When passive is active

March 7, 2013

At a tile store the other day, I stood staring at this for a little while.
Without a motor driving water through it, well, it didn’t look like much.
It had no function, really.
An impressive bearded god whose mouth was ….just open.
An empty receptacle.
It was a passive work of art missing energy and spirit.
Only the flow of water would give it purpose and make it come alive.

It reminded me of people who have perfected the art of passivity.
They’re expert.

Sometimes passive people are insecure, afraid to step up, step out, stand out.
Most of the time, that’s what we think of passive people: that they’re shy, inward-facing,
introspective, and don’t want to make waves.

That’s not always true.

Sometimes, passivity is a way of life.
Most things don’t seem worth the effort, so there is no effort.
Those kinds of passive people chose to not be fully engaged in life.
{I’ll leave the reasons to professionals.}

Or passivity can reflect avoidance.
That’s active passivity, and no, it’s not an oxymoron.
I’ve seen it in action and it’s definitely an action.
Like passive-aggressive is definitely aggression.

Passive people wait for other people to act on them
rather than do the acting, themselves.

So here’s the thing:
When you’re passive, the message received by others is that
they’re not important enough for you to engage with.
That what’s at stake is not important.
That you just don’t care enough to make the effort.

Without a motor making water flow,
that fountain is an empty shell
void of vitality
without purpose.

That’s what passive people look like.
And how they affect the people who love them.

3 comments on “When passive is active
  1. Chloe says:

    I think many of us were trained to think that passivity is more feminine and therefore more attractive and find it hard to learn to be assertive. Instead we become passive-aggressive which is a destructive behavior pattern. What ideas do you have for how w can learn to become more assertive in healthy ways that work?

  2. I am assertive by nature and always have been. When I was younger, it wasn’t tempered at all, but w/ time & experience (age) I’ve learned that assertive doesn’t have to mean aggressive. Saying what you think, setting limits for yourself and remembering that “No.” is a complete sentence with a period at the end are good ways to start. But since I came into the world this way, I have no real understanding of how one would be passive. But, I’ve almost always been with men who are more on the passive side of the equation. Which probably makes sense, but drives me crazy.

  3. Susan Cooper says:

    As you said, being passive has it’s positives and negatives. It can also mean that we abdicate making a decision or taking responsibility. That isn’t always the best coarse. Just my thoughts. 🙂

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