Passive Ahab wants the temporary, short-term gratification that comes from keeping the peace at all cost. They will tolerate any poor treatment to keep the peace in a relationship
The Free from Ahab miniseries
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. It’s time for the next post in the Free from Ahab miniseries. So far I’ve talked about who king Ahab was, and how the Ahab spirit manifests. By now you know the Ahab spirit is a spirit of passivity. In this post we’re going to get into more detail about passivity and aggressiveness. What kind of behavior is passive or aggressive, and where it comes from.
Passive vs. Aggressive Behavior
First, we need to understand passivity in contrast with aggressiveness. Between passivity and aggressiveness is assertiveness, the sweet spot where we want to be. That’s our goal. But first, let’s look at passive versus aggressive behavior.
Passivity is like keeping the peace at all costs. Immediately yielding and giving up in any argument. Choosing to tolerate bad treatment and not bringing it up for fear of what the other person will say. Letting people walk all over you with no complaint to avoid all arguments.
Passivity is neglecting your own needs, interests, and boundaries as you let others walk all over you and take advantage of you. It’s not standing up for yourself. Passivity is self-disrespect, self-harm, and in the end, self-hate. If you live life passively, you only care about pleasing others and not what happens to you.
This may sound like the Christian virtue of Charity, but it’s not. It’s disordered, sick, wrong. Yes, Christian Charity is about serving and helping others in any way you can. But it’s not about allowing others to abusively take advantage of you. Yes we turn the other cheek to violence, that’s true … but that does not mean God calls us to stick around and stay in any abusive situation! He does not.
God does not call us to stay in any abusive relationship or situation.
Now let’s contrast that with aggressive behavior. Aggressiveness means walking all over others. It means breaking them down with insults and abuse to make them give in to your demands. It means dominating others, using threats, abuse, and other sinful means to get your way with them. It’s strong-arming others into doing what you want.
It’s like being a little tyrant.
Sometimes society confuses aggressiveness for assertiveness, but that’s all wrong. Aggressiveness is not assertiveness. Assertive people don’t need to be aggressive, I’ll return to that point shortly. Aggressiveness is disordered and sinful. God does not want us to be passive or aggressive.
Let’s look at a list of common passive vs. aggressive behaviors and strategies. This information is paraphrased from pages 34-36 of Discerning and Defeating the Ahab Spirit, by Steve Sampson, 2010 (AFFILIATE LINK). As you read through this list of behaviors, keep in mind that Jezebel is aggressive and Ahab is passive. See if this rings any bells with you and your life experiences.
- Overmerciful vs. overlegalistic — Passive people are overmerciful, they overlook faults in others and forgive too quickly (not waiting to see true repentance). Aggressive people harshly judge others for their faults, have unrealistic expectations for them, and are unforgiving when people fail those.
- Walking away from a person vs. walking over a person — Passive Ahab walks away to avoid conflict. Aggressive Jezebel walks all over people, doing anything to them to get their way.
- Avoiding confrontation vs. in-your-face confrontation — Passive Ahab avoids confrontation at all costs. Aggressive Jezebel happily confronts anyone with insults, blame, threats, and so on. They don’t care about anyone else’s feelings.
- Peacekeepers vs. peacemakers — Passive Ahab wants the temporary, short-term gratification that comes from keeping the peace at all cost. They will tolerate any poor treatment to keep the peace in a relationship or whatever. But the assertive (not aggressive) solution is to make peace, even if that means having an argument or something to address the issue.
- Grumbling under one’s breath vs. open verbal abuse — Passive Ahab resents verbal abuse, but doesn’t call the abuser out on it. They’ll walk away and sulk inside, becoming more bitter and resentful. Aggressive Jezebel has no problem verbally abusing others, and even enjoys it.
- Do not mind being wrong (if you’ll approve of me) vs. refusing to ever be wrong (I’ll love you is you see things my way) — Passive Ahab has such a need for approval that they’ll take the blame for anything if you’ll approve of them. Aggressive Jezebel will hate you for disagreeing with them. They ‘can never be wrong.’ Does that remind you of anyone? Narcissists can ‘never’ be wrong, and they’ll do anything it takes to convince you they’re not wrong.
- Fear of nonacceptance vs. fear of rejection — Passive Ahab will do almost anything for acceptance, aggressive Jezebel will do anything to never be rejected again.
