what they do not want to say verbally. Rather Is it in the Bible? seven more specific criteria. The following are
What Missionaries Ought to than expressing their opposition in words, even more specific passive-aggressive actions.
Know about Passive- they use procrastination, forgetfulness, and Most people look at the lost (prodigal) • Deliberate inefficiency, dawdling, laziness,
inefficiency to avoid complying with the son who returned to his father as the focus of inflexibility, ignoring of others
Aggressive Behavior request. that story in Luke 15. However, his older • Procrastination, stubbornness, resisting
Along with the passive resistance brother also had major problems. Even suggestions, disregarding instructions
Suppose this happened to a these people have a pattern of negative though he is not labeled as “passive- • Pretending forgetfulness, putting things on
missionary. His committee report to the field attitudes. They may complain about feeling aggressive,” the older son meets six of the the “back burner,” making excuses
director is due this afternoon, and he still has cheated, unappreciated, and misunderstood as seven DSM-IV criteria in just three short • Losing things, discovering things too late,
not received John’s data that was due a week they blame their failures on others. They may verses. • Sullenness, hostility, anger,
ago. He wonders what John’s excuse will be be sullen, irritable, cynical, and • Resisted carrying out routine social tasks: argumentativeness
this time—last time he forgot when it was argumentative. Some professionals have he refused to go to his brother’s party (v. • Complaining, resentment, feeling
due, the time before that he had not followed characterized passive-aggressive behavior as 28). unappreciated, irritableness, cynicism
instructions so the data was useless, the time “hostile cooperation,” “angry kindness,” or • Complained of being unappreciated by • Blaming others, feeling cheated
before that… When John gets it in, he will “covert assertiveness.” This behavior appears others: his father never gave him a party • Overt sabotage, sulking
probably complain about how no one most often in the workplace and in social (v. 29). • Working poorly or slowly, being tardy or
appreciates what he does, or that other people situations, but it may also occur in marriage
• Was sullen and argumentative: he argued absent
don’t have to gather data, or that… He will and/or family situations.
with his father (v. 29). • Repeatedly apologizing, asking
probably come in angry and try to start an
argument—then return tomorrow to say that • Criticized and scorned authority: he forgiveness and promising to do better next
Is it a psychological disorder? criticized his father’s party for the time—but not really changing
he is sorry, ask forgiveness, and promise to do
better next time. squandering son (v. 30). The list can go on and on. Whether
For many years both the World Health • Expressed envy and resentment toward they are conscious of it or not, the goal is to do
The missionary and John have served Organization (agency of the United Nations)
together for nearly four years now, and the those more fortunate: he resented that the something that slows or prevents the action
and the American Psychiatric Association fatted calf was killed for his brother (v. from being done or undermines the success of
story is always basically the same. Only the listed Passive-Aggressive Personality
details change. What the missionary is facing 30). others.
Disorder. However, in 1994 the American • Voiced exaggerated complaints of
is the passive-aggressive behavior of a Psychiatric association removed passive-
colleague, something quite common among personal misfortune: he had “slaved” for Who can be passive-aggressive?
aggressive from the list of disorders and years (v. 29)
missionaries and other Christians. Since they placed it in an appendix of items for further
do not feel free to express their dissatisfaction, The only criterion he did not meet Anyone who is in a relationship with
study. was the one saying that he alternated between
such people do things that, in effect, sabotage Therefore, most nations consider it as you may be passive-aggressive toward you.
the project. defiance and contrition! • It may be someone above you, such as
a disorder, but mental health professionals in
the USA do not. However, even if it is not a your field director, a mentor, a committee
What is passive-aggressive disorder, passive-aggressive behavior is very What are the symptoms? chair, or an administrator in the home
behavior? difficult to cope with. The American
By definition the passive-aggressive
Psychiatric Association’s manual of mental • It may be someone below you, such as a
disorders (DSM-IV) does list seven “Research person has (1) a pattern of passive resistance student in your class, a new missionary
People who appear to support the
criteria for passive-aggressive personality to carrying out requested actions and (2) a you are orienting, or your own child or
requests of others but do not perform the
disorder,” and a person must have at least four pattern of negativistic attitudes (an alternate adolescent.
requested action correctly or soon enough are
of these criteria to be considered passive- name is negativistic personality disorder). • It may be someone at your own level, such
displaying passive-aggressive behavior. They
aggressive. As noted above, the DSM-IV criteria as a fellow missionary, a colleague where
may even seem to be enthusiastic about the
elaborated these two general conditions into you teach, a friend, or even your spouse.
idea, but they use overt behavior to express
The higher the commitment and the • Concretely define what you expect, and Ronald Koteskey
closer the relationship, the more the passive- ask the person to paraphrase your wants. Member Care Consultant
aggressive behavior will affect your life. For • Do not accept, excuse, or reward poor GO InterNational
example, if your spouse or teenager does not performance.
want missionary life, it will disrupt your life • Tactfully challenge distortions but do not This brochure is one of a series, and What Missionaries
more than if a student in your class or a new argue over them. you are invited to suggest other topics you
missionary is unhappy.
Missionaries may show passive-
• Make sure that he or she understands that would like to know about to the following: Ought to Know
you care for him or her personally and are
aggressive behavior to avoid the stress of
confrontation. In 1983 Dorothy Gish asked
not just seeking control. Ronald Koteskey
122 Lowry Lane
• Remember that if you become viewed as
547 missionaries to rate 65 items that cause
stress, and “confronting others when
an opponent, the objectionable behavior is
likely to increase.
Wilmore, KY 40390
necessary” was the one rated most stressful. Finally, if you do not succeed, do not Phone: (859) 858-3436
Sixteen years later Joan Carter repeated the blame yourself. If people do not want to
study with the same items plus some change, they do not. Remember that you did e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Ronald L. Koteskey
additional ones. The 306 missionaries still not cause the passive-aggressive behavior.
placed confronting others at the top of the list. Visit the following web site to access
Passive-aggressive behavior can stop other brochures in the series:
a project just like confrontation can, but it can
What if you are passive-aggressive?
do so with less stress. Missionaries who do www.missionarycare.com
not want to oppose a program overtly can just People who are passive-aggressive
not get their part done so that the project fails. may not realize that they are engaging in a
After that they can apologize for their self-defeating, objectionable behavior. The
tardiness, ask forgiveness, and they have still Spirit may have revealed to you that you use
accomplished what they wanted in the first this habitual and problematic behavior
place. yourself. If you recognize this troublesome
behavior interfering with your own work or
relationships, there is much hope.
What can you do? • You may be able to change your passive-
aggressive behavior by “observing”
Remember that this pattern of yourself and making changes in your own
behavior has “worked” for many years for the behavior, asking God to help.
passive-aggressive people. Even though their
• You may want to ask a friend to help you.
behavior has an impact on you it is not about
It is much easier for people to recognize
you. Do not take it personally. Your goal is
such behavior in others, so the
to create a climate of safe and open
observations of a good friend may give
communication. The following may help.
• Keep an open mind, avoid being
• You may want to see a counselor to help
defensive, and acknowledge that some of GO InterNational
you identify and change your behavior.
the concerns may be legitimate. This brochure may be reproduced without
Cognitive-behavioral therapy may help
• Be empathetic but still request more you become aware of such behavior and change and in its entirety for non-commercial
appropriate behavior. minimize it. purposes without permission.