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Faith

I tried to save my best friend’s life; but everything fell apart

by Ashley Chan | 30 May 2017, 12:15 PM

It was the third week of January, 2015 – my first year of university.

I received a phone call. The voice said my best friend was in hospital. He’d met with a road accident and was fighting for his life. I didn’t believe it though – my friend had always joked that he’d die young. Without much thought I headed over.

When I arrived, the atmosphere was solemn. His red-eyed mum was slumped against the wall, on her knees. His dad held her, as the rest of the family stood with heads down.

I was directed into the emergency ward. The doctors had resuscitated him. He just left the operation theatre and the next 72 hours were critical.

I stared from behind the glass. His friend turned to me, smiling weakly, “It’s not a joke this time…” He looked down, and back at me. “Go in. I’m sure he would’ve wanted you here.”

I went in and was completely shaken. The motorcycle accident had disfigured his face beyond recognition. His skull was fractured and he’d suffered a stroke on the right side. Eyes barely open, the left side of his face was swollen, bruised and purple. Bandages tried in vain to contain gaping wounds.

I tried to pray, but didn’t have the words. I just cried, begged, “He isn’t a believer yet. Jesus please don’t take him. Please.”

It was painful to believe that God can take anyone, at any time.

It was painful to know that His sovereignty allows the death of the ones closest to us.

That was perhaps the longest night of my life.

The arduous 72 hours passed and his heart rate and blood pressure stabilised. Thank God!

Then the routine started: His parents came after work to check up on him while bringing food and drinks for visiting friends. His grandparents took turns to help. They knelt beside his bed, whispering prayers while tenderly wiping his face, arms and feet.

Wanting to help, I stopped attending lessons in school to become my friend’s round-the-clock caretaker.

When he came to, the effects of brain trauma grew apparent. Memory and psychomotor function were severely compromised. The right side of his body was paralysed neck-down. His memory flickered back in spurts, reminding him of the utter helplessness of his condition. His pent-up frustration was only aggravated by the concern of others.

His outbursts were, doctors said, the result of the damaged pre-frontal cortex – that was where complex cognitive behaviour, personality expression, decision making, and will to live were processed. Reparative surgery, however, was too risky. We’d have to be patient and lend him strength to recover on its own.

According to doctors, it was a miracle for him to survive the accident and regain consciousness within two weeks. Most patients remain in a vegetative, comatose state for a few months.

Wow. But I struggled to count any blessings.

I remember how athletic he was before. The exasperation must’ve been insane.

He would try to stand on his bed and fall over, “to leave the enemy camp”. His caring parents would bear the brunt of his tantrums and curses.

Lost in anger, he wouldn’t eat or sleep. He was disoriented and confused. I wonder if he even knew why he was in hospital.

His nicotine cravings came back – his parents didn’t know he smoked. The withdrawal symptoms and constant presence of others only served to magnify his frustration.

Once, after a nurse made her rounds for his ward, he grabbed my hand and whispered, “Take me to the rooftop. After I die, this will all reset. I won’t be handicapped. This is all a dream. The enemy just wants to mess with my mind. After I jump, it will return to how it was.”

He trusted me with his suicide. I knew we still shared a connection but the resolve in his eyes broke me. I couldn’t even chastise him because his reality was distorted by the head trauma.

A few feet away, his family was preparing healthy snacks for him since he detested hospital food. I could only try to distract him from these thoughts, hoping he’d forget eventually.

The season took a heavy toll on me. My exams were due in a few weeks, and I was too emotionally drained to think of anything other than my injured friend, whose life hung on the thinnest thread conceivable. I tried in vain to study. GPA was the least of my concerns. The endless concerns barricaded my mind.

I didn’t know how to comfort him. He didn’t even think I was real! Sometimes I’d be the enemy. Sometimes I’d be his confidante. But nothing I said seemed to get through. I cried out to God.

Taking care of him was like an abyssal void that resisted its own restoration. Worse still, it sucked me in. To numb the pain, I turned to smoking and drinking. I occasionally found myself woken up abruptly by choking on my vomit in my room on campus. The migraines started.

Every day, I’d casually pop a few Panadols before heading down to the hospital. It wasn’t like painkillers and cigarettes could soothe my pain, I just needed their placebo to calm down before I saw him from 7am to 11pm.

The emotional blackmail was unbearable. “No, if you’re my friend. you’d help me. Just go away if you won’t help,” he’d say.

Despite abandoning prayer by then, God pursued me. I’d been socially isolated and popping painkillers in school when some university friends contacted me. They’d noticed I hadn’t been attending any classes and were concerned.

