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.