Passive Aggressive Behavior 2 Sam. 14:28-33 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
I don’t really like calling this message Passive Aggressive Behavior because that is a term applied by Psychology to the behavior that we are going to discuss today. Nevertheless, I chose that title because you may have heard it and be curious what the Bible has to say about it. Frankly, we are not going to talk about psychology, at all, but rather a practical, Biblical understanding of a behavior that seems so good for awhile and then suddenly turns monstrous.
In 2 Sam 14:28-33, Absalom demonstrates the behavior on which we are going to teach today. At first, Absalom, David’s son, makes an apparently reasonable request for Joab to contact David, his father, and set up an appointment with him. Then, after two attempts to get Joab to respond, Absalom decides to send his servants to set Joab’s field on fire. That’s an extreme change in tactics in response to Joab’s refusal to reply. How do you account for that?
Well, to understand how Absalom could be so nice, on the one hand, and so devious and destructive, on the other hand, you must understand what’s going on in his mind and heart. If you can understand that, then you can understand why you or someone you know demonstrates such unreasonably drastic swings in behavior from nice to mean. Here’s what’s going on:
Nice people are often nice because they want to be praised – 2 Sam 14:25; 2 Sam 15:2-6 – Absalom relished in the praise he received for his beauty and thrived on the honor he received when he stole the hearts of the men of Israel – he wasn’t nearly as interested in justice as he was in looking good – he was like the Pharisees in Jn 12:43 who loved the praise of men – people who must always be viewed as the “good guy” in any situation so they can maintain their perceived favor are very prone to be nice as often and as long as they possibly can – they work hard at looking good even in situations where getting tough is what’s required.
Nice people who are nice because they love praise are proud – Prov 16:18 – Absalom was a very proud man – as with Absalom, people who love praise are obviously proud – now, there are those who are nice because they are genuinely nice folks – but then there are those who are nice because they want to be liked – their pride and self-love compel them – of course, since pride is a sin in the Bible, if you were to tell a nice person that he is proud he would deny it, maybe even vehemently, because then he would no longer be considered a good person – in the end, as with Absalom and all proud people, this fellows true character is going to be revealed in time.
Nice people who are nice because they love praise are fearful of men – Prov 29:25 – a nice person who has to be nice to be praised is deathly afraid of men – he guards his reputation meticulously because he can’t stand other people saying bad things about him – Saul and Absalom were both this way – people who are like this even have a hard time laughing at themselves because they can’t stand people making fun of them – consider what you’ve seen so far – a proud person, who fears men and thrives on praise – you’re looking at a powder keg.
Nice people who are nice because they love praise are deceitful – Prov 27:5-6 – the trouble with Mr. Nice Guy is two-fold – he is nice to everyone but the ones who are closest to him – he can’t keep the charade going so he lets his “bad” side show around the ones with whom he feels the safest; the ones who love him the most – he knows they won’t reject him for being “bad” – the trouble is that everyone else is deceived about you [Absalom greeted the men with a kiss but he is a perfect type of the anti-christ] – then you end up dealing with a situation and you get tough – guess what, you are so used to exploding around the ones closest to you that you explode at and around the ones who aren’t – oh brother, now you are in a fix – you have overreacted to the situation, like Absalom did, and you have shown your true colors – so what do you do – to recover, you become VERY NICE now to make up for your “bad” and you end up setting the stage for yet another melt down.
Nice people who are nice because they love praise can’t be nice all the time – Prov 28:23 – there are times when you must toughen up and deal with a bad situation – but to toughen up usually means that you can’t keep your Mr. Nice Guy persona – nice guys have basically two ways of handling this kind of dilemma – they either choose not to confront it [that way, in their mind, they can keep looking good] or they choose to confront it [in which case they go ballistic] – Absalom went ballistic – when Absalom confronted Amnon two years after he forced Tamar he killed him – when Absalom confronted Joab he burned down his crop – when Absalom confronted his father, he stole the throne – there is no middle ground – it’s either all peace and love or it’s nuclear.
Conclusion: So, what do you do about all this difficult behavior?
- Truly humble yourself – you must admit your self-love and pride and turn from them.
- Be content with God – you are accepted in the beloved even if no one else loves you.
- Fear God completely – so that you get over your fear of men; after all, he’s the judge!!
- Be absolutely truthful – in your dealings with others [you don’t have to be rude or crass].
- Let God and others bring you into favor with them – you don’t have to be everybody’s Mr. Nice Guy and win their favor – you’re not running for office.
- Learn to find the middle ground of confrontation – even if you are afraid it’s going to make you look bad, you can’t let people take advantage of you and you can’t overreact.
- Seek counsel from some stable people – before you tackle something you are really mad about.