In that moment as I spilled the truth of the matter to them, light came rushing in and shone on the dark places of my heart.

I realised that my saviour complex had revealed my distrust in God. I was selfish and impatient. In playing god to my friend, I was hindering God’s grace. I’m only human, how could I strive to be everything to my friend?

There is already One loves him more than I could ever do. Painfully, I decided to surrender the entire situation to God. Though my questions persisted, my priority became how I could align my thoughts, behaviour and attitude to loving Him.

I learnt that loving people didn’t mean suffering deeply with them despite being exhausted and completely drained of life. Instead it meant being fully present, ready to love others as I love myself. God assured me that this was only possible when I sought God first, above all things. I surrendered my heart completely to Him, in all its broken pieces.

I fixed my eyes on Him and He helped me see.

First, joy: I learnt to glory in sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3-5).

My friend completely changed. His diligence and perseverance rendered the physiotherapy highly successful. Soon enough he was back on his feet.

Jesus desires more than just our physical healing; he desires to restore us to wholeness, starting from within.

Over time, he progressed beyond the need for rehabilitative training to perform day-to-day tasks. By grace, he’s even been restored to his athletic state. Though the right side of his body remains slightly weakened, he now participates in numerous competitive sports in university. Nobody would’ve guessed what he’s been through.

Holding on to Jesus’ unwavering hope has sustained and strengthened me greatly. If you have a loved one who is suffering or in a demanding situation right now, know that the Jesus desires more than just our physical healing. He desires to restore us to wholeness, starting from within.

His death didn’t just give us life, but life abundant – through pain, struggle and death. For from Him, through Him, and for Him are all things. We find life, from now to eternity, through Him alone.

If you’ve lost all hope, look to Him and He’ll help you see.

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Out of the depths of despair, a song of hope

by Sam Chua | 26 July 2017, 10:45 AM

In 2015, I heard the amazing testimony of Ivan and Rachel Tan.

Their baby, Johanna, had been diagnosed with a series of congenital heart defects that were diagnosed as life-threatening if left untreated. Treatment would involve multiple surgeries throughout the baby’s lifetime – and even then nothing was guaranteed.

It was a difficult season for the family, but as the church grieved together, I also witnessed a contagious perseverance to overcome the situation through prayer.

Families gathered, various cell groups prayed, and they were covered in prayer at prayer meetings. None of this was planned.

I wrote a song describing what I saw: How brave the family was, and how united the church grew as it came together.

Heart Warrior is a song about receiving comfort in our moment of need. While we may not have physical heart defects like Johanna, the human heart is frail.

Fear consistently seeps into our hearts. We bite our nails over the what-ifs, the uncertain future, and unbearable tragedies.

At such difficult times, we often comfort ourselves with sayings such as “shalom” or “God is with us”. But what exactly would help you to hear in such a low moment?

This song speaks of His hope, His love and His peace. We’ve all have been through times when we are at our lowest, when we are on our knees, alone in our room, crying. This song comes from a place of personal worship.

While we may not have physical heart defects like Johanna, the human heart is frail.

As I wrote the song, I imagined a scene of the Father’s arms around us when we’re all alone. He’s wiping our tears and comforting us.

I wrote Heart Warrior in the hope of comforting an individual, just like in Psalm 23:4-6. I pray that the song lifts the hearts of the people back to the heart of God, comforting and lifting their spirits in a new and fresh manner.

Jesus is here and always for us. No matter what we are going through, He will always be with us. We pray that you will hear the song and be blessed!

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Do worldly successes define you?

by Daniel Lee | 25 July 2017, 10:56 PM

How would you feel if you were one — or all — of the following: A medical student, Employee of the Year, and/or a millionaire? Would being any of these things change the way you feel about yourself?

Often we dream of having these successful titles to define us; successes give us something to feel good about. But if what we succeed in determines who we are, does it mean we are a failure when we fail to achieve something?

Think about it: If we base our lives on what can be changed, then the foundation of our lives is not stable. Once the foundation shifts, our lives would also be shaken.

If our identity is decided by our successes, then it is also determined by our failures.

If our identity is decided by our successes, then it is also determined by our failures. Hence, the solution is to not find our self-worth in either.

This isn’t about ignoring what we have or have not accomplished. Rather, it’s about placing our value as a person on what is eternal.

God is the one who created us, and the One in whom we find the deepest measure of fulfilment and pleasure. When we base our self-worth and self-esteem on the unchangeable Word of God — when we believe who God says we are — then the foundation of our lives would be securely grounded on the Rock that is higher (Psalm 61:2).

