A few months ago Gene and I had gone out to eat. We had been talking about taking a trip to Denver to see Lindsay, Ryan and the boys. We had been talking about it for weeks and something was said that made it plain that we had a communication problem. I was thinking we were talking about going this summer, but Gene was talking about a year from now. I began to cry and my sweet husband immediately began to try to think of a way to give me the desire of my heart.
The ladies at our church have been reading the book Damsels in Distress by Martha Peace. I first heard of her when I read her book The Excellent Wife about 13 years ago. This month’s topic was manipulation. Gene and I have had many great conversations about what it is and what it isn’t and I thought I would share some of our thoughts with you.
What Is Manipulation
Dictionary.com defines it this way:
1. The act of manipulating
2. The state or fact of being manipulated
3. Skillful or artful management
I find #3 quite telling, when you manipulate someone you are trying to manage them. Manipulation is also a choice. When we choose to manipulate we are being selfish and unloving. We should desire for our husbands, children & friends to make decisions for the right reason not because they have been pressured, bullied, or manipulated into it. By manipulating someone to do our will we are putting ourselves before them and not thinking of their best interest.
If we are trying to manipulate our husbands, who are commanded to love us as Christ loved the church, are we encouraging them in doing right? If we try to manipulate our children into obedience are we teaching them that they should obey because they are in sin and need to stop sinning? Or are we teaching them how to manipulate others to get their desires no matter how selfish?
What Manipulation Isn’t
It isn’t accidental or without thought. Much like lying when you manipulate it is a conscious choice. You can’t do it accidentally. It’s a heart issue and driven by your will. You have to do something to make it happen whether that be cry, yell, ignore, mope or pout. If you do these things with the desire to cause another person to change their decisions or actions then you are manipulating them.
Don’t Be Quick To Judge
Now if someone had been watching the interaction between my husband and I they may have concluded that I was trying to manipulate him, but I wasn’t. My tears were a direct response to a very real, painful disappointment. After a few minutes of Gene offering to do what he could to give me the desire of my heart, I told him that he was right and making the right choice for our family. At this point in time I am so glad he made that decision. The girls’ health wouldn’t allow us to travel now anyway and it would have been much more disappointing to have to make that decision now.
It is also important to not assume others are trying to manipulate you. It is easy to assume someone is doing something for the wrong reason. If a friend of yours is acting downcast, don’t assume that they are trying to make you feel sorry for them because they are upset with you for not inviting them to your party. If your friend is downcast, go to them and see what is wrong. If they don’t want to share, again don’t assume they are trying to manipulate you. Maybe you have hurt them, ask if you have done anything to cause them pain, and if they say yes, apologize. If not, ask how you can help them. It is so easy to be quick to judge someone else’s motives and we need to be aware that just because we feel we may have been manipulated, doesn’t mean we were.
Don’t Use Your Position
Don’t use your position of authority to manipulate. Father don’t try to manipulate your wife and children into following your desires. Lead them by example and take the time to explain the reasoning behind your decisions. Allow wise appeals to your decisions as well. We can all make decisions without knowing all of the facts and it is a benefit to listen to those who love us and want to help us. Parents if you manipulate your children you are teaching them to manipulate. What a sad testimony that is for the cause of Christ. Wives, don’t manipulate your husband, but learn to go to him in humility and make wise appeals, and if he feels he needs to stay with his first decision, then show him the love and respect to support him in it. Pastor/Teachers, you have been given a level of responsibility and it is your responsibility to lead by example. Don’t do anything that even hints at manipulation.
Manipulation is a very ugly sin borne out of selfishness. We are told in scripture to “do unto others”. How can we be doing that when we try to manipulate? The only ones who can truly know if you are manipulating are you and God. No one else can judge your heart. Examine your heart and your motives and see if you have a tendency to manipulate others. If you consult your husband, family or friends make sure you ask them if they feel manipulated by you. Be willing to have a discussion and have them share examples with you. It may be that someone misunderstood your actions and attributed it to manipulation, or you could have been actually manipulating. Ask God to show you where you fall short in this area and He will.