I am a manipulator.

My mother said this to me while I was growing up. I can’t remember all the particulars of what I did to warrant such a charge, but I do remember somewhere in the back of my mind agreeing with her. I have noticed it lately as I deal with my ten year old daughter. She is the master. Or, she is my padawon. My other daughter and my wife don’t know how to manipulate. But me and Katelynn do.

Let’s just focus on me.

Manipulation is a terrible sin. The dictionary says that to manipulate is to “To influence or manage shrewdly or deviously.” There is a good and a wise sense in which one can manipulate and there is a devious way in which one can manipulate. Manipulators such as myself do both. I want to describe (confess) the negative sense here for a moment.

I make situations in which I have done something wrong, look right and turn myself into the victim. I can think of a better way to put it. I feel for Kristie when I am in mode. I can make myself look righteous based upon small things thereby taking focus away from my problems.

I redirect fault and justify wrongs. Maybe that is a better way to put it.

Wait . . . here is another way to put it: I strain out others gnats and secretly swallow camels. The worst part about it is that I can shape arguments and conversations in such a way to where response and objections carry no rhetorical weight, even though they may be true. I make myself look good based upon my “wise” redirecting.

For instance, Katelynn, my daughter just now asked a question. I will stop and recount for you.

She wants an iPod so bad that this is all she thinks about. I get on to her for focusing on such “worldly” things. She said to me, “Dad, I am going to ask you something and I want you to wait until I am done before you answer and you can’t get mad at me. Okay?” “Okay,” I said (oh boy, what is coming?). She continued, “What if I save up money? Can I get an iPod and it will be mine?” “Of course,” I responded. “But why don’t you just save that money and give it to someone who really needs it?” She said, “Why didn’t you do that with your iPod?” I responded, “First, I don’t like iPods. I hate Apple.” Notice the redirect to build a foundation for me having to have something I really don’t want (what a load). “Second,” I said, “I have to have it for ministry. [Now it is spiritual for me to have one]. Lots of people have iPods and I need it so that I can make sure the ministry’s mp3 downloads work on the iPod.”  What a godly person I am to have something that I don’t want. At this point I have manipulated my the situation by making my character look better and motives look better than hers.

Let me take the second step in this dance. This step is the most important problem with manipulators. We sometimes don’t know if we are telling the truth or manipulating. In my mind, as I make the argument (as illustrated above), it serves not only to convince her of my integrity, but now I am convinced. Manipulators manipulate themselves. Now I begin to believe what I say. Small arguments that may or may not represent true motives become the truth in the my mind. In fact, after I have made such a well constructed argument, I would be confident enough to present this to God himself.

Once a manipulator has taken such a turn, it is almost impossible to make them see the truth. We take a situations and twist it into a beautiful bow. Once we have convinced ourselves, we are committed to the manipulated view of reality. It is now our new reality.

How do manipulators sleep at night, you may ask? Easy, we are the victim in every situation. Therefore, we lay our head on our pillow satisfied in our own twisted righteousness.

How would you like to live with me?

I write this not so much to say that I am going to start going to manipulator’s anonymous, but to let you know of a sin. I have lots of them, but this is one of them. I deal with it by recognition. I am continually asking myself “Is this really what I think or am I manipulating the situation?” I pray. I confess. I admit to my family. I read this very post to my family.

Don’t get too smug, we all manipulate to some degree. Some of us are just “better” than others.

Next, I will talk about how stubborn I am and how this negatively effects my theology.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    23 replies to "Confession Time . . . I am a Manipulator"

    • C Michael Patton

      She said, “I can’t believe you admit that. I have tried to tell people this so many times and I can never describe that this is the way you are!” She was very excited. I not sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing.

    • Susan

      LOL! I feel her pain. We need a support group. She’s right, it’s hard to explain. How does it happen, that when I have a complaint against my husband, he inevitably turns it into an opportunity to blame me ?! It’s those convoluted, diversionary, deceptive arguments! You SHOULD be ashamed of yourself! I think that Kristy was probably amazed and sort-of relieved to hear you own-up to it….. I know I would be.

    • Leslie

      Oh, I never realized that Michael and I not only have the same theological bent, but we share the same sinful bent as well. Manipulator, stubborn … that’s me too.

    • Susan

      Oh no, not YOU TOO Leslie! Would Eunice want to join our support group?

    • C Michael Patton

      Who’s in?

    • Wolf Paul

      My experience with my own kids and my own tendency to manipulate tells me that while you may have convinced yourself of your integrity with regard to your iPod, it is very unlikely you convinced your daughter. I suspect she saw right through it.

      Another thought, perhaps not quite on topic: When I was a kid receiving pocket money I then always resented it if my parents tried to tell me what I could and could not, or should and should not, do with that money. My reaction to the answer you gave Katelynn would have been, “If you think someone else needs the money so much more badly than I, why give it to me first and then expect me to give it up again? Go do your own charity out of your own money!”

