes being passive-aggressive a vice, however, is that while adopting this posture, a person grows angry inside, nursing perceived wounds, feeding resentment, and deriving hope and promise from the prospect that the other person will someday get what’s coming to him.
A passive-aggressive relational posture manifests a failure of love.
As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, genuine love “keeps no record of wrongs” (v. 5). Genuine love forgives and refuses to harbor resentment. It no longer camps on actual or perceived insults and injuries.
Further, genuine love “does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (v. 6). A passive-aggressive person grasps after power over another person by judging his motives, “naming” him as aggressor and injurer.
Love, however, seeks genuine understanding of the other person. “Perhaps I’ve misunderstood your motives, your actions, or your words. I know you want to love me and see me flourish, so please help me understand.”
Such postures of love manifest Christian hope. Love “always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (v. 7).
Such a relational posture puts one in a vulnerable position, a seriously cruciform posture of weakness. But this is the only relational dynamic that invites resurrection power, drawing upon the restoring and renewing power of God’s Spirit.