WHO WE ARE IN GOD

And what does God say about us? He says that as Christians, our truest identity is in His Son, Jesus. We are children of God (John 1:12Ephesians 1:5) who are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10).

And because we are hidden with Christ (Colossians 3:3), we are free forever from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2) and can never be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:35).

Not only that, we are now called to be Spirit-filled witnesses of Jesus because each of us is a temple in which the Holy Spirit lives (1 Corinthians 3:16).

God calls us His co-workers in His kingdom (Mark 16:202 Corinthians 6:1) and we are seated with Jesus in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6).

WE BECOME WHAT WE BEHOLD

In light of our new identity in Jesus, we can see our achievements in the proper perspective. Yes, achievements are part of us, but they are not us.

In God’s kingdom, success is being able to boast that we understand and know the Lord (Jeremiah 9:24) and becoming more and more conformed to the image of His Son. We do this by worshipping and beholding Him daily (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Yes, achievements are part of us, but they are not us.

However, if we choose to worship and behold something other than God, we will also be transformed in its image. The Bible tells us that those who worship idols will become like them (Psalm 115:4-8Psalm 135:15-18).

Therefore, what we worship decides our identity. Ask yourself what the most important thing in your life is, and you will know what you truly worship. If there is something that you cherish more than God, then that thing has become an idol to you.

FOCUS ON BEING, NOT DOING

Also, what we do will constantly change, but who we are never will. When we understand that it is who we are, and not what we do, that ultimately matters, we can learn how to rest in God’s presence.

We should lose ourselves not in doing, but in being in Him and becoming like Him.

GIVE YOURSELF UP

Ultimately, resting in Jesus means surrendering all we have to Him.

That can sound like a frightening thing because it means we have to release control over who we are. But Jesus is not really the Lord of our lives if He isn’t the Lord over every single part of our lives, including our identity.

And so we stand firm on our identity in Him, safely let go and let Him take over. Because He is a good and trustworthy God who will never fail us.


©2016 Whole Life. All rights reserved.
Did you find the read helpful? If you would like to receive regular news and encouragement for your faith + family, click here to subscribe. This article was first published on Wholelife.sg and republished with permission.

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Stop pretending that everything is okay

by | 25 July 2017, 3:40 PM

How are you?

I’m good.

Have you ever reached a point where your life feels like a lie the whole time?

No matter how many hollow how are yous you’re asked, you’re always good, even when you’re not – because we all know that no one’s really looking for a true answer.

Maybe you don’t have the words to sum up the mess you’re currently in. Maybe you don’t even know where to begin.

And in the process of repeatedly lying to others about your okayness, you start convincing yourself that everything is okay too.

Then one day it all falls apart. The facade cracks under the weight of reality. All this while, you’ve been wandering: Wandering in pretence and denial.

LORD, HELP ME TO REMEMBER

The Israelites wandered around in the wilderness for 40 years because they just couldn’t fully believe and trust God. Not for long, anyway.

Faced with the rough situations they found themselves facing, they forgot how they’d originally cried out to God for deliverance from their Egyptian masters (Exodus 2:23-25).

It’s so easy to only focus on what we think God isn’t doing, forgetting what He has done, or not seeing what He is doing.

I remember one weekend when I was serving on the worship team, my senior pastor came up to me backstage and told me that his nephew had complimented my guitar-playing.

I was flattered, but encouraged by the comment. We proceeded to have what I thought was a really powerful and ministering session of worship later during service. My spirit was lifted.

Fast forward a few hours, to a post-service worship evaluation, when someone casually pointed out that my guitar-playing felt underwhelming and distracting.

Immediately my spirits plummeted. I was discouraged. I started blaming myself and my lack.

God’s telling us: I know you’re not perfect. That’s why I chose you: That in your weakness, my glory can be revealed.

That one comment had eradicated all that happened earlier in the day. I forgot about the great time of fellowship with the people I was serving with, the encouragement from my senior pastor and the joy of freely praising and worshipping God on stage.

My eyes were fixed on what went wrong. Everything else paled in comparison to that one negative comment.

But what I’d failed to see was that in God’s kingdom, everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Everything doesn’t have to be okay.

It’s God’s gentle rebuke to Moses just before he returned to Egypt to set his people free. I’m not eloquent, God. I’m slow of speech. I’m not okay. God’s reply:

Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:11-12)

In other words: I know you’re not perfect. That’s why I chose you: That in your weakness, my glory can be revealed.