    • ScottL

      Manipulation and stubbornness. Is stubbornness part of control? That is what I struggle with. When things are not under my control, ducks in a row, etc, I can get very upset.

    • Bedros

      Wow, I really needed that… I need to pray and repent as I myself also do likewise…

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      “Manipulators manipulate themselves.

      Hmmmmmm, not to derail the thread, but when I read that sentence, I thought of the occupant of the highest office in the country….

      • A

        haha i love ‘Truth Unites… and Divides’

        “Manipulators manipulate themselves.”

        but also i thought it cool at first then again deep down we know what is right and what we want 😉

    • Kara Kittle

      LOL…see how he does manipulate…..”let’s just focus on me”….LOL yes, it would seem so CMP…he not only introduces the topic but gives us a real example…LOL

    • Lisa Robinson

      Aw man, I hate it when you get all honest like that…makes me look at me and my own manipulative tendencies 🙁

    • Leslie

      Susan, Eunice is so nice a person that she is the exact opposite of me! 🙂

    • Kipp

      “Who’s in?”

      I was raised by, am married to, and am rearing a master manipulator. And I have all three of them beat. Noobs.

    • C Schlosser

      that story related to me in many ways.
      im 18 and i am a manipulator
      i hate it
      i mean i do it to everyone my friends and family and women too

      its like theres this other side of me that wants to control everything idk if it’s from my lack of control in situations as a child like i.e my parents getting a divorce or whatever but manipulation seems to be corroding my soul. like i want to be a helpful loving human being and christian. but manipulation is so easy and its a destructive curse i mean at school there are some people that listen to my word very attentively and some of them do what i say. its messed up. i dont want this control really i want to make people happy. i dont want to crush other people to get i want. i mean compassionate and generosity are what makes us strong.

      reply to this please

    • Y

      Wow! I have been leaving with a manipulator for over 20 years. I have recently filed for divorce becuase of the negative choices he has made that have impacted our relationship. I often asked myself how does he sleep at night. I often blamed myself. This post has really given me an insight to the mind of a manipulator. I hope one day my soon to be ex will find peace within himself.

    • Ola

      Wow! reading your confession brought tears to my eyes. It was a big relief to me. My personal story: I was a single mother of 3 till I married a master manipulator, that took advantage of my vulnerabilty, to get his green card. The marriage only lasted 11 mnths, but it has been the most painful experience of my life, even worse than losing my first husband!The lies are countless…families are torn because of this man. He has managed to convince everybody around us, that he is justified for doing what he did. To make matters worse, now that we are seperated, he keeps calling wanting a relationship but not admitting to all the lies…Even as I write now, I don’t know how and where to begin my story! I am still very confused…So thank you for your post. Reading it has given me some strength,and ability to understand his thought process! because I sometimes wonder, how can he still sleep at night, and feel good about himself despite all he has done! Your post answered that question.

    • Chris

      I think i am in the same boat. I have known only manipulation for my entire life. For me it was simple survival, i did it to get what i needed when i was a child, but now i am doing it to the person that i love most in the world.

      I cant stand it any more, i hate my self for it, because i see my self hurt her, i see her slipping away from me, and i feel as if i am eroding from the inside out. i would give anything, and i mean anything to know some way i can stop it.

      my girlfriend tells me that it should be easy, and maybe from her side it is, and honestly i believe that it should be. i just don’t know how to do it, i keep hitting walls, i keep having the same reactions to things that she asks me or tells me. i want to stop and i don’t know who to talk to about it, i mean i know i could talk to a therapist, but i cant afford one of those. who else or what else can i do.

      i have googled my, i guess you would call it mental disorder, and have come up with lots of ways to identify it, but no way to fix it no way to reverse it. i am at a loss. i am going to loose her if i don’t change it.

      anyway thanks for listening

    • Gaby

      It’s such a relief to hear someone else describe this sinister side of myself and opt to share it. I’m just coming to terms with the fact that I am this way, and I’m really torn about it. I feel how your daughter feels. Excited that someone else suffers of the same issue and moreover, can describe it so accurately. I’m considering going to a therapist for it.

    • Kate

      I am married to cheater and manipulater for 6 years. I never cheated him and always been honest. All the years we are together the communication is difficult because of the way he always turn each situation to looks right after he did smth wrong and make himself into victim and of course at the end of the day I am the bad person. I wish he will one day open up to me and admit that he is manipulater. I really love him and psychologically depend on him. Sometimes I wish I never met him because the way is hurting me is indescribable.

    • jhildave

      If one lives in a household with a selfish/ gaslight mother and a blame- shifting father, what is the probability that becoming one? “How do they sleep at night?” – Great question . How do they, no self consciences that is how

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