I can be the queen of passive aggression. I have expectations of loved ones that I don’t even know are present until someone disappoints me. Then, I pretend I’m fine because that is what a “good Christian girl” does right? But, I’m not fine and I also want them to know I’m not fine while I’m trying to convince myself I’m fine.
Sound exhausting? Well, it is! Maybe you can relate. We like to think it is all the other person’s fault, but the truth is that our passive aggressive attitude is sinful because it is dishonest and unloving. Ouch.
This is not the freedom to which Christ has called us.
I certainly have not “arrived” in this area-I am still learning how to trust Christ to throw off my old passive aggressive self. But, here are some things he has taught me along the way. These are some ways God calls us to respond when a love one disappoints us.
1. Be honest with God and yourself about how you feel.
How can we move on from disappointment if we do not admit we are disappointed? As a peacekeeper, I like to stuff my disappointments down and pretend they are not there. When I continually stuff them inside my invisible bag of disappointments, danger lurks around the corner. Not only am I carrying around that heavy baggage, but if I ever open the bag, everything falls out at the same time. This is not a healthy way to deal with disappointments.
We need to allow ourselves to feel our disappointment. The Lord, who is not surprised by any emotion, invites us to drop our emotional baggage at his feet. We have a father who promises to carry our burdens and yet, we so often insist on carrying them ourselves. This is not the freedom Christ offers. If we drop our disappointments at his feet, he offers peace and redemption.
2. Look Within yourself.
After being honest about our disappointments, we need to look inside our own heart. Why am I disappointed? What is the person who hurt me responsible for and what am I responsible for? Are my expectations unrealistic? Am I trying to find life and vitality in a person instead of God? Am I looking to this person for life they cannot give?
When our hope and life are in God, we are free to not be crushed by lesser expectations.
3. Assume the best.
In a world full of cynicism and judgement, it is important for us to give those who hurt us the benefit of the doubt. I am not suggesting we stick our heads in the sand and let others walk all over us or abuse us. Abusers are a whole different story and this doesn’t apply to them.
But for the people in our lives who love us, we can avoid a lot of resentment by assuming the best, especially if the person who disappoints us is a believer. Remember, they have the same Holy Spirit indwelling them that we do-the same Spirit who sanctifies and convicts. Remember, they are our sister/brother in Christ. People cannot change, but God can change people.
4. Practice Empathy and Forgiveness.
Put yourself in their shoes. How would you want to be treated/forgiven/confronted if you acted in the same way? We are all human and though we sometimes are the disappointed, we are sometimes the disappointer too.
Colossians 3:13 commands us to forgive others as God has forgiven us and to “bear with one another.” How easily I forget how God forgives me over and over-sometimes in ways I don’t even realize. He doesn’t simply “bear with me,” but he blesses me. How can we bless others who disappoint us?
5. Speak gently, firmly, and clearly when necessary.
When the disappointment is a sin against us, it may require us to lovingly confront the one who disappoints. The Bible tells us this should always be done gently, in love, and privately. We also must be firm and clear so the offender understands that they can be forgiven, but their behavior is not acceptable (Matthew 18:15-20, Galatians 6:1). They may not even realize they hurt you until you tell them.
It may be necessary to set some healthy boundaries with someone who continually sins against you without repentance. Just as we set boundaries for our homes or property lines, we must also set spiritual and emotional boundaries. Boundaries define where you begin and another person ends. If that line is blurred, there are a myriad of spiritually unhealthy results such as co-dependence, the inability to say no, and manipulation. For more on this subject, I recommend the book “Boundaries,” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
Be cautious to not seek revenge with cutting words or passive aggressive actions. Romans 12:18-19 says “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
6. Relinquish them to the Lord.
If the disappointment you experience is hurt, it is important to speak with the person. There are also times when we must pray for that person and relinquish them to the Lord. It is not healthy to continually hound someone and try to guilt them into change. That is manipulative. Remember, you are not the mini Holy Spirit.
The great God who sprinkled stars onto the sky and spun the planets into orbit, who lovingly stood among the least of us and gave up his life for our sins, who rose from the dead because he has power over life and death, can change a person from the inside out. Words are often necessary, but the greatest thing we can do for a loved one is relinquish them to the Lord.
Handling disappointment in loved ones is not easy, but we have the powers do so in our Helper, the Holy Spirit. I don’t have to be the queen of passive aggression because I have a Savior who offers me the freedom and power to place my disappointment in his capable and loving hands.
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