How Can I Be Assertive, Without Being Aggressive?

How many times has it happened to you? You wish you had stood up for yourself or someone else. Then later you beat yourself up about how things should have been. A quiet personality isn’t bad, but silence based on fear is not healthy. Let’s explore how to be assertive in a faith based way.

Assertiveness Is Based On Confidence

If you’re not assertive, you might be afraid of something. It might be a fear of rejection, conflict, criticism or making mistakes. Some people are overly assertive, and this is also based on fear. Aggressive or pushy people are insecure deep down so they sometimes harm others to get their way.

Healthy Assertiveness

If you are confident, you’re not afraid to speak your mind. Healthy assertiveness isn’t looking to put others down or gain position, but instead you speak sincerely. That’s why many people who are assertive use “I” phrases to express what they observe, want or need. This isn’t being self-centered, instead it’s talking from a place where you can be sure: your own experience.

Passive Or Passive Aggressive

Some people confuse being passive with being humble. Passivity means that you are not speaking up for yourself and find it hard to say no when you should. Humility means you don’t push your own agenda, but you are not afraid of the truth either. Many times a mask of false humility is used to avoid conflict. Ironically this can actually hide pride or vanity, because we care more about self-image rather than truth.

The passive aggressive person holds it all in and builds up resentment. Here aggression might show itself in being very silent or talking about others behind their back.

Developing Assertiveness

One of the keys to being able to speak up for yourself in a healthy way is to accept reality. For example, if you are asked to do something that goes against your convictions, just say no. It takes courage say this, but if you don’t, any mistruth will cause more problems later. Psychologists offer other helpful tips on how to be assertive such as:

Start small – Don’t tackle big issues right away. Practice with small needs first.

Don’t be afraid to say no – If you can’t or are unable to do something, let it be known.

Avoid the guilt trap – Looking out for yourself is not wrong if you respect others. You shouldn’t feel guilt due to your limitations.

Look for root causes – Try to discern the source of your reactions. An apparently distant stress (money, relationships, health, etc.) can affect how you react.

Give yourself time – Don’t be afraid to ask for time before you speak. Process what you are feeling and give a genuine answer later.

How Your Faith Matters

In the lack of assertiveness we find our chief enemy: fear. This makes us react – or not react – in ways that cause harm. The Scriptures show us how to get rid of this fear:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18).

The Spirit Guides You

Some advocate rehearsing situations where you want to be assertive. Although this might help, the Holy Spirit is capable of making a deeper and more fundamental change in your character. You will face uncomfortable moments, but overcoming suffering instills confidence. You see clearly that God’s Spirit never leaves your side.

Remember what Jesus said:

“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” (Luke 12:11-12)

The Highest Authority And Confidence

Time spent in prayer and reading God’s word is the best way to get filled with the Spirit. The better you get to know God, the more secure you feel. In the end, it’s not really about being assertive, it’s about being able to love.

When you love others, you want them to know the truth. You care for them so you don’t give them a false reaction, even if it is uncomfortable. In love you don’t look out for yourself, but instead you share your true self. Your true self is found in God’s will and His way. When you seek and receive his Spirit, all things become clearer.