- Low self-esteem (clothed in nice) vs. low self-esteem (clothed in fear of more hurt) — Passive Ahab is nice, political, and manipulative in that way (using nice as a strategy). Ahab is too nice. This comes from low self-esteem. Aggressive Jezebel has low self-esteem too, but compensates for it by being pushy, bold, and arrogant.
- Fear of what people think of me vs. fear of people not agreeing with me — Passive Ahab suffers from the fear of man rather than the fear of the One Who can destroy both body and soul (Matthew 10:28). Passive people are paralyzed by the fear of man. Aggressive Jezebel sees anyone who disagrees with them as an enemy, and they perceive correction as rejection.
- Anger directed inward vs. anger directed toward others — Passive Ahab directs their anger and insults back at themselves. They often blame themselves. Aggressive Jezebel takes out their anger on anyone they can. They rarely look inside to examine their own actions, because they always think they’re right.
- Accepting blame too easily vs. projecting blame (you made me do it) — Passive people quickly accept blame to keep the peace and make everyone else happy. Aggressive people will take blame for nothing. Their defense is often “you made me do it.” Does that sound familiar to you? It’s a common thing for a narcissist to say.
Once again, this information was paraphrased from pages 34-36 of Discerning and Defeating the Ahab Spirit, by Steve Sampson, 2010 (AFFILIATE LINK). It’s a great book and I highly recommend it.
In the sweetspot right in the middle of passivity and aggressiveness is assertiveness. Let’s look at what assertiveness is, with Jesus as an example.
Assertiveness is not being afraid to stand up for yourself, to speak up for your own needs, interests, and boundaries. Assertiveness is not being afraid of conflicts and arguments that need to happen, but not causing arguments that don’t need to happen. Assertiveness is communicating with others to get what you want (or at least reach some resolution) without walking all over them, abusing them, insulting them, or threatening them, things like that.
Assertiveness is respecting yourself and loving yourself in your dealings with others. You can turn the other cheek to violence or insults and still be assertive, but an assertive person won’t stick around to remain in abusive situations. It does not conflict with Christian Charity to love ourselves in this way. We are all created in God’s image, and are all loved by God. So no one should accept an abusive situation. God does not call us to that.
God does not call us to stay in any abusive relationship or situation.
Keeping in mind the passive and aggressive behaviors listed above, let’s look at the Gospels for an example of what it means to be assertive. Jesus was assertive, and is an example for us to follow on that note and many, many others.
Jesus Christ said what He came to say, He didn’t hold back for fear of causing arguments or disagreement with people. He didn’t avoid verbal conflicts that needed to happen. He gave up His own life in the end, because that was the plan, but before that He didn’t allow people to take advantage of or walk all over Him.
I believe the easiest example showing how Jesus was assertive is the story of the rich young man from Matthew 19. I’m sure you know it. A rich young man asked Jesus how to have salvation. Jesus eventually told him to sell all his possessions, and the man went away saddened. Let’s look at the story:
(16) A man approached him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?” (17) Jesus said, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There’s only one who is good. If you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments.” (18) The man said, “Which ones?” Then Jesus said, “Don’t commit murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t give false testimony. (19) Honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” (20) The young man replied, “I’ve kept all these. What am I still missing?” (21) Jesus said, “If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come follow me.” (22) But when the young man heard this, he went away saddened, because he had many possessions.Matthew 19:16-22 (CEB)
So how was Jesus assertive here? It’s simple.
Jesus did not avoid telling him the truth. The passive response would have been to keep the peace and avoid upsetting the man. Jesus could have said, “OK, if you do those other things then there’s no problem. You’ll have eternal life.” But it was more important to Jesus that the young man know the truth, so that he could have eternal life. So Jesus told him the truth even though it would upset him. Jesus did not avoid the conversation that needed to happen out of concern for the other’s reaction.
Jesus did not force anything on him. The aggressive response would have been to not let the young man walk away. To force him to sell his possessions. Jesus could have said, “Wait, don’t walk away. I’m going to sell all your possessions for you so you can follow what I’m saying.” That would be forcing the Christian path on the man. That would be aggressive. Note that Jesus never forced anything on anyone at any time in the Gospels. He respected people’s right to make their own decisions. He of course knew that forced faith isn’t genuine, and genuine faith isn’t forced.
On a side note, it’s too bad that Jesus’ human servants got that point so wrong centuries later. The Gospels were beaten into slaves from Africa. Native American children were forced into schools where Christianity was forced on them. All this is aggressive behavior. Aggressiveness is not Christian, it’s not assertive, and it isn’t faithful to Jesus’ own example. We are commissioned to preach the Gospel, not to force it on people! That’s pointless in the end anyway, because forced faith isn’t genuine and genuine faith isn’t forced.
