Manipulation

Manipulation is the skillful handling, controlling or using of something or someone. Whether it’s the sculpture you made in art class or how you convinced your friend to do your homework — both are considered manipulation.

 

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This week after having a way over the top reaction to manipulation, I kept this question in front of me:

“Why does manipulation make you so angry?”

Knowing that anger generally masks a primary emotion I examined myself. This morning as I was going through my chores doing the laundry and I realized that manipulation feeds on an unresolved need or desire. It is predator characteristic and it preys on the ones who are non-confrontational, or people pleasers. The moment I see it I get out of its way because I know its damage first hand.

Do we recognize it? 

When manipulation knocks on your door do you see it, smell it, hear it? Or do you cower to it? No one can manipulate you without your consent. So how does manipulation work? Have you ever had someone come and say these things to you?

“I’ll just go away. Obviously, I’m too much of a bother. I have done a lot for you but you have your own life now, and you’ll never have to hear from me again!”

These people get the academy award for emotional manipulation because they are a master of their craft.  You have to either confirm their statement or backtrack. When push comes to shove most people backtrack.

“No matter how much I try to get ahead, something always knocks me down and I know people are tired of helping me, but they don’t understand that life has been hard since (and you can fill in the blank of what tragedy has fallen upon them)”

Be it a death of loved one, an unfulfilled marriage, a loss of job, or whatever else they deem the stopping point of their life, it is now somehow on you to fix it. Social media makes this manipulation tactic extremely helpful as they will post their latest dilemma and then a shout out to their loss.

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“I know I said that, did that, but you don’t know what was said to me, and I don’t want to burden you with it. Never mind, I’ll take the fall for what you consider bad behavior. I always do.” 

Victim thinking and the hint of a bigger picture can keep us in manipulation’s hand.

“You’re not going to help me? Don’t you go to church? Do you think that’s the way a Christian should behave? Aren’t you being judgmental?” 

This is one I have heard a lot. As if a spiritual walks makes it necessary to give up your common sense.

“I know this puts you in a bad position but I think if you do this God will honor you for it.” 

Do you hear this person? They are actually telling you they are putting you in harm’s way and hoping God intervenes on your behalf.

“My tribe always shows up when I need them. We always have each others back and we love deep.” 

Basically, if you want to be one of us you have to conform to how we do things. We move together and if you have an opposing view or decide not to follow then you’re out of the tribe.

“You’re tired? I’m exhausted. You have no idea what I go through.”

This either puts you in defense mode or makes you feel petty for having an emotion. This too is emotional manipulation.

“<sigh> I have been putting so many hours into helping you. I don’t understand why we have to do all of this. <groan> I wish I would have known what I was getting myself into. <ha!> I am not complaining, of course I want to help you silly, don’t be so sensitive!” 

This person is the martyr. They work so hard and so tirelessly and you don’t acknowledge what they do for you. Then they make you feel like you’re insane for asking if they don’t want to do it.

So why does it make me angry? I realized this week that when I question the insanity of a manipulative person out loud that I feel shame. I should be a kind, compassionate, a willing to help person. Instead I feel hurt, resentful, and frustrated at what they are doing to others. These aren’t emotions that are becoming to anyone, and I don’t like to see these emotions in myself.

What can I do to get healthy in this arena? I can be mindful of the true needs of others in my life. I can ask myself if the person is truly experiencing a need or are they merely trying to make their problem my problem? Will this be a one-time help or is this a pattern of ongoing mismanagement of life? Are they making others responsible for their poor lifestyle choices and if so is it any of my business and I would have to say no. I want to shout, “You’re being manipulated!”, but what does that solve?

Today I realized my anger came from my assumption that if I don’t speak out then I’m an awful person. When I sat down and truly examined my feelings, I realized wisdom and discernment and saying no is not bad. I am mindful of what I help with and I am not one to nurse dysfunction and I think that is a good trait.

What about you? Do you fall for manipulation or do you recognize it? When you know you are being manipulated do you get resentful or do you just say yes to keep the peace and continue to keep the feeling of being adored? What are you going to do to get healthy?

