Aggressiveness may be defined as the quality that pushes our purposes and plans to a successful completion, despite the incidental obstacles, and that destroys whatever is injurious to us and our purposes and plans. It is one of the most useful graces of Christian character for overcoming. Martin Luther is probably the best example in the good use of this grace, both in its constructive feature of pushing plans to a successful completion despite obstacles, and in its destructive feature of annihilating for Protestants the main papal errors of doctrine and practice.
The Lack of Aggressiveness
Many people greatly lack aggressiveness. In such we often find too much reticence, a lack of courage, and sometimes the presence of an inferiority complex. The least sign of disapproval from others often overawes them; obstacles usually crush them; and often even ordinary tasks discourage them into inactivity. If any of us find ourselves weighed down by such lacks and faults, let us seek diligently to rid ourselves of them, by displacing them with aggressiveness.
The Two Parts of Aggressiveness
Aggressiveness consists of two parts, executiveness and destructiveness:
(1.) Executiveness is active in carrying out one’s plans and purposes, regardless of whether they are hard or easy of accomplishment. It consists of certain qualities: (1) purposefulness, which puts its planned determination back of every enterprise that one would achieve and pushes it onward to completion; (2) venturesomeness, which is ready to do and to dare, to run risks of loss or defeat in order to win success; (3) vigor, which uses all of one’s pertinent strength and determination to work out his purposes unto full success; (4) thoroughness, which surveys every part of the problem at hand, and, without neglecting any feature of it, gives to each the stress that its successful execution calls for; and (5) effectiveness, which achieves practical results from its efforts.
(2.) Destructiveness attacks injurious things. The Christian’s main use of it is destroying sin, error, selfishness and worldliness in any and all of their forms, especially as these are in us and occasionally as these are in others. Destructiveness also contains a number of qualities: (1) abhorrence of evil, a hatred of it in all its forms, because of its bad nature and effects upon us and others, and because of God’s and Christ’s attitude and activity toward it; (2) indignation, against all forms of sin, error, selfishness and worldliness. Such for us is a righteous indignation, for it is the basic part of disinterested love, delight in good principles and abhorrence of evil principles; (3) sternness against evil, treating it by feeling, look, word and act sternly; and (4) severity, treating our sins, errors, selfishness and worldliness roughly in thought, motive, word and act.
The Abuses of Aggressiveness
But aggressiveness, particularly in its destructive feature, is capable of great abuses. Let us consider the main abuses, or exaggerations of destructiveness: (1) wrath, as distinct from anger and righteous indignation (James 1: 20); (2) fury, which is the exaggeration of wrath. In the latter, one may maintain a measure of self-control, but in the former self-control is thrown to the winds; (3) malice, which grows out of fury, fills one with dislike, suspicion, evil surmising and false and evil constructions placed on others’ thoughts, motives, words and acts; (4) malice increases into hatred, the direct opposite of duty and disinterested love (1 John 3: 15); (5) grudgesomeness, which grows from hatred, cherishes malice and hatred, and seeks occasions to wreak evil upon its victims; (6) exaggerated grudgesomeness ere long develops into implacability, which hardens the heart against all kindliness, fills one with the hardest dislike and makes him incapable of forbearance and forgiveness; (7) ruthlessness results from implacability, and often results in persecution; (8) in revengefulness, the implacable and ruthless will take revenge on those who have wronged them; and (9) lawless taking of life is the extremest misuse of destructiveness.
Overcoming Exaggerations of Aggressiveness’s Destructiveness
Let us suppose that we possess one or more of the misuses of aggressiveness’s destructiveness of evil. We can curb and destroy these especially by using three methods: (1) displacement by the opposite grace; (2) restraint by other than its opposite grace; and (3) turning the good features of aggressiveness’s destructiveness against its bad features.