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The Passive-Aggressive Relationship Killer

What is “The Passive-Aggressive Relationship Killer”?

Gossip is a relationship killer!

Well, my father always told me that gossip was when you discussed information about another person with someone who was neither part of the problem nor part of the solution. Talking about another person is one of our most divisive, and sinful, inclinations as human beings. Almost always when we engage in this kind of behavior it is never to build someone else up but to either tear someone else down or build ourselves up. We can use gossip to justify our own inappropriate, and ultimately ungodly, behavior or to create mistrust for some else by casting aspersions at their behavior. We always do this with the intent of exalting ourselves at the expense of someone else.

So how is it that gossip is so prevalent?

We human beings are, for the most part, community centric. Therefore there is a need for us to communicate with one another to feel a sense of security and wellbeing. We are also taught from the time that we are very young that there are God centered, Bible based, moral values and that “right” is “good” and “wrong” is “bad”. It is something that permeates American culture and drives our moral compass. However, something that is so many times overlooked is that we are also selfish from birth.

Psalms 51:5 says “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.”

From the time we are born we are sinfully selfish by nature. This selfishness causes us to make choices based on personal preference and eventually translates to feelings that clash with the feelings of other people. Further, because of our inherent sin nature we begin to associate our personal preferences with right, which is good, and compare them to other peoples personal preferences and when different they are wrong and thus bad. Because I like red and someone else likes blue does not make them a bad person because they do not prefer red but simply a person, created by God, who likes blue. This is a rather oversimplified example but so many times the underlying causes of broken relationships are just like the example. Simply replace red and blue with a specific situation and it will likely apply just as well.

What is Passive-Aggressive behavior?

Merriam-Webster defines passive-aggressive behavior as being, marked by, or displaying behavior characterized by the expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive passive way (as through procrastination and stubbornness).

So how does that relate to gossip?

Well, I’m glad you asked. Merriam-Webster defines gossip as information about the behavior and personal lives of other people.

Note that passive-aggressive behavior is the expression of negative feelings, resentment and aggression in an unassertive way. How easy it is to say something negative to someone about someone else. This can be done unassertively without having to face the person who is the target of the negative feelings, resentment or aggression. So gossip in a passive-aggressive context would be sharing negative information about the behavior and/or personal lives of other people.

Social media makes this even easier. One does not have to face either the recipients or the target of the negative feelings, resentment or aggression. Email, texting, Facebook, Twitter and others are readily available means by which passive-aggressive acts of gossip can be carried out. But whether shared in person or on social media this kind of passive-aggressive behavior is gossip and it is destructive to relationships.

“Biblical Reference” rather than “personal preference”?

How to act with Integrity!

Ephesians 4:29 “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Proverbs 11:13 says “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.”

We must start with that scripture. As imperfect human beings we need to communicate with others in times of trouble or need. When we are sick, have personal problems or struggles we sometimes need to be able to talk to someone who can provide wise council or encouragement. The last thing we need is for that person to go blabbering about things which are deeply personal and very likely painful to us. If someone mentions that they are having a struggle with a particular issue to us the thing that should be foremost in our mind is the thought of Ephesians 4:29 and Proverbs 11:13. We should never assume that because we were not told to keep something in confidence that we do not need to keep it in confidence. The default position we should always take is that something expressed by another person is to be kept in confidence unless otherwise indicated. This is in complete agreement with Ephesians 4:29 and Proverbs 11:13.

Don’t receive gossip!
Proverbs 18:8 “The words of gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.”

It is so enticing to hear something that provides us with information. Information makes us powerful, right? Well, that is the primary reason rumors spread like wildfire through families and church bodies. Nobody wants to feel they are not in the know with regard to the latest “choice morsels” and everyone wants to be the first to share “choice morsels” with someone else. Often the result is that these “choice morsels” generate division and conflict forcing people to take sides which leads to the deeds of the flesh described in Gal 5:20-21, among which are; “enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying”. These kinds of emotions tear down relationships rather than build them up as do the fruits of the Spirit described in Gal 5:22-23 which are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”.

Information that is not in the proper context is not good information. Prevalent in our families and our church bodies, this kind of second hand information is bantered about as glorious and fulfilling when, in fact, it is demeaning, discouraging, destructive and sinful. When we receive gossip it digs into our spirit and creates enmity between us and the target of the gossip. We find ourselves feeling ill will toward someone who may have done nothing deserving of that kind of feeling. We should take a position that we do not receive gossip and if we do hear it we need to take it to the person who is the target of the gossip and ask their forgiveness for hearing such information.

Gossip is Destructive!

Galatians 5:15 “But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”

Division occurs when bad information bumps up against good information or other bad information. This is exactly what the apostle Paul was talking about in Gal 5:15. These kinds of divisions do not generally occur with regard to Biblical doctrine but in the defense of the personal preference of men and/or women.