 

 

 

 

 

The Strong Women Beside Me

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Today we lay to rest a mighty woman of God. Terri Rivas, on the left in this picture, came to our TLC4Women bible study years ago. A quiet woman with a bible and pen in her hand, she had been invited by a pillar in our group her best friend Bernie, on the right above. Both women had been friends with each other for over 50 years. They each attended different churches but they each loved to study the word. Bernie is a solid, grounded, woman of the word and so I knew her friend would be as well. What does it say that two women are friends for 50 years? In a time when we are offended so easily and friendships tend to come and go, this was something to be admired.

It didn’t take long for me to find out that Terri was not quiet at all. She had a quick wit and would make all of us laugh with that smirk-y smile she would get right before she made a comment.  She celebrated all of our successes and she told about her escapades with Bernie. Bernie and Terri wouldn’t sit together in study because Terri would say she was afraid Bernie would get her into trouble.

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I discovered that I could go to Terri for anything and she would pray. She wasn’t about gossip and she wasn’t about drama but she could pray. I saw why she and Bernie were such great friends. Two women who stood strong on the word of God and were mentors to each of us in the group. When Terri decided to move her membership to our church, she came with a notepad, scriptures, and a word from the Lord, BUT she wanted to talk to us first to make sure that we knew she would not to be any trouble. She taught me about honor and hearing from the Lord.  She wasn’t going to walk on what she thought was the right thing to do she weighed it out, got counsel, and waited on God.

When she decided to retire from the hospital we talked about it and it turned out she didn’t have to retire she could work from home. She was thrilled to do that but again, wanted us to pray to make sure it was the right thing to do.

When Terri developed Parkinson’s she came to me with a quake in her voice and announced the news. I could tell it had shaken her and I had never seen her scared before, she had faith for so many others, in that moment I needed her to have that same faith for herself. I reminded her that the Great Physician had the final say and we prayed together. I honestly didn’t think I would lose her. I thought she would battle on. She had been through a lot in her life and I thought this would be another victory story. When she determined that she could no longer trust her driving at night she told me bible study would be out. I told her to let Bernie bring her. She instantly replied, “Have you ever been in a car with Bernie? Pastor Susan I want to live.” I answered, “Well, at least you’d go together right?” She laughed and said, “Bernie would probably survive.” But laughter or not, scared or not, there would Terri be, walking in the door of bible study with Bernie.

Terri, I love you, I will miss you. The impact you have made on my life cannot be measured. I was graced by your friendship. I was graced by your love of my children and my grandson. And even though I mourn the loss of you here on earth, you won the victory. I know that you made it home safely. That all of the promises of God are true and that we will one day be together again. I’m sure you are talking to loved ones and strangers and everyone you meet. You’re making people laugh, and you’re awaiting the time when we’re all joined together again.

Proverbs 31:29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

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What’s Coming Out?

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That’s the problem with the Pounce and Flounce isn’t it? We make definitive statements for drama’s effect only to have it boomerang.

To the significant other: “I’m leaving!”, when we know we aren’t going anywhere for long.

To the family or friend: “You hurt me and I’m not coming back until you say sorry.” Then we take every opportunity to let everyone know why we are feuding, or worse we pretend innocence and point to how people hurt us.

To anyone that will listen: “I don’t know why I stayed this long.”

Or in other words,

“You can’t tell me what to do.” 

To the Authority Figure: “Well if you’re going to do that then I’m not participating.”

Then we walk out as if we’re a commanding general who just won a war. We Pounce on the person and Flounce away to show them. Show them what though? Show them that we are masters at manipulation. This is the adult version of the two year-old trantrum being played out. 

When the trantrum is over and we calm down, and want/need, to come back, now we either have to apologize or have that awkward thing of the pounce and flounce between us that needs to be addressed.

Sometimes we pretend nothing happened. Sometimes we are violent slanderers, sometimes we are silent stew-ers, sometimes we play injured party accepting no responsibility and pointing fingers or worse we act as if all of this is so beneath us and we don’t care a bit about it in retaliation.

If we do it often enough, and with Social Media, we certainly have an easy platform, we develop a reputation of histrionics where people ignore our high drama. We become unsafe because others never know when it will turn on them and they will be the object of the next post.

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You see whatever is in our hearts comes spilling out. Now that we have a world wide platform people get to see who we really are. Hey, I’m not immune to cringe-worthy posts either. I’m not ashamed to take down posts that  I have posted which turn negative. It is not beneath me to just say no and sorry to something which may inflame people I care about.

