David Heap’s temporary BCC reign of terror continues.
But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father?
I first learned of passive aggression from K-Lynn Paul’s article in Dialogue, “Passive Aggression and the Believer.” K-Lynn Paul’s article is excellent and, I daresay, timeless. I commend his piece to you. I do not think a lot has changed since then.
While passive aggression is not limited to the Church, I think our Church structure, teachings and culture make it a fertile ground for passive aggression. In our Church culture, sometimes I think the second son in Jesus’ parable (the slacker) might be considered the better son–he who accepted the assignment, but did not carry it out. This would particularly be the case if the slacker had a defensible reason for not carrying out the assignment, but it might even be the case if the son’s reason was not so good—i.e., he “forgot”, “lost track of time” or “something came up.” The first son, who eventually carried out the assignment, would, in the minds of many, be viewed harshly, because he at first openly and directly refused the assignment That is, it is better, in the Church, to be a slacker than a rebel.
Suppose a bishop asks ward members to “set a date” to invite someone to their home to hear a missionary lesson (I recall the days when that was a program of the Church in some areas). A member who flatly declined might be considered a rebel, or someone with insufficient faith. A person who accepted and set a date, but never even tried (or did not try hard), well at least they did not directly refuse. A person who flatly refuses a church visiting assignment is a rebel, an idler—but a person who accepts the assignment but rarely visits—well that is just normal.
I do not think passive aggression is necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it is the only thing one can do in difficult situations in the Church, at work, in the family or community, particularly when it is too risky to state our position openly. We can vote with our feet.
Many members opposed to Proposition 8 in California and Proposition 102 in Arizona did so publicly (including many in the Bloggernacle). But the majority of members I knew who did not support the propositions were careful to voice their concerns very privately and outside of Church. In Church settings, many were silent, or even allowed others to think that they were “following the Brethren” and supporting the propositions. Some may have taken signs to post in their yards, but passive aggressively did not post them. Or may have accepted an assignment to walk the precinct, but forgot or handed out both pro- and con- materials.
What do you think? When is passive aggression a “healthy” way to respond? When we serve as leaders, how can we be more open so that members do not feel passive aggression is the only way to disagree? What are the benefits and drawbacks of passive aggression?