A friend who is also a native to the Upper Midwest was speaking recently in one of my spirituality groups about avoidance and aggression. Without warning I felt as if my head had been caught between a pair of clapping angel hands. There was a crashing boom simultaneous to feeling as if I were literally having sense knocked into me.
I was struck by the long held and very strange notion believed by all too many Americans that Midwesterners are the ultimate practitioners of passive/aggressive behavior. Experience has shown me all too clearly that people from all across America and around the world are passive/aggressive. Midwesterners are not unique in this behavior. Nor are they the world’s most remarkable at passive/aggressive behavior. That dubious accolade belongs to individuals, not groups.
As my friend intimated, the correct term for Midwesterners is that they practice avoidance/aggression.
It’s no prettier in its spiritual impact than passive/aggressive behavior. Whether we’re actively dodging our moral responsibilities or submissively throwing them away, neither speaks well for us.
As my friend says of avoidance (not the formerly mistaken passivity): “It really plays to that strong inborn negativity bias “Oh, no, I couldn’t” or “Oh, no, that will never happen”. I can taste the watery coffee and cream of mushroom soup that fuels that narrative.”
We tell ourselves lies to exculpate us of any possible wrongdoing. In the case of passivity and avoidance, it means we look at what we fail to do. All the while that we tell ourselves that we are absolved of our sins, forgiven our avoidances and aggressions, we are lying to ourselves. The rest of the world can clearly see our follies. We blinker ourselves and pretend our foolishness doesn’t exist.
Why don’t we get honest about it all? Most times our blinkers are not mere blinkers. They are full on masks. We’re hiding. Whether we are behind the mask of avoidance or passivity. Caught out, whyever would we acknowledge our wrongs? It’s far easier to lash out.
Go ahead. Tell yourself it’s only human.
The fact is that it’s not.
It’s the point at which we deliberately choose to ignore the good we could do in favor of laziness. It’s easier to be lazy. To not act. To be passive.
I knew a very holy old man who constantly abjured his listeners to do good and avoid evil. There are times when…