Recently our church had 21 Days Of Prayer where prayers were written on cards and then each night we gathered together to pray for each card. There were incredible testimonies of breakthrough, miracles of healing, and in the midst of the profound and sacred some took the opportunity of prayer to chastise another. I called it the pounce and flounce of prayer. The violence of this action shows the power of our world today in which we can hide behind words not spoken face to face. Cowardly at best, the pounce and flounce has taken on new levels. The cards were quickly plucked from the pile and shredded. The Bible says that what is in the heart comes out and I wonder as believers how we think this honors God? I wonder how I honor God?

Proverbs 21:2 All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but the Lord weighs the heart.

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

So while I examine my heart for impure motive, I urge you to take a walk through your heart and settle the issues that so quickly ensnare us into behavior that will never lead us to victory.

 

If Only I Didn’t Know

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You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. ~ Matthew 5:4 The Message

Don’t you hate it when your life is cruising along in auto-pilot and you get hit with a revelation you wished you had never known? The awareness it brings is such a shock to the system. Immediately you have to think about what to do with the information. Where is the line or boundary for you? What is the right thing to do?

A friend lets you know that a person with whom you didn’t really have a problem doesn’t like you. I mean, it wasn’t like you were best friends or anything but you thought you two were fine with each other.

You’re doing your monthly breast examine and feel that lump that you thought happened to other people.

You find text messages from a co-worker on your spouse’s phone and discover something you never wanted to know.

You become a Christ follower and discover that there is that little area over in the corner of your life that isn’t consistent with this new life.

Now What?

In each of these cases you can’t ignore the next step for very long. As hard as it is to face facts, you must. They simply don’t disappear without action. Begin with a good assessment of where you are, then begin to pray for what you want the outcome to be.

Do you want to restore the possibility of friendship? Then humility and a conversation will need to take place. Often we excuse our behavior and pin it all on the other person but what is our role in this?

You’ll need a healing miracle as you make a doctor’s appointment and get that mammogram. Don’t panic, don’t delay, and don’t ask God to bless you based on your resume. Instead pray for healing and ask for mercy.

Do you want to see your marriage restored? Then you’ll need to have some tough conversations, some realizations of who the two of you really are, and if this marriage is worth saving. You’ll have to decide to never bring it up again and to begin the process of restoration. Don’t make your case before God for blessings, instead ask God to give you clarity of vision, strategy, and ask him to show himself mighty in this situation.

Do you really want this walk with Jesus to work to its full potential? Don’t make excuses, voluntarily come clean with the Lord and ask Him for His help and guidance.

You can’t ignore what you learn and have a healthy life. You can’t accept what you’re unwilling to accept. You can move forward with knowledge when you examine that area of your life with true acknowledgment of what the reality of the situation is.

Unfortunately, we can’t un-know what we know but we can move forward into an excellent future if we stop making excuses, stop listening to other voices, get clear about what it is we want, and humble ourselves before our Lord.

 

State Of Confusion

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As I have been watching events unfold I am looking curiously at the ramifications of revelation. While some ramifications are positive as it gets us to right our world some are negative as we watch the pendulum swing in the opposite direction causing an imbalance.

I heard a man say he saw a co-worker walk into the office and commented, “You look pretty today.” He then said he went to his office and immediately panicked. Is that sexual harassment? Would he be called into HR or worse a meeting with his boss? Could he be fired?

This is the negative ramification of the #METOO #CHURCHTOO movement. While it certainly is wisdom to check your comments and behavior, it is not right that an innocent comment can be taken out of context. I get it though. We’re all prickly over the abuse of women in the workplace. It went on far too long and although women had rights and were working equally as hard as a man in the workplace, this was an area of vulnerability. There are those men who make you feel uncomfortable with their remarks and then there are those guys who are work buddies who never cross the line into inappropriate boundaries, only in this climate how do we tell the difference?

Is it how it makes me feel or what was actually said? I saw an older man who was married with seven kids and one with whom I had never detected an ounce of inappropriateness lose his job before my eyes. He was walking out the door of our building carrying an armload of work supplies just as a woman was walking into the building. He stepped to the left to let her pass but she also stepped to her right to let him go through as his hands were full and they both ended up face to face on the opposite side of the door. They then simultaneously stepped in the opposite direction. It has probably happened to us all. He then laughed and said, “Shall we dance?”, which is a saying that people his age use when this happen, as he backed up and moved away to allow her to come through the door. The woman immediately went to her supervisor and said the man made her feel uncomfortable and he was fired on the spot. Did he say or do something inappropriate or was it a feeling she had?