Assertiveness is balanced. Assertiveness is in the sweetspot in the middle of passivity and aggressiveness. We need to be assertive, and learning to be assertive is part of the process of breaking Free from Ahab. And don’t worry, assertiveness can be learned. But that’s a subject for a later post in the series.
Jesus Christ does not call us to be passive or aggressive. Both are disordered in their own way. Jesus calls us to be assertive. Respect ourselves in our dealings with others, and respect the other too. Don’t force things on anyone, and don’t let them force anything on us. Cooperate and communicate with others to achieve our goals. Don’t give up our goals and let the other do what they want, but don’t walk all over people to achieve our own goals either.
Like most parts of life, balance is key. Live that assertive balance, like Christ showed us. As you do, you will loosen the grip of the Ahab spirit’s passivity.
But before I finish, let’s look at the important question of where this passivity comes from in the first place.
Where Does Passivity Come from?
So what’s the root of this behavior? How do people pick up an Ahab spirit? How do people not learn to stand up for themselves, instead learning to give in and let others walk all over them?
It all goes back to childhood, of course.
Children can learn passive behavior from their parents. When one or more parents acts passively, they model this behavior for the children. Children are always watching and learning. Watching their parents’ interactions is a major way they learn “how adults act.” A passive parent who tolerates abuse, for example, teaches their child by example to do the same when they grow up. It’s sad, but remember that children learn by example. If they see parental examples of not standing up for yourself, your needs, or your boundaries, then they will learn to do the same.
Another way they can learn this passive behavior is if they suffer abusive treatment of their own, with no escape from it and no one to stand up for them. Children aren’t able to defend themselves, so if they’re in an abusive situation, they need a rescue. If no one comes to the rescue, and the child has to endure the abuse, they might lose hope and learn to be passive and accept abuse when they grow up. Then again, they could also grow up to be extra aggressive instead.
Because aggressiveness is also rooted in childhood too, of course, and caused by the same or similar problems.
Finally, children who grow up in abusive homes may learn to keep quiet and keep to themselves at all times, so they won’t be noticed. This is a survival strategy for them. They learn early on that if they get noticed, they get abused. So they learn to keep quiet and do anything necessary to keep the peace, so they won’t be targeted. They get rewarded for acting passively while they’re in that home, because they avoid more abuse.
So it all goes back to childhood. If you read my Cast Down Jezebel miniseries, you might remember from Part 4 and Part 8 that childhood emotional wounds and trauma are one “open door” through which demons can enter. Demons do not play fair. The Ahab spirit, like all other demons, is evil and takes advantage of these wounds to enter its victim when they’re most vulnerable.
Healing these wounds is part of breaking free from passivity. I’ll go into more detail on that in a later post in this series.
Seek the Assertive Balance
Both passive and aggressive people are disordered. God does not intend for us to behave in either of those ways.
Although we are supposed to turn the other cheek, that doesn’t mean being passive. They aren’t the same thing. We aren’t meant to stay in abusive situations, God never calls us to that. God intends for us to stand up for ourselves, to maintain our boundaries and not tolerate abuse. To stand our ground in arguments, and to have the arguments and conflicts that must happen. God does not want us to avoid those.
But God also doesn’t want us to be aggressive. He does not want us to threaten, intimidate, insult, or abuse our way to reaching our goals. He wants us to communicate with others to get what we want, He doesn’t want us walking all over them. He wants us to accept blame and accountability as appropriate, and not try to aggressively argue the blame onto someone else.
Society sometimes mistakes aggressiveness for assertiveness. But that’s not right, they’re different.
The balance between these two is assertiveness. That’s where Jesus wants us to be. We can look through the Gospels and see by Jesus’s own example how to be assertive. For those who didn’t have a parental model of assertiveness, we can look to Jesus.
Assertiveness is neither passive nor aggressive. It’s standing up for yourself without beating down others. It’s balanced, and it’s the way we should behave in our relationships with others. It’s an important thing to learn, and learning it is important when it comes to breaking free from the passive Ahab spirit. It’s not easy to learn, because the roots of passivity go all the way back to childhood. But that’s a topic for a later post.
I hope you enjoyed today’s post. Next week, I’ll be talking about the Jezebel-Ahab relationship: Why it forms, and how it (dys)functions. Stay tuned for that!
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Until next time, be strong and do good!
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