In the last few weeks, I’ve received several requests asking for prayer. A theme connected these different requests. My friends were suffering under skillful manipulators who used their positions of authority to trample over their feelings, rights, and needs.
How do we identify and resist manipulation? Why does it matter if we give in or not?
Delilah used emotional pain to control Samson, and manipulators use it to control us—if we let them (Judges 16). Manipulators charm, mope, and threaten—all to get their way. They use guilt, shame, and intimidation to beat us into submission. Beware of their intent, and never compromise what is right to appease them or gain relief.
Giving in to manipulation is not just unpleasant—it destroys. Jesus said no one can serve two masters. Submitting to manipulation makes the wrong person lord over our lives.
How Do We Protect Ourselves from Manipulation?
Recognizing manipulation is essential to standing against it. The closer we walk with Jesus, the better we recognize His voice and the easier it becomes to tune out competing influences. The Bible says we grow in discernment through practice.
But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:18 NASB).
Giving in to manipulation and tolerating sin keeps us spiritually immature. Samson’s callousness to sin made him susceptible to Delilah’s schemes. The ugly feelings we experience when facing manipulation warn us to set healthy boundaries.
If you suspect you are being manipulated, ask the following:
- How do I feel after I leave this person or group? Feeling weary, selfish, angry, and guilty may indicate someone is trying to control you. Jesus doesn’t use guilt, shame, threats, or a victim mentality with us. The fruit of the Spirit displays His character (Gal. 5:22-23).
- What is my motivation? Am I choosing what is the best—or avoiding disappointing or angering someone? In other words, am I avoiding pain or pursuing faith and love?
Samson didn’t tell Delilah his sacred secret because he thought it was the right thing to do. He wanted relief from her pestering. When someone takes more than we want to give, we feel used. Resentful feelings warn us to consider the motive behind our compliance.
In the long run, caving into controlling people won’t protect us. Samson’s temporary relief from giving in to Delilah led to greater loss and anguish. We despise our spineless yielding and resent the people we allowed to manipulate us—and anyone who reminds us of them. This isn’t love.
People who habitually let others control them are candidates for self-destructive habits. They mindlessly eat, shop, drink, or gamble to numb the pain of feeling used. Faith is a better motivator than fear, and love is a better inspiration than pity. Jesus never manipulates us. He never shames us. So don’t allow others to control you that way either. Godly sorrow over real sin is very different from false guilt.
- Have I counted the long-term cost of compliance? When some religious people tried to control a group of believers in the early church, Paul wrote:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).
Standing firm in our God-given freedom may upset those who want to control us. But that isn’t bad. Paul also said, “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval” (1 Cor. 11:19).
Stand Firm Against Manipulation
Conflict exposes hearts. If one arises because you won’t let someone wrongly control you, know you’re in good company. Religious leaders used religion and threats to try to control Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and the disciples. Because these men understood God’s will, they escaped their nets by serving one Master. We can too.In the long run, caving into controlling people won’t protect us. Samson’s temporary relief from giving in to Delilah led to greater loss and anguish. #RefreshingFaith, #BigGod Click To Tweet
Adapted from Little Faith, Big God.
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