Two of the biggest stars in popular culture, Taylor Swift and LeBron James, have been described as passive-aggressive.  They are just as much products of their generation as they are an influence in it.  A passive-aggressive person avoids confrontation.  They are just as hostile as a hot-head, but show it indirectly, hence the word “passive.”  In the spirit of “tolerance,” nobody wants to offend anyone else, so instead of offending people directly, we use language that displays kindness, but hides bitterness.  The Bible describes this type of person: “His speech was smoother than butter, but his heart was war; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” (Psa. 55:21).

Someone in the older generation might say, “Yeah, in my day, we dealt with conflict head-on.  None of this “game playing” that goes on nowadays.”  Before you get too nostalgic, realize that the current emphasis on tolerance and acceptance is partially a reaction to the ugliness younger generations see in those that came before them.  If the younger generation appears secretly hostile, it’s because the older generation appears openly hostile.  Of course, these are both generic descriptions.  There are plenty of actively aggressive people in the younger generation, and passive-aggressive in the older.  It’s also possible that I’ve mischaracterized the generations, but what is certainly true is that neither form of aggression is acceptable.

Passive-aggressiveness is especially insidious because it is deceptive.  The passive-aggressive can deny that they have any ill will.  If you sense that a passive-aggressive person is directing their anger toward you, they will deny and blame their accuser of creating conflict.  Possibly the worst part of passive-aggressive behavior is that the person acting in such a manner ultimately only fools themselves.  They live with just enough partial truth to swallow their own lies.  Eventually, the passive-aggressive person will find that they have lost the ability to discern truth.  In their mastery of deception, they’ve ultimately pulled the wool over their own eyes.  If not aware of the problem, the passive-aggressive will go from relationship to relationship always playing the victim and never knowing why other people “treat them so poorly.”  Their attempt to blind others has only blinded themselves.

One primary attribute of a passive-aggressive person is that they conceal their hatred by playing on interpretation.  They may angrily give you the “silent treatment, but instead of admitting their anger (which may even be justified anger), they may say they just “forgot to talk to you.”  Since this is a possible explanation, the person at whom it’s directed cannot prove that they’re being treated poorly, even when it seems obvious.

So how can we curb passive-aggressive behavior?  First, we must learn to see our own half-truths.  Honesty is such a vital element to building relationships, and playing games of interpretation will ruin the trust a person can have in us.  Even when we’re being honest, people will be skeptical of us, because we’ve told half-truths with an honest face before.

Second, build the courage to deal with problems directly when necessary.  Passive-aggressive behavior is cowardly behavior.  It is an attempt to absolve yourself of responsibility for your actions.  It is tempting to act toward someone we have an issue with passive-aggressively because it seems so easy to get way with, and there are no apparent consequences.  However, when conflict is avoided at all costs, it will catch up at some point.


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The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. — Romans 13:9-10 (NIV)

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