“Behind the smile, a hidden knife!” – Ancient Chinese proverb
“Passive-aggressive behavior is a pattern of indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them. There’s a disconnect between what a passive-aggressive person says and what he or she does.” (Mayo Clinic), and from Preston Ni, M.S.B.A, “In short, passive aggressiveness is anger, hostility, and/or learned helplessness in disguise, expressed in a covert, underhanded way to “even the score,” and with the hope of “getting away with it.” The perceived payoffs for the passive-aggressive are greater power, control, and negative emotional satisfaction.”
Confession time! I have difficulty dealing with people’s passive-aggressive personalities. My biggest downfalls in life have come as a result of not knowing how to address passive-aggressive persons (PA). In reaction to their behaviour I unknowingly responded in ways that make PA’s even angrier and more empowered.
There is never a need to be chronically passive-aggressive if your identity is deeply rooted in who God says you are. Having a passive-aggressive temperament is an outright sin; it is a major character flaw. The thoughts and behaviours of this type of personality are in conflict with how we are called to behave as Christians. As followers of Christ, a person can’t live a life of covert negative feelings that fuel an M.O. for intentionally hurting others. The passive-aggressive personality doesn’t align with the fruits of the spirit and never produces a community that consists of the types of relationships encouraged by St. Paul in his letters to the early Christians.
For those who are P.A., I encourage you to find healthy ways to process and express your frustrations and feelings of insecurity. The outcomes will be healthier relationships with others, a life of integrity, less internalized stress, and development of a more Christ-like character.
The spirit of the LORD brings freedom, the spirit of passive-aggressiveness brings bondage.
To experience the healing power offered by God, one has to be willing to be brave enough to be vulnerable in expressing how they feel in a manner that is not intended to undermine and hurt others.
For those on the receiving end of malice, stay emotionally strong. Understand that you are never the cause of another person’s inability to communicate in a healthy way. A Passive-aggressive personality is often rooted in unresolved issues stemming from childhood (0-17) where, either directly or indirectly caregivers reinforced the lesson that one is not to express their anger for fear of the consequences of doing so.
- Pray for discernment and wisdom on how and when to address passive-aggressive personalities.
- Ask God to give you the emotional strength to not give into their behaviour and risk becoming like them.
- Most importantly, pray for the person to experience the healing power that only God can provide to such wounded people because these types of issues are more than a personality conflict; it is a spiritual battle.
Are you Passive-Aggressive? Unsure of whether or not you are dealing with a Passive-Aggressive person?
Below are some resources to help you recognize and deal with passive-aggressive people
What it looks like: (Source: Preston Ni, M.S.B.A.)
Below are four categories of passive aggression:
Disguised Verbal Hostility. Negative gossip. Sarcasm. Veiled hostile joking — often followed by “just kidding.” Repetitive teasing. Negative orientation. Habitual criticism of ideas, solutions, conditions, and expectations.
Disguised Relational Hostility. The silent treatment. The invisible treatment. Social exclusion. Neglect. Backstabbing. Two faced. Mixed messages. Deliberate button pushing. Negative or discomforting surprises. Overspending. Sullen resentment. Indirectly hurting something or someone of importance to the targeted person.
Disguised Task Hostility. Procrastination. Stalling. Forgetting. Stonewalling. Withholding resources or information. Professional exclusion. Denying personal responsibility. Excuse making. Blaming. Broken agreements. Lack of follow through. Resistance. Stubbornness. Rigidity. Avoidance. Inefficiency, complication, incompletion or ruination of task.
Hostility Towards Others Through Self-Punishment (“I’ll show YOU”). Quitting. Deliberate failure. Exaggerated or imagined health issues. Victimhood. Dependency. Addiction. Self-harm. Deliberate weakness to elicit sympathy and favor.