Cutting the Strings of Control and Manipulation
Most people either fall in two categories, one that will control others or the one, who will be controlled by others. Neither of the two is the right way of living, for one, is taking advantage and the other is being at a disadvantage. My philosophy is simple, ‘LIVE AND LET LIVE’.
Manipulating is a tactic of getting what you want by unscrupulously taking advantage of others. This is an ingrained behaviour in people, mostly seen in children, you may be familiar with the temper tantrums that your little one throws, especially in the shopping mall when they are fixated on what they want. My kids have learnt not to throw temper tantrums, for they know it doesn’t work. When they seldom do throw temper tantrums, this is the response they usually get, “Sweetheart, nothing humiliates me. If you’ve done making a fool of yourself, let’s go home.” This strategy is their favourite. “I am not moving; I am staying put until I get what I want.” This is our usual response, “Well, then this shopping centre is your new home. Very soon the shops will close, everyone will go home, the lights will go off and you will be alone by yourself. Have fun, enjoy yourself, we are going home.” We take a few steps away and we hear a loud shriek behind us, “I want Mumma, I want Mumma.” I go back to them, hug them, wipe their tears, and then ask them if they are ready to come home. They nod their heads and then comes the guilt tactics. “You don’t love me, you left me, you don’t care for me, now I am sad because of you.” I then say to them “No, I didn’t leave you. You refused to come along and I do love you very much and care for you, but I can’t make you happy if you want to remain sad.”
These same patterns of behaviour carry on in adulthood as people learn to get their way around, at times by deceiving others or at times by pulling-strings which is a strategy most parents use to have control over their grown-up kids. “Why don’t you buy the house next door, so you can live close to us. We are willing to put a down payment for you. We’ll even buy you a new car.” Now, how can one refuse such an offer, how can one say no to such loving parents? There’s nothing wrong with your parents supporting you and you staying close to them, but if their motive is to have control over your life, then you are being manipulated. It is God’s will that you honour your parents, but if your parents ask you do something dishonourable, and you do it, you are not honouring them at all. One controlling mother, asked her son to divorce his wife because the mother was not getting enough attention. The obedient son divorced his wife, because he wanted to please his mother. Our first duty is to honour God, and if people, we are supposed to honour, request you to go against God’s will, then saying ‘No’ in such instance is the honourable thing. As God commands that a man shall not divorce his wife. What is more important, honouring God or honouring people? Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10 NIV).
God wants us to honour people in authority, but at times those people who have authority over you, may demand you to do things that are unethical. You want to please authority, but in this instance, what is the right thing for you to do? Let’s look at an example: Samuel works as an accountant. He is talented, hardworking, and due for his next promotion. His boss walks up to him and says, “Hey Samuel, I am very impressed with your work. You are the most capable man around for the upcoming promotion, but I need a favour. I want you to help me by fudging a few numbers in the accounts. No one would know and I will make sure you get your promotion”. What is the right thing for Samuel to do? He has worked hard; he is god-fearing and wants to earn his living in a righteous way. He walks up to his boss and says, “I am sorry, I will not change the numbers.” Samuel’s boss is furious with him and he gives the promotion to someone else, who is willing to change the numbers. Samuel has not given into manipulation, although he has lost his promotion. He knows that earning money deceitfully will be a dishonour to God and so, he waits upon God to do justice and provide for his needs. This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. (Jeremiah 15: 5-7).
When in doubt of honouring and respecting those in authority, evaluate if your actions are honouring God. If not, then you need to do what is right in the eyes of God. Let’s look at another example: A Christian unemployed woman applies for a job. Very soon she realises that she is getting unwanted attention. Her employer tries to isolate her from others, restricts her from speaking to certain people, tells her not to eat her lunch in the lunch room. At first, she is submissive to his request, as a sign of respect for authority. Then she realises it’s just manipulation and control and her employer has intentions of having an immoral affair with her. She is a married woman and she realises that her employer has no respect for her boundaries. What should her response be? She knows that it’s unfair for her employer to suggest whom she talks to, or where she has her lunch. She knows that as a devoted Christian, only God has control over her life. She refuses to have any immoral dealings with her employer. She lets him know, it’s a clear NO. She is not interested. She places her trust in God, for justice and fairness over her.
Some are aggressive manipulators, while others are passive-aggressive manipulators. Some do throw a guilt strategy when their needs are not met. Manipulation is wrong because it’s deceitful and self-seeking. Manipulation occurs when people take control of their own circumstance, to have their needs met. Instead of doing what is right for others and honourable in the sight of God, manipulators trust in their own skilful tactics of meeting their needs, and since this is the only way they know to deal with others, they continue down the track, making life difficult for everyone else. Sometimes they are convinced that their actions are out of love for others. As a parent, justifies that they are controlling their grown-up sons and daughters for their own wellbeing, manipulators have no respect for the boundaries of others, and often violate them. They see others as an extension of themselves and fail to realise and respect the freedom of others.
We’re not designed to meet our own needs. Only God can do that. He’s designed your heart to need Him. He’s made the world to thrive under His power. If you are a manipulator, evaluate if you are violating the boundaries of others. Are you misusing your power and authority over people to your own advantage? Ask God to direct your heart so that you treat people justly, with all fairness.
If you are the one being manipulated, ask God to give you the courage, to stand up for what is right, to face persecution with bravery, knowing that God will give you the strength and He will rescue you and deliver you from your oppressors.