Passive aggressive is a term used to describe a form of anger. Most of us who struggle with these tendencies don’t believe that we are angry at all. We need to understand what this terminology means so that we can recognize when we fall into the trap of being passive aggressive. The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives this definition, “being, marked by, or displaying behavior characterized by the expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive passive way”. We need to know how we display anger in ways that are not aggressive.
We all get angry for a variety of reasons but mostly it boils down to, “I didn’t get what I wanted”. We want to control this feeling. We may not want to tell the other person how we feel, therefore not working through the issue. We say something like, “I’m not angry”, “Fine” or maybe the more popular answer, “Whatever”. These are the words coming out of our mouth but our heart is seething inside. This is when we decide to let this person know we are upset, so we use different tactics of which there are many. What are some of the tactics we revert to? We will only at three common passive aggressive responses.
Facial expressions are so obvious to the one who is receiving them. The eyebrows go down. The lips tighten. The eyes narrow. You know the face because you have made it. This face tells the other person we are angry even though our words have stated otherwise. We really want the person to know we are angry. The anger we feel leads us to punish the other person with our disapproving look. Of course, we would deny anger but the recipient of the face knows the truth. Is our look meant to punish?
“Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.” Ecclesiastes 7:9 The Bible tells us that our anger takes up lodging in our heart. As the anger grows in our heart, we will display it on our faces as it has become part of us. The warning is we are fools when we allow this to happen.
Another way we may deal with anger is to pull away from a relationship or treat the person with resistance by evading her. This is a passive aggressive response which will lead to the other person feeling hurt without really knowing what is going on. Even though we may have assured the person involved that everything was okay, we still want to make her pay for her actions. We are not harming her physically but are certainly harming her emotionally. The idea of suffering is all right with us when the other person is experiencing suffering like we did. Is our withdrawal meant to harm?
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’.” Romans 12:19 It is not our responsibility to get someone back for the pain they have caused us. It is our responsibility to forgive as we have been forgiven.
BEING OVERLY KIND
You may not recognize being overly kind as a passive aggressive behavior but it is. This can be a manipulative tactic. Our kindness is meant to make the person feel bad because of what he has done. The kindness is not motivated by a desire to please God but by a desire to cause sorrow. Sometimes we can resort to this tactic and be totally deceived ourselves as to what we are doing. We can make great claims to seeking to be like Jesus when all the time we are really seeking to cause sadness in the person who sinned against us. Is our kindness meant to manipulate?
“For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Galatians 6:3 Our hearts tell us we are right to want the one who hurt us to hurt as well. We don’t want to be obvious about it so we manipulate by being overly kind. We will deceive ourselves into thinking it is right to be kind and they deserve to feel bad. You know what is going through our heads, “I’ll show him”.
We all struggle with being passive aggressive at times. It is easier to make excuses for this behavior. We can hardly make an excuse for blowing up in someone’s face or being violent. But being passive in our aggression we can deny or come up with reasons for it. The bottom line is we all will be angry at one time or another. We need to quit denying it and making excuses. Instead we need to confess and repent of our passive aggressiveness.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9