We had an interesting conversation in our office lately. We were discussing the relative merits and demerits of being Aggressive, Passive or Assertive. One of my colleagues raised a point that I could readily identify with. “Some people get away with being aggressive all the time. Others are expected to be submissive always. The moment they start showing signs of assertiveness, the whole world pounces on them and demonizes them”. I couldnt agree more.
These three behaviors are functions of one’s courage and consideration. If you have only courage and no consideration, you become a ruthless aggressive. If it’s all consideration and no courage, you become a weakling Passive. The right balance of both makes you an upright Assertive.
Its strange how the world (could be family, social circle etc) teaches itself to accept and tolerate Aggressiveness from some. “That’s his nature”, “She is not that bad”, “He just speaks his mind”, “Barring this aspect, she is a gem of a person”. The list of phrases symbolizing complete understanding, accomodation and justification drones on….
On the other hand the ones who choose to show consideration are easily and readily thrust into victimhood. People exploit them. They have to always sacrifice their interests for others. The world doesn’t show any restraint in hurting the interests of these push- overs. But whenever these victims, tired of being absorbers start to cry foul and stand up for their rights, the world unanimously position them as outrageous villains. “How dare he?”, “See how she has changed?”……
Let’s forgive the world for getting its concepts wrong. Aggressiveness and Passiveness are both ineffective stances to adopt. Assertivess is the only right nature. However you cannot change yourself and the world overnight. If you have taught the world to ill treat you as a passive weakling over many years, you will need all the time in the world to re position yourself correctly and you will have to don the mask of a villain before wearing the celebrated robes of a hero.
Having said this, I would like to propose a totally different approach.
Abu backer (RA) was once abused by an unbeliever in the presence of the prophet (PBUH). Abubacker (RA) kept a smiling face as the man ranted on. The prophet merely watched them with a peaceful countenance. However as the jibes became too scathing, Abu backer started to counter the man’s abuses. But he also noticed that the prophet looked disturbed. After the man left, Abu backer went to the prophet and enquired about his discomfort. The prophet replied that when Abu backer was silent, the angels in the room were retorting to the man’s abuses. But when Abu backer himself started the rejoinders the angels stopped and left.
So even if you have all the courage and ability to stand up to the opposition and blow them away,choose not to. Then beings more noble and powerful than you, will take up cudgels on your behalf. In this case you are not showing passiveness traits. You are merely choosing to delay gratification. You resist the urge to shoot from the hip merely to get rewards for your restraints. And you can be rest assured that your assailants will get devastated in the process.
But won’t this give wrong messages to the world? Won’t they deem you feeble? Won’t they increasingly try to take advantage of you?
I believe that they will. But we get the solution for this challenge from our Role Models. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and their blessed companions were utmost passive and forgiving when it came to attacks on themselves. They suffered silently without lifting even a finger. But when the honor of others was at stake, they were totally non- compromising. They rose in unison to protect the weak and underprivileged amongst them. They fought relentlessly till persecution was no more.
Let’s do the same. Let’s patiently endure attacks on our ego with a smile. But let us exercise firm assertiveness on behalf of our near and dear ones. We will ensure that they get their dues fairly. By doing this, they will be protected. And what is more….The world will also get to learn about our strong side.
And I am sure that they will refrain from hitting us personally… lest the strong side come out in the open.
So let this be our mantra from now on…..Passive for own sake and Assertive for Other’s.