Why Do People Manipulate Others?
by Curt Klingeman
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Beginning at the fall, people have not ceased to manipulate one another. Even though none of us likes to be manipulated, we have all been guilty of the same crime. One would think after all these years, we would have finally come to a point where we stop; however, it appears as time progressed humankind has become worse. Even more disappointing, it is still prevalent in the church -believers manipulating believers and nonbelievers alike. Of all places where we should be void of this phenomenon, it still exits. Upon reading this, some may be tempted to say that they do not manipulate others, but can they really be sure? Sometimes people have blind spots, and unaware of the ways they do. Perhaps to see how we un-wittedly participate in this process of controlling others, we need to understand why. By definition, manipulation means to cleverly or unfairly control or influence a person or situation. Of course, manipulation can, and often does, affect numerous people at one time. Getting down to the nuts and bolts of it, why do people manipulate others?
Man’s sinful nature wants to be in control; it does not like to surrender it to another. This goes as far back as the Garden of Eden where the serpent tempted the woman to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. What was the hook he used against her? The serpent told the woman, “In the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5, KJV). Verse 6 tells us, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (KJV). From that point forward, man would love the things of the world, which we find in 1John 2:16, “The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life . . .” (1 John 2:16, KJV). The exhortation in verse fifteen tells us, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (KJV). The love of the things of the world will be his weakness; they will work against him continuously. In simple terms, those of the world simply cannot help themselves. Unless, a person is born again, he will be stuck manipulating others until the day he dies. He will always want to be in control. In essence, he wants to be God. This leads us to another question: if a believer has been delivered from the world through Jesus Christ, why would he still manipulate others? Should not his new nature override the old nature? As we continue, we will find that not everything is so cut and dry.
Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (KJV). While we are sanctified (set aside) in Jesus Christ, there still is a process in which God takes us in order to conform to the image of Jesus. There is a washing and renewing that takes place in the lives of those who humble themselves before God. Part of that process is reshaping the way we think. There are thought processes we learned while in the world that need to be changed. Even though a person may love God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, he may still struggle with unholy things. Fortunately, God has given us His grace in order to walk free of them. Getting back to manipulation: one thing to remember is that when sin entered into the world, it affected everything. This includes society, and closer still, our homes. For example, sin has brought dysfunction into many homes, where a war zone would be considered a safe haven by comparison. In such homes, people have learned survival skills in order to cope. In this environment, children learn at an early age not to trust anyone, including those who are suppose to protect them from harm. Since many could not even trust their parents, especially the father, they do not expect someone to simply give them something for the asking. Even if they were given something, usually it was held above their head. As a result, they learn how to manipulate to get what they want, or to protect their selves from harm. Unfortunately, for some believers, they have a difficult time trusting God the Father because their earthly fathers broke their trust. There is no way that God would truly bless them with no strings attached, much less His children. To avoid further hurt and disappointment, they still have a propensity to manipulate others, including God if it were possible. The bottom line for some is simple: they do not trust, therefore they tend to act in an untrustworthy manner. If they have a hard time believing they are loved, they will have difficulty receiving from anyone. The more a person believes God loves him, the more he will trust Him. The more one walks in love, the less he will manipulate.
One of the things of the world is the pride of life. With it comes a self-absorption that refuses to let others get any credit. What this means is that there those who will not ask or receive from another because of their pride. They want to have what they want on their terms. Yep, it means they are in control, which means they will do things themselves. If they want something, they’ll take it. By hook or by crook, it will be theirs. If they want others to do something for them, they will manipulate them. There is no way they are going to “grovel.” They will build their edifices to their selves by their own means. They will be a “self-made.” Of course, this is an over the top example, but how many of us hate to ask others because of pride? Pride refuses to see the need for humility, yet without it, no one will receive anything from others in a way that is pleasing to God. Indeed, it will be impossible to please Him at all. Ironically, the call for believers is to humble their selves, so God can lift them up (see James 4:6-10). Apparently, we are not designed to lift ourselves up. Whether it is a position in the Body of Christ or material needs, we all need to learn to receive them on God’s terms.
There are more areas that cause people to manipulate others; however, at this juncture lets take it home. Ask the Lord to show you what you do not see about yourself. Perhaps get a pen and notebook, and start writing. Ask Him to reveal if there are any ways you have manipulated others, and if so, why. Sometimes we unconsciously do things that cause others to do things we want them to do. For example, some use anger to get their way, while others use tears. Some start looking at their watch when they want others to hurry, while others make faces when they want someone to acquiesce to their desires. People learn little idiosyncrasies to get them by in life, and for believers, we need to start thinking differently, so we will also act differently. This is called repentance. Remember, Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew16:24, KJV).
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