LORD, HELP ME TO BELIEVE

The man with the epileptic son in Mark 9:24 recognised his difficulty in believing but the need to do so. He exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

On the other hand, the Israelites, though physically out of Egypt, were still yearning for their old comfort zones (Exodus 14:12) because they couldn’t believe what God said He was going to do.

You can take a person out of Egypt, but not Egypt out of a person.

Sometimes the detour is the road we’re meant to take. Sometimes your seasons of wandering have a lesson or two in them.

The Israelites’ disbelief turned an 11-day journey into 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

Imagine trying to get to point A to B on a GPS. While the initial directions may seem straightforward, sometimes we find ourselves rerouted because of external factors: Traffic, train breakdowns, bad weather … Seldom are we actually able to travel punctually in a direct, smooth path.

Recalculating.

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle. (Exodus 13:17-18)

Sometimes the detour is the road we’re meant to take. Sometimes your seasons of wandering have a lesson or two in them.

LORD, HELP ME TO CARRY ON

It’s time to drop the pretence. Come as you are into His presence.

Our burdens are not simple, and usually can’t be relieved by simplistic platitudes. Cheer up! Hang in there, it’s gonna get better!

Nope.

But what can relieve a complex burden is a simple promise.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30)

Don’t make an 11-day journey into a 40-year trudge through the wilderness because of your pride, blindness, deafness, hopelessness, restlessness, or stiffneckedness.

If things are not okay, they’re not okay. That’s fine. That’s human.

Most of all, that’s room for you to really see Jesus at work in you. And that’s the starting point of hope.

 

/ christina@thir.st

Christina is a designer and a writer. She is an INFJ introvert who loves matcha, beautiful typography, good books and sad music. She also dreams of raising her own pet penguin one day.

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You can smoke knowledge, but you can’t smoke a relationship

by Darius Ng | 24 July 2017, 11:56 AM

There are things in the Christian world that a believer can “smoke” – pretending to know, faking expertise in. Like general knowledge of the Bible, general knowledge of God’s natures and attributes.

A little closer to home for me as a youth leader would be “smoking” Bible study lessons and worship sessions at Children’s church on Sunday mornings.

“This ain’t that important lah. It’s not like I don’t usually prepare – it’s just this one time.” Such are the excuses I give to validate my behaviour.

Thankfully, despite my human weakness, God’s been faithful – mighty to save.

But there is only so much one can “smoke”. It’s one thing to pretend to know stuff – I did a lot of that in polytechnic, and for the most part my peers and lecturers were impressed at how much I knew about what I actually didn’t know much about.

But in relationships, there is only so much you can “smoke”.

You can’t quantify a relationship. A relationship is something you have to experience, emotionally and spiritually. Knowledge without the experience is incomplete – hearing a description of a relationship barely scratches the surface of what it really is.

You know it as soon as you start to hearing someone talking about God. A person who claims to be a believer needs to tap into how much he knows about the Good Good Father.

A relationship is something you have to experience, emotionally and spiritually. Knowledge without the experience is incomplete.

This believer isn’t speaking out of knowledge; he’s speaking out of the experience of his relationship with God.

Sure, he could “smoke” a picture of who God is and what a Christian should be like. It could give the world a very skewed, even wrong idea of what the Church is.

But ultimately, there is an absolute template for understanding God: it’s the Word that He has spoken, that seals the truth, and disposes of the falsehoods. 

In June, a session where I led youth worship set really helped my ever-stubborn, prone-to-wander heart see the truth in this, and face up to the fact that you can’t “smoke” God.

I faced quite the learning curve technically and spiritually. From leading in one song in a set, to having to pray over, plan, prepare, liaise with musicians and singers, having to tune into God, and having to consider all technicalities – all while leading the people gathered to worship.

It forced me to want to know: What’s on the Father’s heart for His people?

I had to connect with Him first, before I would be able or even allowed to facilitate an atmosphere where people come into His presence. I had to be sold out for Him, before I could call for others to do the same. I had to rid myself of all distractions to be able to hear Him speak clearly – something that I’ve been very stubborn about in my current season.

It called for me to dig deep in my relationship with God. And there’s no “smoking” that.

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Anything wrong with being passive aggressive? Nope. Nothing at all. Of course not

by Lynn Chia | 24 July 2017, 11:54 AM

“Wah, I really cannot stand her leh, she’s damn pagro!” My colleague slumped back into her chair and sighed.

Pagro? You coin new term ah?” I asked.

“No lah. She wants me to finish this task but she’s being super passive-aggressive about it. She keeps giving me the silent treatment and sighs, as if I know what’s going on in her mind … ”

That was how things worked in that office. The boss wouldn’t give us clear instructions, but when we made a mistake, she wouldn’t show her anger overtly. Instead, she would either give us the silent treatment or give us more work to do, as our “punishment”.

