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See the Strings, Cut the Strings - Putting an End to Manipulation

Manipulative people can be found in every venue of life.  Dating relationships, friendships, marriages, family dynamics; none are immune to the manipulator.  This is what makes manipulation so difficult to spot and stop.  The people manipulating you are usually people you love and respect.  

Manipulators turn people into puppets.  They use your emotions, situations, and vulnerabilities to attach strings of control to your actions and reactions.  Once they have you, they subtly use you to achieve their own ends.  

Sadly, Christians are often easy prey for manipulators.  In Matthew 10:16 Jesus calls for his people to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves" as we are sent out to exist as lambs amongst the wolves.  The problem is that many people who follow Christ major on harmlessness and lack serpentine wisdom.  We are called to be merciful, forgiving, and trusting - true, but we are also called to be discerning.  

Within the Christian community manipulation is particularly harmful.  Manipulation:

1)  Distorts the gospel.  Rather than becoming a community that focuses on the finished work of Christ, the church can become a place driven by personalities and power plays.  Instead of striving to please Christ, the manipulated have no choice but to please the puppeteer.  Manipulative environments are often laced with legalism.  There is little grace.  It is a place of "Christ" +.  Jesus is the entry point, but forgiveness comes with strings attached.

2)  Divides the church.  James 4:1-3 describes a situation that is certainly a breeding ground for manipulation.  There is understood need, but a lack of understood resource.  Rather than selflessly seeking God, a group of self-seeking people manipulate solutions rather than going to God.  Be careful, especially in the church.  Manipulators often have charismatic personalities, compelling stories, and marked qualities of leadership, but there is a trail of blood behind them.  They get the job done, but there is a price to pay on the battlefield of manipulation.  There may be victories, but there will be victims!

3)  Destroys people and families.  Manipulation is particularly dangerous in families because the motive is external rather than internal.  The family seeks only to please the manipulator.  This may be a difficult child who the parents had rather not fuss and fight.  They give in to keep the peace.  The manipulator may be a parent who the children find hard to please.  It may be a spouse who has lost their identity in the manipulator.  These situations never end well.  The motive for the manipulated child is merely to "not get caught."  The manipulated parent has surrendered the responsibility of shepherding their child's heart.  The manipulated spouse is hardly the example of Christ and the church that Paul espouses in Ephesians 5.  In a manipulative family the puppets make it their aim to merely survive the day rather than learn Christ.

4)  Quenches the Spirit.  Manipulation is an idol of the personality.  Manipulators believe they are self-sufficient, that if a situation is to come to the desired end, they must bring it about.  Rather than allowing the Spirit to work in a situation, the manipulator takes control.  It should come as no surprise then, that in manipulative situations there is a marked lack of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

So how do you deal with manipulators?

See the Strings Cut the Strings

Below is a list of the "strings" of the manipulator.  See them and cut them:

The “I” string. Connect with community.

The language of the manipulator is "I" "me" "my" and "mine."  Manipulators can take a large situation, a large community of people and somehow make you believe every decision and action is in reference to them.  In the rhetoric of "I" and "me" they are able to put you on edge.  They dictate the mood of the situation by their threat of being displeased, hurt, disgraced in it.  If you want to spot the manipulators in the crowd; they are easy to see.  These are the people that make the majority hesitate for fear of "dealing with them."  You know the people!

To cut the "I" string you must connect with community.  Don't allow the manipulator to make everything a simple, single issue.  True, Jesus told a story of how the good shepherd leaves the 99 and searches for the 1.  But the manipulator makes everything about the 1 at the exclusion of the 99.  Try to see the big picture, seek what's best for the whole.  

The sympathy string. Exchange feeling sorry (emotion) for seeking (evidence) truth.
notice with Jephthah’s “I” statements in each of them there is a sense in which he has been wronged, a plea for sympathy.  A manipulator will make you feel like a bad person if you don’t take up their cause.  
The manipulator will make you feel like they are on the defense, but what you don’t realize all along is that they are very much on the offense, trying to garner a response out of you, for you to join them in their plight. 
with Gileadites - he used the wrong of being cast out - with the Ammonites he uses their attacking him - as if to portray if something goes down, I’m the real victim here.  With his daughter even though it was his stupid mistake, it was her coming out of the door that caused the real issue.
get all sides of the story - pastor didn’t even call - ask them, did you call him - are you seeking to reconcile, because I really don’t see any Biblical basis for your childish tantrum

The history string. Go to grace.
Jephthah recites a pretty impressive history for the Ammonites, it is pointless and fruitless, but informative.  I am not citing him necessarily for wrong here, but you must know about the manipulator, they will have your story firmly in tow.  If they get something on you, that is a powerful tool for them.
You can’t escape your history.  We must be honest, disarm it.  Understand grace.


See the Strings Cut the Strings

The “I” string. Connect with community.
Notice the language of manipulators.  They can take a large situation, a large community of people and they will make you believe it is all about them.  Their language is centered in I and they absolutely put you on edge, they dictate the situation by their threat of being displeased, hurt, disgraced in it.  They make you believe they are the victim.  Notice all of Jephthah’s negotiations.

