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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Non-Compete Clause”

To say that Applejack and Rainbow Dash’s behavior in this episode is frustrating is a bit of an understatement. Their normal competitiveness, this time taking the form of wanting to be the School of Friendship’s teacher-of-the-month, caused them to ruin both of their respective activities through their arguing and fighting. However, what was even worse and more unbearable was that after Twilight called them out on their selfish desires to get the award they began to compete for it in a different way…namely by trying to make themselves look the most gracious, friendly, and deferential so that they, in turn, would appear more selfless and therefore more deserving of the award.

Dealing with people who let competition and personal pride cause them to constantly butt heads with each other is fairly frustrating, but it can get downright unbearable when they attempt to mask it, as in this episode, under a guise of faux beneficence. That’s especially true when that sort of behavior is targeting us and, I imagine, when we find ourselves doing it to others. And even more so when this sort of behavior is somewhat or entirely subconscious. At that point, it turns into something called passive-aggressiveness.

Passive-aggression was originally classified as a mental disorder, but actually encompasses a wide variety of behaviors that anyone can produce. In layman’s terms, it’s a way of acting out in hostility and anger toward someone or something without actually acting that way. Examples include purposely procrastinating, intentionally making mistakes, disguising criticism with compliments, harboring a sullen, stubborn attitude, mentally keeping score in histories of arguments, slipping in that one “last word” as an insult, and, perhaps most prevalent in the modern age, sabotage.

The primary reason behind using passive-aggressiveness is to avoid an overt confrontation over feelings or a disagreement. Sometimes this is because the person is being devious and malicious; purposely seeking to undermine or take jabs at their opponent. In other cases, it’s not ill-intended but is rather a way to try and avoid having to face up to someone or something. In either case, however, the reasoning in the same: to avoid getting into an overt conflict and/or appearing to be an instigator, hostile, or unsociable to others. It allows a person to “be the bad guy without looking like the bad guy”. And in my opinion, at least in some cases, I believe some individuals have fooled themselves into thinking that by not being openly aggressive or hostile that somehow they aren’t being that way at all, and therefore are absolved of all wrongdoing.

This is especially true in the modern day with our access to social networking and the like. Say, for example, two friends went out to a meal and one was supposed to pay but ended up forgetting about it and only had enough to pay for themselves. Rather than confront the person about it, the other friend gets onto social media and says something like: “I learned a life lesson about how thoughtless some people can be today. It really helped me see who my real friends are and who is just taking advantage of me.” They basically just attacked their friend indirectly and exposed it for the world to see, but they can claim that they didn’t do anything and that they could have been talking about anyone because they didn’t “name names”. Or if two people are angry at one another and one gets, say, a promotion at work and announces it, they might reply: “Congratulations on the new title! I guess all the smarter people at work quit by now, huh?” When it comes to online arguing, it’s positively vitriolic. The posts are endless as everyone tries to get in the last word with that one last jibe and, in the case of Christians, they make it worse by appending a “God bless!” to the end of it as if that somehow magically makes it not an insult. (Which is why I find if you get yourself caught in one of those, the best thing to do is simply “ignore the last post”…let them get the final word without feeling the temptation to respond.)

Colossians 3:8 reads: “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” In numerous lines of the Bible I myself tend to focus on the overt actions and sins, but passages like this take it a step further and say to get rid of even the “inner” ones such as rage and malice. It’s not enough to try and just be externally “good” while you still have desires for evil and sin inside you, as this episode illustrated when Applejack and Rainbow Dash tried to work together and defer to one another yet still harbored their desire for the award inside of them. In the end, it became not only obvious but totally unbearable.

We all have a responsibility to be honest and truthful with our own feelings so that we in turn don’t act passive-aggressive ourselves as a way of hurting other people and saying we did nothing wrong. And we might not be able to control when other people are being passive-aggressive as a way of getting to us, but we all can control how we respond to it and, more importantly, keep ourselves from doing it.

As our Lord says: “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37)

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for all the opportunities for me to resolve difficult situations in my life; for they teach me discipline and help me grow in maturity and responsibility. When I am angry with my situation, grant that I may always be honest about it to myself, especially if it involves someone else, and thereby deal with my anger in a constructive way. And please help me always to respond appropriately when, either directly or subtly, a person is seeking to get the better of my own emotions. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”