There are two basic ways for communication to go wrong: loudly or quietly. While most of us recognize the damage caused by shouting matches and harsh words, fewer realize the equally destructive effects of “the silent treatment (i.e., the act of deliberately ignoring or refusing to speak to someone as a form of punishment or as a means of expressing displeasure or anger). You might even believe that when dealing with disagreement, your duty is merely to avoid overly aggressive behaviour. Since you haven’t shouted or resorted to violence, you might assume you’ve responded in an appropriate manner. But ‘the silent treatment’ doesn’t align with the Biblical requirement for resolving conflicts and nurturing a healthy marriage or friendship.

Punishment through Passivity — The Silent Treatment’ is part of behaviour that isn’t openly defiant but expresses your aggression or resistance indirectly through actions like procrastination, sullenness, stubbornness, and deliberate inefficiency. This behaviour is often called “passive-aggressive”, which is a way of expressing your negative feelings indirectly, often through withdrawal, sullenness, or stubbornness. It’s a means of punishing a person to get what you want.

How to Deal with Conflict — Instead of relying on passive-aggressive behaviour to get your way, follow Scripture’s clear principles for resolving conflict. In Ephesians 4:15, we’re called ‘to speak the truth in love’. The Christian response isn’t silence but open, honest, & calm engagement. James 1:19 tells us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” We should therefore strive to understand the other person’s perspective before responding. Both people should have the opportunity to express their perspectives without interruption or defensiveness. Colossians 3:13 instructs us to ‘forgive as the Lord forgave us’, letting go of grievances and extending grace. We must be willing to acknowledge our faults, apologize when necessary, & always extend forgiveness. 1 Corinthians 13:4–5 reminds us love is patient and kind, not irritable or resentful. When emotions run high, it may be necessary to take a break and return to the discussion later, but this should be communicated clearly and not used as an excuse for withdrawal. If conflicts persist or escalate, it could be a sign you need to seek wise counsel from someone else, such as a godly married couple. Like all passive-aggressive behaviour, the silent treatment violates these Biblical principles in several ways. First, it avoids speaking the truth directly and lovingly. Instead of openly expressing their thoughts & feelings, a person engages in an indirect form of hostility. Second, the silent treatment reflects anger and an unwillingness to listen and understand the other person’s point of view. Third, it withholds forgiveness and prolongs conflict by shutting down communication. Fourth, it’s neither patient, kind, nor loving but rather a form of emotional retaliation and punishment. So, let’s communicate openly, listen humbly, forgive readily, and seek help when needed.