Beware of those, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but INWARDLY are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15) Some years ago, a spiritual light came on for me when I began to recognize the people who seem to have the most control over their peers are those who get what they want while pretending to be pleasing others still. You've met these types of people and interacted with them. We all have. Maybe you've been a puppet on the end of their strings? This type of person that I'm referring to wants their desired outcome to be the path chosen by all others, but they would never admit it because they have too much to risk if someone out-right disagreed. You see, this type of personality — a manipulative covert abuser — acts as though he (or she) is indifferent to outcomes. But, if you observe the actions, you may discover a sinister plot. Perhaps the first thing you will begin to notice is that these individuals have an odd — almost unexplainable — leverage over you, your family, group of friends, or co-workers. It transpires because they have gained control in a very subtle way. One of their most potent weapons is the verbalization of put-downs in a seemingly unaware way. This type of behavior presents them with opportunities to appear to be following, but, in reality, they are manipulatively creating enough uncertainty (with their well-placed questions or statements) to turn the course of conversations and meetings. Too often, this behavior allows them to take groups or relationships in the direction they prefer. They are just too concerned with overall popularity to admit true intentions. They want to play the good guy or gal while casually acting as though they have no preference in a matter at hand; when in truth, they care much about the impending outcome. Psychology calls this behavior passive-aggressive. I call it wicked. But, regardless of what we choose to call it, we must get to the heart of the matter. Are there people in your life that seem to have control over you, leverage even, but you struggle to confront them because the proof of their manipulation is so hidden? For example, it's hard to believe that they're doing what it feels like they're doing because on the surface they seem so well-meaning with their guise of nonchalant and detached mannerisms. Yet, you discern that there is something more to their procrastination than just not having enough time. You are certain items essential to the project's completion were not misplaced, as much as they are choosing to be intentionally inefficient. Just as they most likely did not "forget" about your meeting with them, but are instead passive-aggressively obstructing progress. You're probably frustrated because you sense they don't dare to tell you what they feel; because they want you (and everyone else) to like them. Admittedly, there are things about them to like about them; (that is why you have tolerated their behavior for so long). But at some point, you must face the facts. And, the truth may be, you are way past the time for a hard conversation. You do not have to be rude or mean — nor should you be — with your confrontation. Honor Colossians 4:6 as your speech is filled with grace but seasoned with salt. Be honest with yourself and them, as you once and for all confront the reality that manipulation is taking place. The longer you ignore this truth, the longer you will delay freedom and empower the forces of hell at work in your life. When you question the silently rebellious and passive-aggressive behavior of covert abusers — be forewarned — they will probably respond by playing the role of the victim. (I would encourage you to allow them the opportunity to explain their behavior -- but be prepared for lies.) With their likability rating threatened, they may make every excuse possible to cast blame on someone else to salvage their influence. I also believe that when your firm stance insists their behavior must change, they may move from passive to blatantly aggressive, as they recognize that their time of influence may be coming to an end. Many times, this new level of aggression will manifest through strategic placement of sarcastic jabs to mutual acquaintances — or maybe even via social networking sites — in last-ditch efforts to discredit you and your new-found courage. Feeling threatened, they may also make assassination attempts towards your character. But, as these covertly abusive tactics unfold, keep in mind that being the brunt of such behavior is a small price to pay for freedom. Why is it so vital for you to stop playing dumb? Because, as Edmund Burke so eloquently declared, "All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing."
(Footnote: I am just a preacher from the hills of Kentucky. I claim no expertise on this subject. I only wish to offer a few observations that I have made while walking through my own life experiences. I highly recommend that you prayerfully seek professional counsel before applying any of my suggestions.)