My Goldilocks Problem
Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left. Genesis 24:49
Often, when faced with some potentially uncomfortable interpersonal interaction, I’ll err in one of two ways. For instance, if I must confront someone at work about a behavior that requires corrective action, I’m prone to avoid the issue, except by making snide comments to that person. Or I’ll completely avoid it, letting the thing fester until I get so annoyed that I lash out in anger. I don’t like confrontation, so in my attempts to avoid it, I’ll blunder in one extreme or another, being either passive aggressive or overtly aggressive. Being appropriately assertive – getting it just right – isn’t natural for me. Getting it just right means consciously taking the time to plan out what I need to say, then overcoming my natural inclination to avoid the issue, and appropriately speaking to that individual. All of that is a lot of unpleasant work though, so I instead, I just do what’s natural, which is usually ineffective and unhelpful.
In today’s passage, appropriately assertive behavior is modeled for us. In the story, Abraham sent his servant back home to his kinsmen to find a wife for his son, Isaac. Having traveled far, God introduced him to Rebekah, who in turn introduced him to her brother, Laban. Having met the family, the servant explained the entire story, including how he believed that it was God’s plan for Isaac and Rebekah to marry. At that point, he didn’t let the question hang in the air. He had a purpose and a mission that he needed to accomplish. This was of dire importance to him, so, he immediately posited the question – What is your answer? Tell me one way or the other, so I can return or move on.
My natural impulse to avoid the uncomfortable isn’t healthy behavior. In my passive aggressive approach, I act badly by trying to manipulate. In my overtly aggressive approach, I act badly by indulging in my anger. As always, I’m responsible for my own behavior. If, in trying to address the inappropriate behavior of someone else, I act inappropriately, then I’m only making things worse. When faced with difficult behavior in any relationship, I must first decide if it’s appropriate for me to address it. Sometimes, I simply need to realize it’s not my business and let it go. If I feel I can’t let it go and must get involved, then I must choose to appropriately address the issue. Being passive aggressive or overtly aggressive only makes me part of the problem.