II Corinthians 11:14-15 says “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.”

Never underestimate the power of deception. Too many times someone who believes, based on their personal preference that something is right and thus good, will engage in propagating information that is either contextually incorrect or just simply not true at all. In many cases it seems that the perception of a personal preference being wrong, and thus bad, is worse than stretching the truth or lying, so information is fabricated to support that personal preference or denigrate the personal preference of another. This kind of gossip is at times the most vicious and vigorously defended. The apostle Paul stated in Gal 5 7-8 that “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you.” In other words it did not come from God, as noted in II Corinthians 11:14-15.

John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Information, perhaps somewhat based in truth, exalted to a new degree of distortion by someone in order attract attention to themselves to satisfy their own desires or perhaps to turn attention away from themselves when they have done something inappropriate or sinful is not uncommon in this day and age. Many families and church bodies have been split because of these kinds of gossip. In many cases what God’s Word has to say about an issue never comes into play. His Word is never consulted or considered because we allow our personal preferences to take precedence.

I heard a saying somewhere that is quite appropriate for this post. “Opinions are like arm pits, everybody’s got more than one and a lot of the time they stink!”

We must always start with God’s Word and never assume our personal preference is right denoting “good”. The default assumption for us should be that our personal preference may, in fact, be sinful and not pleasing to God. We should always check our words by Ephesians 4:29. There are several questions we should ask before we speak or hear something:

  1. Is it wholesome
  2. Is it edifying
  3. Does it give grace to those who hear (or us if we hear it)

These three simple questions will stop gossip dead in it’s tracks.

Parents do you talk about your children?

The sense of our perception of a community begins at home. The fact that we are close to our spouse and close to our children does not provide the liberty to gossip. Remember, if the person we are talking to is not part of the problem or part of the solution discussing something about one child with another is gossip.

This is particularly true if they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They have the same selfish tendencies as do we and are just as subject to sin as are we. Remember that apart from being our children they deserve the same respect we would offer our brothers and sisters in Christ at our church. They have the same feelings and emotions as well as the fact that they can be manipulated to have negative feelings about their brothers and sisters or the other parent.

Many times parents, and I know this because I am one, consider their opinions and personal preferences to be right (i.e good) and their children’s opinions and personal preferences as wrong (i.e. bad). We are right and they are wrong. The sad thing is that we talk about our children in that light rather than the Light of God’s Word and eventually we come to the place where we have to choose between being right (personal preference wise) and having a meaningful relationship with our children.

How to deal with offense?

The scripture is very clear on how to deal with offense. There are two types of offenses that we must consider.

  1. When we have been offended or sinned against by someone
  2. When we realize that we have offended or sinned against someone

Most of the time we do not recognize the second type of offense. Generally, we never consider the fact that we may offend or sin against someone else but that is not the case.

When We’re Sinned Against

When we have been offended and someone has sinned Matthew 18 provides guidance. We should not, however, consider a difference in “personal preference” as sin. Clearly we need to delineate “personal preference” from “Biblical Reference” unless it has escalated to something that does, in fact, violate God’s Word.

Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

Galatians 6:1 “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”

The first step is to confront the person privately. This is antipodal to our selfish and passive-aggressive tendency to want to go to others with our complaint. But we must find the courage to confront the person in a spirit of gentleness according to Galatians 6:1 always realizing that we are also sinners and considering how we would want to be approached when we have sinned against a brother or sister.

If you are not heard then you must bring along a couple of witnesses. Let me say that what that does not mean is that you need to fully brief the witnesses on the situation. What this does mean is that you again confront the one who has sinned in private with a spirit of gentleness but this time with witnesses to testify to God’s Word.

The third step is so horrendous I do not want to speculate on how that should be handled. But I can say that we must always start with God’s Word remembering that we are also sinners saved by grace.

When We Sin Against Someone

When we realize that we have offended or sinned against someone else we must take immediate action to insure that our relationship with that person is not damaged.

Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”

We have this thing called pride but we need to swallow it regularly in order to maintain healthy relationships. In doing this we demonstrate our love and concern for the relationship we hold with our brothers and sisters thus maintaining a healthy relationship and making it easier for others to approach us when they need to do so. It also diminishes the window of opportunity for both deception and an opportunity for the flesh as noted in Galatians 5:13.

Galatians 5:13 “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

There are times when something you did bothers you and you ask for forgiveness but the person does not remember it. The point is that you do remember it and it was something that was not only holding back in your relationship with the other person but holding you back in your relationship to God.

Finally the Answer!

I will end this post with a scripture that gives us the answer to how we can always maintain proper relationships within our families as well as our church families.

Philippians 2:1-8 “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”


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