We all know that our words have impact. That ours words bring life, or they bring death. We either use them to build people up or we use them to tear people down. What we say, what we don’t say and the way we say things has lasting and even eternal impact.
Perhaps you’re from a family that is assertive – they are honest and upfront. What you see is what you get, and it is as simple as that. Or perhaps you’re from a family that isn’t so; your family tends to work more passively aggressive. Things are said, though indirectly, impressions are made – I mean it certainly is an art, right?
Passive aggression works, it is subtle, quiet and non-confrontational. So, what could possibly be wrong about that?
Well, it is said to be one of the most destructive communication patterns. It is manipulative and lacks in emotional directness.
Honest and upfront
Yet, if we were to look at the life of Jesus, He was upfront and honest. In John, chapter 4 we see Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman at the well. In this particular story Jesus asks her for a drink, this woman responds that she cannot for He is a Jew and she is a Samaritan woman. Jesus, trying to teach her a lesson about the real living water that she so desperately needs, confronts her and tells her to go and call her husband to come back.
She responds with “I have no husband,” Jesus then goes onto say, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the man you are now living with is not your husband. What you have said is true!"
But you see it is only in addressing behaviour can change occur. This Samaritan woman understood that, she thought she was simply going to the well that day to draw water… not realising she was coming to meet the living water.
A high virtuous act
Ephesians Chapter 4, versus 14-16 NLT
“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever, they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
The term courageous leader is thrown around a lot now but that is exactly who Jesus is. He’s willing to have the hard conversations, to speak the truth in love and I believe this is what Jesus is asking of us today. To grow in every way more and more like Christ in our communication to one another. In a world full of opinions, I see the ability to speak the truth in love as a highly virtuous act.
As we continue in 2021, could this be a new standard of our communication to one another? Passive aggression is certainly an art, but perhaps not an art that we want to get right.
Elise Pappas is a Pastor and together with her husband pastor a church on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. They have a son, Jonathan and a daughter, Sophie. Elise is a former clinical drug trial research coordinator and business owner. She writes about life and ministry experiences.