“Do not answer fools according to their folly,
or you will be a fool yourself.
Answer fools according to their folly,
or they will be wise in their own eyes.”
~Proverbs 26:4-5 (NRSV)
Where do we start with passive aggressiveness? It is all around us—in our homes, our workplaces, our shopping centres, and, intermingled with overt aggressiveness, on the roads, too.
Whenever someone is nice to our face yet we know their real intent is to backdoor or confound us, we know passive aggressiveness. And of the more overt forms, this resistance becomes noticeable, especially in the case of certain types of bullying. Although passive aggressive behaviour is sometimes difficult to pinpoint, it can be almost impossible to combat.
Now, we can be sure that passive aggressive behaviour is the behaviour of the proverbial fool—abovementioned. This person has no real interest in love or the common good.
This gives us both important insight and a warning.
Employing The Insight Of The Sage
Because God’s power is for those who work for good—who go into the threshold of love, despite aggressiveness—there is a way of dealing with the confounding behaviour of those that are skilled in passive aggressive responses in life.
But we can only tap into God’s power when we are appropriately wily, like a sage.
Only the wise—those employing well considered thought—can deal with the fool. Only the wise can remain calm enough, overall, in the presentation of folly. Maybe it’s only the wise that can work with that folly. And wisdom is the much needed response, because passive aggressiveness is everywhere in this life.
This initiates us to the warning, stated straight in Proverbs 26:4-5.
Entering A World Where No One Wins
The fool has it in their heart that if they cannot win, nobody will win.
Everything, for them, appears as a competition. The person who chooses passive aggressive responses in life sees life competitively—or it least selfishly—and not as a journey for safety and mutual enjoyment.
This is where we are warned. We cannot change them. We are better off to accept what we cannot change. We may bring them gently to account where we are able to, but it would be foolishness to lose excessive energy focusing on that which we cannot change or control.
With people who are passive aggressive we cannot play their game, yet we only get on by playing their game. It appears as an infuriating trap. But there is a way when we take each situation on its merits.
Sometimes we employ a gentle truth to bring reason to the situation, but most of the time we need to be prepared to accept the presence of many lies, and, importantly, not get frustrated or too overwhelmed. God will reward our patience with wisdom, for we are showing wisdom by not falling into a trap. And when we do fall into the trap, we learn, and by doing so we grow in wisdom.
Coping with passive aggressive behaviour requires as much wisdom as we can draw from God. Dealing with foolishness in a way that doesn’t entrap us as fools requires a surrendered level of discernment. Wisdom is the only way to deal with folly.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.