The Liability of Being Passive


There’s a big difference between being easy going and being passive. The first allows you enjoy life more than someone who’s always worked up about the little things or the stuff he cannot control. Being passive is a problem. It assumes that the old saying “que sera, sera” or “whatever will be, will be” is true. While being easy going might be a virtue, being passive is a liability.

Passive Fear

I have enough self awareness to know that I’m not easy going by any means. My natural tendency is to micromanage just about everything. I’d like to think I have become better with age at letting things go and trusting capable people to do their jobs. But It’s not an easy thing for me. Just ask my wife.

As I think about my propensity to be more passive than I’d like, I try to find out what motivates me not to deal with something I know needs fixing or not to pursue an opportunity with all the energy and resources available. After all it doesn’t make sense for a control freak not to want to be proactive. Or does it?

As I thought about my predicament I came up with the following formula:

control + passiveness = fear

People who are motivated by fear will fret over the smallest, most insignificant details but will avoid the confrontation, the pursuit, the push that will have the most benefit. Think about it. If we operate from a fear base and not from an opportunity base, our biggest concern is not to mess up, lose, get fired, get found out. Only when we shift our thinking from fear into possibility, then we’ll be able to move from being passive to being active. Unless we are ok with failing, we cannot move away from fear-based thinking . Ultimately, the freedom to fail drives the courage of possibility and overcomes the paralyzing fear of passivity.

The longer I live, the more I believe there’s no other way around this one. As the Bible points out we cannot serve two masters, I say we cannot have two primary motivators driving our key decisions. What I am not saying, however, is that we should throw caution to the wind and take foolish risks.

How much of control freak are you? How much do you avoid confrontation?

  • Mitch Lewis

    Excellent post! I’ll be thinking about this all day, I’m sure. Thank you. 

  • Sally

    I don’t do well with confrontations. I wish I were better at it. I often resent people but I shouldn’t since I have never told them how I really feel about their comment or behavior. This has helped me. Thank you. 

  • Anonymous

    Interesting post…the que sera sera attitude is certainly passive, but to take on a “it is what it is” attitude may be more appropriate. We cannot control everything, but we can take action on the things that already are…we can be mastered by what is or take action on what is.

    • You’re right we can’t control everything. We sometimes choose to fight the small battles and abdicate the real important ones.

  • You described me to the “T” in this post. 

    I’m a lot like you in that I am not a very easy going person. I like to think I’ve gotten better at it, but I am a planner and a micromanager to the core. Just ask the missions team coming with me to Czech. I’m sure they are tired of all my planning and organizing. 

    But when you said that there are some of the big things controllers avoid, man, that hit me. I do that a lot. Thanks for shining the light on that area in my life – now that I know what I’m doing, I can address it more head on.

    • Thanks for your transparency, Jason. I can relate to your planning skills. My family has called my “captain Schedule” before.

  • I describe my similar issue as being indecisive. I really enjoyed this thoughtful and well written post… most of all for your authenticity. Sometimes it takes guts just to be real, a sad reality in the world we live in. Thank you Maurilio!!

  • I am a control freak also, so this post nailed it. I hadn’t really ever considered why I remain “passive” in situations that I know need to be confronted. I just chalked it up to some confrontation aversion popping up sometimes.

    But the formula control+passive=fear that’s one that will take some thought.

    I would maybe change it around a bit. control+fear=passive but when I shift my perspective control+opportunity=active.

  • Maurilio;

    This is great. Really, really great.

    I remember many years ago when I was just starting out in Nashville I was confrontational for confrontations sake and too unwilling to compromise. I had to have it my way. That attitude cost me a lot of relationships and people I cared about. Over time, I’ve gone just the opposite. It bothers me how passive I’ve become… because I feel that if I’m in the confrontation, then I’ve already lost the argument so what is the point. The truth being that I never even stand my ground.

    It’s an odd dichotomy. I’ve always been hot or cold… black or white. As I approach 40 (can you believe that?) I’ve vowed to, in the words of Live, discover the beauty of gray. To have the strength to stand up for the things that I need to stand up for, but not be the overbearing ogre that I once was.
    Thanks for your post.

    Michael Bagnall

  • Chris Spradlin

    brilliant article!!  thanks for sharing!

  • “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing,  and forceful men lay hold of it” . As you can see, there is no passivity here. Passivity is not just a liability regarding temporal things but also regarding spiritual things.

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