5 Problems with Passivity and Why It's Harmful to a Purposeful Life

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I've never been afraid of hard work. I often joke that in a different life, I would do physical labor as a full-time job. Both of my parents worked (and still work) so hard; my mom was a principle of a K-12 school for years and my dad was a real-life farmer.

When my brother and I were kids, every Saturday we would work outside on some project mom and dad cooked up. At the time neither my brother or myself thought we were living the teenage dream, but if it wasn't for my parents I would not have learned the value of hard work and discipline.

Hard work turned into one of my core values as I got older -- to this day, things that require work don't scare me. In fact, I thrive in most environments that require labor, discipline and a heck of a lot of work.

The only arena where I struggle to apply myself 100% of the time is emotional labor -- the work that is much more difficult than any physical task.

Engaging with emotions is difficult and I had no idea what to even begin to do with them until I went to therapy. Over the last few weeks I've felt more emotional than usual and have been DYING to neglect each and every one. (The visitors aren't welcome. #NotAvailabe).

However, despite my desire to neglect my own emotions I've taken many long showers to reflect on the problems with not actively engaged with what I'm feeling. (Shout out to the prepaid water bill. #Blessed).

I've narrowed it down 5 main ideas -- let's talk about the problems that come with passivity.

Passivity creates envy.

The more passive we are, the more jealous we become. It's natural to want things that you don't have; sometimes envy can even motive us in a healthy way to earn the things we want.

However, when we are passive with our thoughts, desire and goals we become more envious of others in an unhealthy way. We can begin to compare ourselves to others and often remain resentful, angry and hurt... because of our own passiveness.

Envy is easy though because it continuously focuses on others. As we all know, it's easier to look outside ourselves than turn inward and make change.

Therefore if we are always passively focused on others and their success, it generates an easy excuse to neglect our own responsibilities (emotional health and growth, professional and relational development, etc) and be lazy with our goals and dreams.

If we can channel the energy we use to feed jealousy into productive habits that will help us live a fulfilling life, we miraculously become less resentful and more grateful.

Passivity kills boundaries.

Boundaries exist whether we communicate them or not - it's simply the natural order of the world. If boundaries are not exposed directly and clearly, they will eventually be shown through manipulation, withdrawal, anger, resentment or even real-life harmful things (violence).

Boundaries require active engagement in our relationships. They also require us to be direct, forward and honest -- we're often scared of those things and terrified of how our directness or honesty may impact people. Bottom line: we don't want to hurt the feelings of others, especially if we love them.

There is a major difference between hurt and harm. Dr. Henry Cloud addresses this idea in his book, "Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life."

Essentially, when we are direct and honest about what we will and won't accept, we may hurt others and cause disappointment, but this can actually help each person grow. When we passively go through relationships with no communication about boundaries, we may not hurt them-- in fact, it probably feels really good to have the "peace" that comes with passivity.

However, when we experience the spontaneous combustion that comes about because of our non-communicated boundaries it can be harmful for the relationship, ourselves and other people.

Boundaries that can be initially hurtful, yet honest and clear, are helpful. Anything done in silence and in the dark (passivity) will 100% be harmful.

*learn more about how to create boundaries with my Boundaries Guide.

Passivity creates blind compliance.

Passivity is the equivalent of blind compliance and we were not created to blindly comply with the world around us. I have to work really hard to not be frustrated with people who blindly comply with rules or just accept facts as they are. I'm a firm believer in asking questions, being somewhat skeptical and investigating things for yourself (sometimes it's to my detriment, though -- we always needs limits).

Think about it though: all of the information, research and new ideas in the world came from a place of exploration and questioning. Examining and questioning the world around us isn't wrong - in fact, it's pretty healthy.

We were given our unique gifts and minds to discover our personal convictions and specific purpose. When we comply blindly, we dull our chances of discovering what actually matters to us -- and ultimately, we don't live a fruitful, intentional life.

Passivity drowns personal identity.

When we passively go through life we aren't actively creating and developing our personal identity. We then are more easily transformed into what our immediate environment or closest relationships think we should be rather than discovering and acting on our own core values.

Furthermore, when we become passive in the process of self discovery, we unintentionally hoard the emotions, thoughts, gifts and talents that make us unique and different. As a result, we become more angry and resentful when people don't appreciate, respect or honor us for who we are, who we (internally) know ourselves to be.

We often expect people to know exactly who we are without doing any of the work that produces that understanding. Vulnerability is some of the most engaging work we can do with ourselves and others; it helps us own and share our stories. Vulnerability is the only way people get to know us -- so if we become passive and aren't willing to explore vulnerability (our honest emotions), we will forever stifle our authentic identity.

Passivity builds entitlement and arrogance.

For me, this is the hardest pill to swallow in terms of being passive. I can actively state my ground at work because I feel like I'm in charge and have some support from our administration; however, in my personal relationships I find it more difficult to actively enforce my boundaries. I'm usually worried that if I hurt someone I love, they'll leave me -- I operate out of a place of fear.

However, what I've noticed in myself is that whenever I become more passive in relationships and just "go along" with whatever, I feel a sense of entitlement to others love, respect and loyalty... because I've done what they've wanted me to do. (PS They didn't ask me to "go along", either). Quite frankly, this is not only controlling and a bit manipulative, but it's also pretty arrogant. (I think control, arrogance and entitlement all fit under the same general category).

The major, major problem is, is that love, respect and loyalty require active work. I assume that if I comply, I should automatically have those things rather than working for each (#YIKES). Love should be given unconditionally (that's biblical), but respect and trust have to be earned, and continuously proven, regardless of circumstance or position.

Passivity (in this arena) is especially harmful to a fruitful life when we feel we are naturally talented at something. For example, I'm naturally good at connecting with people. However, if I rely on my natural ability so much that I neglect the work that's involved with respect and trust, I can become more entitled. Therefore, we can become more arrogant and entitled whenever we think minimal work and effort is required on our end.

To lead a life full of purpose, we have to work hard on our emotional health and actively engage with our dreams. I hate to be cliché, but everyone loves a little cheese (specifically Gouda if you want to send some my way) and let's be real, cheese makes life better.

But -- nothing worth having comes easy. Valuable relationships, emotions, people, etc require effort, time and energy. When you put in the work, it will 100% pay off.

Happy Good Friday, my friends! Keep working and hustling; you're worth it.





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