This article was first published on December 10, 2019 on Christopher Page's blog In a Spacious Place. It is shared here by permission. Christopher is incumbent, St Philip, Oak Bay
There is a difference between “Aggressive” and “Strong”. “Strong” never resorts to “Aggressive.”
“Aggressive” is weakness and insecurity masquerading as “Strong.” “Aggressive” always has something to protect. It seeks to prop up its faltering sense of identity by battering down any opposition.
When you disagree with “Aggressive”, “Aggressive” becomes combative because, to disagree with “Aggressive”, is to attack “Aggressive’s” fragile sense of identity.
When I am unsure of myself, feel threatened or have something to prove, I become attached to my position. I become identified with my answers, my ways, my plans, my strategies, every difference of opinion becomes a battlefield on which I either preserve or lose my shaky sense of my self."Aggressive” is harsh and loud. “Aggressive” speaks with a tight, clipped tone, words pouring out at a hectic pace, hands gesticulating wildly. It talks more than it listens, is more interested in enforcing its own opinion than in hearing the view point of the other. Even when it appears to be listening, “Aggressive” is just marshalling its next argument to win the battle.
For “Aggressive” life is a competition. The world is divided into “winners” and “losers”, and it is determined to be on the “winners'” side regardless of the cost. It seeks to bludgeon the opposition into submission, not the intelligence of its arguments, but with the forcefulness of its attitude.
“Aggressive” demands “right” answers and usually believes it is the sole curator of the “right” answers. “Aggressive” shuts down conversation, creates tension, and finds it almost impossible to stay in relationship with anyone who seriously disagrees with its position.
“Aggressive” is a bulldozer ploughing through the land, knocking flat everything that blocks its path.
“Strong” is a tree, deeply rooted in the rich soil of its own secure sense of identity, able to flex and bend in response to the wind. The wind does not threaten “Strong” because “Strong’s” roots go deep. It is the brittle, hardened, unbending tree that snaps, or is uprooted, when the wind blows fierce.
“Strong” does gentleness rather than urgency.
“Strong” rests confident in a secure sense of its own identity. It is not agitated by disagreement. It seeks the open spacious plane of wisdom rather than demanding the tight narrow confines of answers.
“Strong” does not need to answer back, or prove its point or win approval. “Strong” has the internal security to hold most positions lightly and to relax in the face of turmoil and uncertainty.
“Strong” has the power to speak quietly and calmly, and to step aside from the debate if things do not seem to be going the way it originally thought they should.
“Strong” does not need agreement. “Strong” understands that your opinion is your opinion. “Strong” creates space; it allows for more than one point of view and is always seeking to learn from the different ways others see the world. “Strong” allows you to hold your point of view; but knows that every point of view is only a “point” from a particular “view.”
“Strong” knows that no one person ever sees the whole picture. So “Strong” is willing to shift its point of view. This shift may not change the position “Strong” has taken, but it gives “Strong” a fuller picture and a more informed and nuanced understanding, making it possible to take more appropriate action when necessary.
“Strong” creates openness and conversation. “Strong” seeks to make sure that everyone has a chance to have their say. “Strong” values the opinions of others and is always willing to say, “I may be wrong.” “Strong” seeks wisdom and is open to the mystery of not knowing.
“Strong” is able to let go of agendas, lay down demands, and almost never needs to get its own way. “Strong” does not do drama; it is not breathless and excitable. “Strong” does not panic, push, or pressure.Strong” can take a forceful stance when necessary. But “Strong” never rushes; it does not panic, or make snap judgments. In the face of disagreement, “Strong” is able to say, “We may not be ready at this point to make a decision.”
“Strong” is not afraid of “Aggressive.” “Strong” understands that “Aggressive’s” forcefulness comes from insecurity, fear and a nagging sense of personal inadequacy. So, “Strong” is able to feel compassion for “Aggressive” and will take more creative affirming action in the face of the complexity of life because it responds from a place of awareness and insight.
The world is tragically full of “Aggressive”.
As we prepare to celebrate the arrival in the world of Absolute Strength, we might reflect that “Strong” came down to earth in the form of an infant born in poverty and obscurity, far from the trappings of power and prestige.