I once reported a military officer for inappropriate comments to me and was told by his commander, “Susan, do you really want to cause problems or be a team player?” I found another job.

The question in our society is now what is appropriate for a man? The answer seems to be whatever women want it to be which is unfair. The rules are changing and there seems to be a state of confusion which only leads to further abuse and misunderstanding.

Should a man pay for a date or is that sexist and silently saying he doesn’t believe women are capable of paying for dates?

Should a man compliment a co-worker or is that sexual?

Can a man be proud that he can provide for his wife and allow her to stay home with their children or does he demean her by offering this option?

Here is some advice for what it is worth…..

Let the man pay for the date. While it may seem old-fashioned, if my need as a woman is security let me know up front that I am a priority, that I have been thought about, and that I have been worth planning for. If I’m honest, my husband and I each plan and pay for dates, okay, okay it comes from the same account but it’s that thought and preparation that is key.

“Hey, you look nice today”, is not sexual harassment. It’s a comment. An appropriate response is, “Thank you”, as you move about your day. There doesn’t need to be a discourse on how you bought your dress on clearance at Marshalls. A healthy man couldn’t care less, save that for your girlfriend, that comment isn’t a reportable offense. Now, if he comes and says, “Hey, you look nice today, why don’t you come into my office and let me see what’s under that dress”, then heck yes, report it. That is not a man, that is a male and there is a difference.

A man who can adequately provide for his family and can offer his wife the decision to stay home is admirable. I do not ascribe to the male who can’t adequately provide for his family so they are leeching off of everyone so that his wife can stay home. No one put a gun to their head to have family. You BOTH have a responsibility to provide for your family. If he works days, you can work nights but pay for your own kids. Alright, off topic sorry.  If he’s proud he can provide then good for him. It doesn’t make him a caveman, or abusive. It makes him a man and that’s a great thing. The male who demands his wife stays home has work to do.

Let’s get back to a place where we celebrate each other, we call each other on truly bad things, and we don’t look for offense in every gesture or comment.

 

 

What If We Didn’t?

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There used to be a day when we had Polaroid Cameras. We snapped a picture, and out popped a black image framed by white paper that within a few minutes time turned into a picture before our eyes. They were candid shots. There was no delete and do-over, film cost money and you only got a limited amount of film. They were real.

Now we practice selfies. We can take a hundred pictures until we get it right and we practice angles, and we practice lighting, and we watch make-up tutorials, and then we pretend this was a candid shot and that we look this way all of the time. It’s completely fake.

When I was four, my father lifted me into his arms and we went into the den. My mom, my baby brother, and our nanny were sitting in the den and my dad said, “Remember this, you’re watching history.” I sat on the floor as we watched the first man walk on the moon. I don’t know if this is where it started but throughout my entire life I have memorized moments. Pictures can fade but memories are what life is made of.

What if we played with our children and didn’t post about it?

What if we drank coffee and didn’t advertise the fact that we did?

What if our ordinary daily lives were lived not in an underlying need to be seen and thought of as good but just to be who we are?

What if we got real and didn’t protest the opinion of others and instead embraced their right to feel differently?

Would the need for comparison end?

What if we just didn’t participate?

What if we checked out facts before posting our agenda?

Would polite conversations be had face to face?

What if we told the truth?

What if we stopped living to one-up our neighbor?

What if we stopped having wars on social media?

Would we stop having wars in the street?

 

 

 

Saying What I Want to Hear

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My girlfriend is dating one of those undateable guys. The no job, no car, going to be a millionaire one day, you need to check out my abs kind of guy. He keeps talking about what he is going to do one day. Except if you looked at his life five years ago, it looks just like right now. When we talk she admits she has reservations but he keeps saying what she wants to hear.  All the while she has to pick him up and pay for the dates. THAT’S another topic for another day.

We talked again last week and I asked her if I could blog about her. She laughed and agreed.

Potential is one of those things that can trip us up. You can see it but it doesn’t mean the person who has it will ever play it out.

The key here is to know who you are and know what you want because if you aren’t clear you’ll make unhealthy decisions that will wreck your life and you’ll ask yourself one day, “How did I get here?”

When I think about it, this advice goes for any decision in your life.

Do you have goals?

Do you have vision?

Are the things you are doing today leading towards or away from those goals?