Love and Manipulation

I have been contemplating some things from the 17th-century theologian and founder of Rhode Island Roger Williams, contemporary Christians and co-hosts of The God Journey podcast Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings, and author of "The Shack" William Paul Young... lots of things. Things like liberty of conscience, love, relationships, and control. I'm not spending the time right now to write out a full exposition, but I'll leave you with a few quotes that will get you started on a train of thought, a brief discussion of control in relationships, and a couple of additional quotes to prompt you to continue the train of thought past where I've taken you.

Grace is God's acceptance of us. Faith is our acceptance of God's acceptance of us. (Adrian Rogers)
We are more sinful than we ever dared believe, but through Christ we are more accepted than we ever dared hope. (Timothy Keller)
The problem is most of us don't know we're loved, therefore we don't live like we're loved, and because we don't live like we're loved, we do all kinds of stupid things to ourselves and to others that God calls "sin." (Wayne Jacobsen)
It seems to be a natural human habit to motivate people by guilt, shame, and fear probably because it is so very easy. You manipulate relationships in order to get people to do what you want them to do because you need to be in control of everything. The more control you get, the more your sense of security and validation. You coerce people to do something for you that you would like for them to do, but when you coerce them to do it, they do it with false motives. You coerce people to conform their lives according to your standard of conduct, but when you coerce them, they do it with the wrong intent. And if they do not do what you want, if they do not meet your expectations, then you try your best to resolve the issue with conflict, or you give up and allow the relationship to splinter. But this is not unconditional love.

It's a pattern that is apparent in every human being. You need to feel loved and you need to feel secure, so you manipulate the people and the circumstances in your life, even in subconscious action, to attempt to convince yourself that these things are true. But the moment you bring control into a relationship, you rob your friend of the joy of giving what he could have given in love, and you rob yourself of the joy of receiving what he could have given in love. You cheat yourself of real opportunities for love and security. You cheapen so many friends by making them your pawns. And you reflect your own qualities upon God, expecting Him to act the same way toward you that you do toward the people in your life. But this is not unconditional love.
On a good day, coercion produces hypocrisy; on a bad day, rivers of blood. (Roger Williams, paraphrased)
You will accomplish more in the next two months developing a sincere interest in two people than you will ever accomplish in the next two years trying to get two people interested in you. (Tim Sanders)

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  1. Kevin Higgins Sat Dec 06, 12:50:00 AM EST

    How true that is. And it is so easy to revert to manipulation in our relationships. I didn't realize how much I used people to get what I wanted, or how much I tried to use people until I stopped pastoring and took a secular job.

    Now that I'm not looking for workers or volunteers, I'm free to simply enjoy the relationships God gives me.

    I had no idea I was this way. I remember criticizing those who use manipulation, but until I was able to step back and look at the situation objectively did I realize I was guilty too.

    Thanks for the post Dave. I am thankful for God's grace. If I had to jump through all the necessary hoops to merit His favor I wouldn't stand a chance. Thankfully God doesn't operate the way I do.

  2. Dave Gregg Sat Dec 06, 08:34:00 PM EST

    Right on, Kev. In the last few months God has really changed some of my deep-seated perspectives and approaches toward "ministry." I started to realize that a vast majority of so-called "ministry" isn't _serving_ at all. It's an attempt at micro-managing the Kingdom. And that's what I was doing. I would get an idea of what I wanted to see happen, even good, spiritual things, and then would proceed to manipulate the people around me to try to accomplish it. (I have now had people admit to me that they always sensed an agenda from me. And that isn't conducive to anything good.)
    I then attached my sense of identity, significance, validation, acceptance, and worth to that "dream" so that when it didn't fly like I thought it would I'd slump and feel depressed, worthless, out-of-place, and passed-by, and when it went according to my plans I could then encourage myself with the knowledge that I was justifying my existence and was now worthy of God keeping around.

    It's so works-based! It's AMAZING how cunning religiosity can be!

    So, now I am becoming keenly aware of all the should's we throw around in a disguised attempt at manipulation. So, I love Wayne Jacobsen's great phrase: "Don't should on yourself, and don't should on your friends either."

    I love the Leo Tolstoy quote, which I should have included in this post: "And all people live, not by reason of any care they have for themselves, but by the love for them that is in other people." --This understanding radically changes how we relate to people, actually applying 1 Cor. 13 love to our relationships.

    God's love is unconditional. So should ours be.

  3. Kent Mon Dec 15, 04:58:00 PM EST

    Dave, wonderful stuff for us all to think about and let transform us.

    I posted something similar this morning on my blog.

  4. OpenJoe Mon Dec 29, 06:59:00 PM EST

    Dave, I appreciate this so much. Very clear thinking and writing.
    Very recently I realized I was being manipulatively used in a friendship - it became very painful. Then as time went on I had to realize I was manipulating from my side as well. I'll tell you that takes all the energy out of my "righteous" sense of being wronged.