Back when I was a PICC nurse, it was my job to introduce myself to a patient whom I had never met, and in a matter of minutes, convince them to allow me to thread a small tube from their arm all the way up to a main vessel mere centimeters from their heart. Over the course of ten years, I did this thousands of times. Incredible. Once convinced, I would need them to give me complete control over their arm so that I could manipulate it into the position that served me the best. They were no longer in control, I was.
That’s one of the best pictures of manipulation I can come up with. Another, more academic definition I found is this:
“To change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s own purpose.”
Psychology Today says that Psychological Manipulation is an attempt to control the behavior of another person. Usually people who employ manipulation use guilt or sympathy to motivate people to do what they want them to do. Guilt and sympathy are two of the most highly motivating emotions we have. If we are not careful, anyone can use this tactic to control another person. A friend of mine used to say no one could touch her Irish Catholic grandmother when it came to using guilt to manipulate folks.
Manipulation is completely different from social influence. Having a healthy influence over someone is not control. Rather it is a normal part of healthy give and take in relationships. Influence is based on long standing mutual trust. Influence is Glenda the Good, while manipulation is that green faced Wicked Witch of the West. When I think of the people who have influence in my life, they have it because of their good reputation of trust with me, not because of any abuse of power they have over me.
Maybe you have fallen victim to manipulation before. Maybe you have used manipulation to get something you wanted out of another person. As a wife and mother, the temptation is there to use manipulation to get what I want from those that I love. I could easily resort to guilt or sympathy, but the damage I would do to the relationship would not be worth it.
Instead, when I want something from my children or my husband, I should just tell them the truth. I should prevail upon their sense of right and wrong. I can use the influence I have from years of trust and honesty to make a case for what I am asking of them. It would be easy to slip a heaping spoonful of guilt on the plate to push them over the edge, but that’s manipulation. That is not leading them to seek godly wisdom in the matter. The best thing I can do is present the matter, tell them to seek God, and then do what He says. Shouldn’t I want more than anything for them to follow God’s leading?
Using manipulation to get what you want out of a person discounts the Holy Spirit who is able to do so much more to motivate a person in the right way. We have to resist the temptation to “help” the situation along. God’s timing is perfect.
Manipulation does not foster a healthy relationship. I’ve been manipulated before. I didn’t walk away from those people hoping I could spend more time with them. Just the opposite. The first time manipulation was used on the earth was in the Garden of Eden by the serpent with Eve. It is the first tool of the devil. That’s not the kind of company we should be keeping.
Are you being manipulated? Don’t forget your rights as a person, and moreover as a follower of Christ, to live out the life He has called us to live.
You have the right:
- to be treated with respect.
- to express your feelings, opinions and wants.
- to set your own priorities as set forth in God’s word.
- to say “no” without feeling guilty.
- to have opinions different than others.
- to take care of and protect yourself from being threatened physically, mentally or emotionally.
- to live a life that honors God- above all else.