She wouldn’t confront us face-to-face, but would berate us over email or text. When we tried to talk to her about the conflicting expectations, hoping to ease the tension and clear the air, she would dismiss it, telling us that there are “more important things to do”.

I think everyone has, at some point, faced a passive-aggressive person.

Maybe over project work, or your parents, or just that one friend who refuses to engage in direct confrontation, and instead shows their anger through subtle body language and sometimes mutters under their breath.

It can go down the road of belittling others, non-cooperation, evasiveness, dismissiveness, and avoiding emotional attachments. It’s hard to truly know what someone like that really means through their speech.

The real problem with passive-aggressive speech is its underlying dishonesty. The self-righteousness that passive-aggression promotes is a lie.

On the surface, it may appear that a pagro person is demonstrating an admirable level of civility and politeness. But the truth is it’s potentially so harmful.

The goal of such a person is to benefit at the other person’s expense, with the least personal vulnerability, as they choose not to be completely honest about what’s going on inside.

But by denying feelings of anger, withdrawing from direct communication, casting themselves in the role of victim, and sabotaging others’ success, passive aggressive people put others through an emotional roller coaster.

Through intentional inefficiency, allowing problems to escalate, and exacting hidden revenge, the passive aggressive individual gets others to act out their hidden anger for them.

And it becomes a power play. This ability to control someone else’s emotional response makes you feel powerful – a puppeteer for others’ behaviour. While we keep a safe distance, others suffer.

The real problem with passive-aggressive speech is its underlying dishonesty. The self-righteousness that passive-aggression promotes is a lie.

It allows the passive-aggressor to continue in the tracks of their own cowardice, laziness and selfishness, under a false facade.

Laying one’s cards on the table feels like surrender – a bad word in this modern age. However, we have been called to be a living sacrifice.

Consider the Truth Himself: Jesus never played games in his speech. He was never ambiguous about what he meant; no roundabout manner to His words. He called bad behaviour out for what it is. 

In Matthew 23:25-28, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees in their hypocritical behaviour, for the way they tried to manufacture a perfect exterior while still being morally depraved and unwilling to accept help for their fallen hearts.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.

“In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

What Jesus is saying is that the problem isn’t just the behaviour, but the heart from which it sprouts (Proverbs 4:23).

Are we guilty of exhibiting this behaviour? Are we conscious of its impact on those around us?

Words bring with them the power of either life or death (Proverbs 18:21). A perverse tongue can crush spirits.

The first step to battling a passive-aggressive posture — as with all other sins of speech — is to first be aware that it is present in your life.

Laying one’s cards on the table feels like surrender – a bad word in this modern age. However, we have been called to be a living sacrifice.

Acknowledge and accept that it is not reflective of God’s glory and love in your life. Remind ourselves regularly of how God delights in seeing truth in our inward being (Psalm 51:6).

But sometimes, it’s not us who are guilty of this. Sometimes, we need to help others deal with it in truth and love, to improve the environment, and most importantly, for their growth and peace of heart.

4 STEPS TO HELP SOMEONE DEAL WITH PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOUR

DON’T FIGHT BACK
This will only evoke more passive anger toward you, so even though it might take a tremendous amount of self-control, don’t attack. Remain calm and state your truth in short, objective ways that focus on the issues. Don’t label, accuse, or criticise.

RESIST LIES
Hold firmly to the truth about you and the other person; don’t believe the untruths projected onto you. Passive aggressive people usually project their own insecurities and weaknesses onto others. Stand firm in your truth, don’t be shaken or stumbled, no matter what you are accused of.

SET BOUNDARIES
You will need boundaries to prevent the passive aggressive person from wreaking havoc in your life. Adjust your expectations, so you’re not dependent on that person. State your decisions and stick to them. Finally, decide how much you will tolerate before giving an ultimatum or ending the relationship.

ENCOURAGE THE TRUTH
If the passive aggressive person risk talking about feelings, issues, problems, and concerns, encourage the truth. Listen. You don’t have to agree with what is being said, but you do need to make it a safe experience for the passive aggressive person who fears being vulnerable and is taking a huge risk in speaking the truth.

 

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I tried to save my best friend’s life; but everything fell apart

Out of the depths of despair, a song of hope

Do worldly successes define you?

Stop pretending that everything is okay

You can smoke knowledge, but you can’t smoke a relationship

Anything wrong with being passive aggressive? Nope. Nothing at all. Of course not