Passive-Aggressive Behaviour as a Form of Emotional Abuse

Passive-aggressive behaviour is a form of covert control like shunning, slighting, and ignoring. Passive-aggressive people express anger indirectly and seek to make their points in evasive, underhanded, or deceitful ways. While some people are unaware that they engage in such hurtful behaviour patterns, others are quite intentional in their actions. The Bible makes it clear that … “No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.” (Psalms 101:7)

Tactics used in Passive-Aggressive Behaviour may include the following:

  • Invalidating: “I never said that.” … “Your recall is wrong.” … “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
  • Minimising: “You’re just too sensitive.” … “You’re exaggerating.” … “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
  • Countering: “You couldn’t possibly feel that way.” … “You’ve got it all wrong.” … “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
  • Trivialising: “If you had really studied for the test, you could have made a 100 instead of a 98.” … “Your efforts really fell short.” … “You’re giving yourself too much credit.”

To gain covert control and personal power, the passive, emotionally abusive person will use some of the following methods:

  • Fostering chaos: Controlling others by intentionally leaving work and projects incomplete.
  • Lying or misleading: Controlling others with unjustified excuses for not fulfilling commitments.
  • Procrastinating: Controlling others by intentionally missing deadlines, thus displaying no regard for the negative impact on others.
  • Being chronically late: Controlling others by keeping people waiting
  • Being ambiguous: Controlling others by sending mixed messages, leaving others in a wake of confusion about what was said or what was meant.
  • Instructing: Controlling others by offering unsolicited advice on a continual basis
  • Being passively indifferent: Controlling others by giving the impression that their concerns are heard and important, but then disregarding them.
  • Protecting and helping: Controlling others by extending help with the intention of causing a sense of indebtedness.
  • Being a “quick-change artist”: Controlling others by changing the subject and diverting attention from conversations that feel personally threatening.
  • Withholding affirmation: Controlling others by failing to give deserved compliments and deserved credit.
  • Crossing boundaries: Controlling others by taking advantage of those with little or no personal boundaries.

When Saul’s men were sent to watch David’s house and to kill him, David prayed, “For the sins of their mouths, for the words of their lips, let them be caught in their pride.” (Psalm 59:12)