The sympathy string. Exchange feeling sorry (emotion) for seeking (evidence) truth.
notice with Jephthah’s “I” statements in each of them there is a sense in which he has been wronged, a plea for sympathy.  A manipulator will make you feel like a bad person if you don’t take up their cause.  
The manipulator will make you feel like they are on the defense, but what you don’t realize all along is that they are very much on the offense, trying to garner a response out of you, for you to join them in their plight. 
with Gileadites - he used the wrong of being cast out - with the Ammonites he uses their attacking him - as if to portray if something goes down, I’m the real victim here.  With his daughter even though it was his stupid mistake, it was her coming out of the door that caused the real issue.
get all sides of the story - pastor didn’t even call - ask them, did you call him - are you seeking to reconcile, because I really don’t see any Biblical basis for your childish tantrum

The history string. Go to grace.
Jephthah recites a pretty impressive history for the Ammonites, it is pointless and fruitless, but informative.  I am not citing him necessarily for wrong here, but you must know about the manipulator, they will have your story firmly in tow.  If they get something on you, that is a powerful tool for them.
You can’t escape your history.  We must be honest, disarm it.  Understand grace.

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Getting the Brain to "Stay" (An Excerpt from My New Book #TheWalk)

We get a lot of information but have lost the art of meditation.  We know what is happening, but think very little of what it means.  Those who want to go further must also go deeper.  

When was the last time you read something from the Bible and thought about it the entire day?When was the last time something you read in the Bible changed the way you saw things throughout the day?  If the brain is constantly interrupted by notifications, giving proper attention to deeper truth is impossible.  

Because we are at a place in time and technology in which we want to know so much, we have reached a place in which I believe we know too much.  The fast pace at which we receive notifications is causing the erosion of one of our greatest God given abilities - the ability to think.  We no longer take time to think about what we know.  

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”  With constant notifications we are not at a pace for peace.  It is difficult to get our minds to “stay” on the Lord when it strays after every vibration and alert that comes through our smartphone.

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The God of Details (An Excerpt from my new book #TheWalk)

  You make a critical mistake if you believe that God is not interested in the details of your life.  You may feel that God is uninterested because you are unimportant.  You may not be one of the 40 most influential people under 40 in your city.  You may not be a leader in your company.  The only picture of you in your high school yearbook is the one they made you take in front of a cheesy background in the cafeteria.  You may not think anyone is interested in your steps, but, if you walk with God, He is interested in each one of them.  Look at Psalm 37:23 again.  If you delight in His way, He will take delight in yours. 


Another mistake is to believe that God is interested only in the big things.  Whom should I marry?  Where should my kids go to school?  What should I do with my life?  Psalm 37:23 doesn’t say God is interested in your leaps.  God is interested in your steps.  If you will learn to acknowledge God on your way to taking the plunge, you will find that He would not have walked you to the edge of the cliff in the first place.  Even big decisions which require great risk are the culmination of many steps.

I like the choice of the New Living Translation.  The NLT says, “The LORD directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in every detail of their lives.”  The qualification for God’s involvement is not the size of the step, nor is it the size of the person.  For the godly, God is involved in every step.



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Pacing the Day (An Excerpt from My New Book #TheWalk)

pages 28-29

Have you ever thought about what God teaches us in the pace of creation?  If God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, don’t you think He could have just as easily have said, “Let there be a universe, fully furnished” and there would have been life as we know it?  Yet it took Him six days to talk it out and work it out.

If it took God six days to create the world, what is it that you and I think we can accomplish by trying to outpace Him in a week?

We must learn to do what God does - pace the day.

God has infused a rhythmic schedule into creation.  It would benefit us greatly to walk accordingly.  There is day and night.  Some of us never quit, so God turns the lights out as a signal.  The sun has gone down.  So should you.

Get off of Facebook.  Turn off the television.  Stop working.  Shut down the computer.  Relax.  Don’t work.  Talk.  Tell the story of your day - God tells us the story of His.  Go to bed.

If God waited until day 2 to create the heavens (Gen. 1:6-8), what is it that you and I have going on that can’t possibly wait until tomorrow?

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Life at Smartphone Speed (Excerpt from #TheWalk)

from page 12:

Guided by GPS, we can arrive at any destination and have no idea how we got there.

  Long life with the Lord is not merely about arrival at a destination, it is about steps.  It is less about praying about where we want to be and more about paying attention to where we are and how what the Bible says applies to today.  

Living at smartphone speed, we are deceived to believe we need all the answers.  If you want to go further, do what David did in Psalm 37:23.  Do life at a walking pace, with the Word of God in hand to light the path before your feet.  If you live like that, you don’t need all the answers, you need only one.  What’s the next step?

We need to be asking more questions like "What's next?" rather than questions that begin with "When?"  Your phone may know exactly "when" you will arrive, but God is less concerned with the "when" and more concerned with the “way” you get there.  

At one time the Christian life was actually known as “the Way” (Acts 9:2).  Living long for God has never been referred to as “the When.”



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