How To Manipulate People
As a kid, my Sunday School teachers hated me. I asked too many questions. I would regularly be reminded that the devil deceived Eve in the garden by questioning the Word of God.
I was often warned about the tricks of the evil one and that he comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I was told to be very careful and not to ask too many questions because that’s why we are all out of the garden of Eden.
Luckily, I have a grandpa that was cynical about everything. Especially spiritual things.
Once, when I was 10, I was sitting with him in church and the pastor was preaching (about what I have no idea). At one point in the sermon, my grandfather leaned over and whispered to the 10-year-old me,
That’s probably a load of crap.
Little moments like this did two very important things:
Taught me that it's ok to question and form my own opinion.
It gave me a tremendous amount of confidence to interrogate reality.
And as I look back on my experiences in the church, I can’t think of any times where people got into "theological trouble" by asking questions.
I can think of many times however when people got into trouble by not asking questions and blindly following someone else’s interpretation
I don’t know how many manipulative people you know but trust me, I have a very close relationship with the art of manipulation.
Growing up in my families furniture business, mastering the art of selling was not an option, it was an expectation. Not because we all liked it, but because it was a matter of life and death.
You sell, you survive.
You don't sell, you starve.
Timid salespeople have skinny kids. - Zig Ziglar
As early as 12 years old, I was on the sales floor figuring out how to convince people that came in to purchase a beanbag that the really needed a recliner. And if you get a recliner, you'll need to update the rest of your living room. Sofa, loveseat, chair, recliner, and oh, don't forget the matching ottoman.
Admittedly, I wasn't interested in helping people buy what they came in for, that wasn't selling to me, that was order taking. I was there to maximize the sales ticket. To get everything I could out of them.
The furniture store is where I first learned how to manipulate people. I was a master of playing a husband and wife against each other.
I can remember a time when I whispered to a man who was debating on whether he should buy something his wife wanted:
Me: Look, man, If you don't get her what she wants today, you'll be back next weekend to get it so do yourself a favor and save some gas money. Buy it today."
Husband: You don't know what you're talking about.
Me: How many nights are you willing to sleep on the sofa before you just buy her what she wants?
Husband: How soon can you deliver?
And if you think I was good on the sales floor, you should have seen me off the clock.
When the entire family would get together, it was sheer manipulation pandemonium. Just imagine, a house full of entrepreneurs & salespeople bickering, and posturing to get one over on the others.
It was awesome.
Now, as a coach, I like to believe that I use my powers for good and not evil. Kinda like batman. Actually, if I was a superhero, I see myself more like one of the X-Men but that's a different post.
Where was I? Oh, yea, manipulation.
Here's the thing about manipulation. When someone is a good manipulator, they don't simply use one tactic. They have a system. A process. A method.
In fact, if you really want to get control of someone, here's what you do:
How To Control Someone In 4 Easy Steps:
Divide: Make them question something they think they know. Then, Get them to make a mistake because they second-guessed what they knew to be right.
Shame: Point out the mistake and shame them for it. Get them to stop trusting themselves and give themselves fully to their belief system. This will make them feel safe.
Manipulate: Now that they have given themself fully to their belief system, use it against them. Never use your own thoughts or opinions, use their core beliefs against them.
Control: Keep a constant flow of shame and guilt flowing. Continue to enforce and reinforce that they can’t trust themselves and they must close their mind and give them self fully to their belief system. Then, use that believe system against them by picking and choosing which part of the system will help you control them in that specific instance.
The scary thing is I didn't make this up, the Church did. Well, to be fair, The Satan helped a little.
Ok, I should probably explain that one...
Many Christians have been taught that questioning the Bible, or The Church, or even God, is sinful. It's a line that a good Christian should not cross. Ever.
Most of the time, the reason people give for not questioning is what happened is the garden of Eden.
In the story, the serpent tricks Eve by questioning what God said to Adam & Eve.
Did God really say, "You must not eat from any tree in the garden? - (Gen 3)
That's not what God said and the serpent knew it. The serpent was playing dumb and trying to get Eve to think she was maybe mistaken.
Eve corrected the serpent,
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ - Gen 3:2-3
Once she corrected the serpent, it rebutted,
You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. - Gen 3: 4-5
Now the serpent had her right where he wanted her,
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. - Gen 3:6-7
Now the deed was done. The serpent had done what it had set out to do.
Confuse & Conquer.
This was only the first step in a much longer game. Now that the people had messed up, the adversary could use their shame as guilt as weapons against them. Now, the accuser had some real ammo.
Now that they had made a mess of things with God, the accuser could remind them what happens when they question what God said. Shame could be used as a tool to keep them from ever thoughtfully evaluating, questioning or interrogating ever again.
This is where phase two of the plan come in.
The shame of their mistake would cause them to shut their minds down and blindly follow.
Now what the dark cloud of shame is over their heads, they will forget all about their original goodness.
They will not remember that they were made in the image of God.
They will dismiss their original blessing and call it a curse.
Now, the accuser will be able to use the most powerful tool of all, Gods words.
After a mistake, people tend to say, I will never trust myself again. What they should say instead is, I will never doubt myself again.
Most of the mistakes we make are because we stop trusting what we already know is right. We go into self-preservation mode, we lash out, we shut our minds off, we listen to the outside voice instead of the inside one.
Your mistake, misstep, or misbehavior do not separate you from the Creator. That's what shame does.
And shame is the strongest weapon in the accusers arsenal.
If you look back at the Adam & Eve story, God never cursed Adam or Eve. They got consequences, not curses. If this is surprising news to you. Go back and read Genesis 3 with fresh eyes. See for yourself.
If you allow shame & guilt to exist in your life, you are believing a lie and you are opening yourself up to be manipulated.
The lack of shame and guilt is what protected Jesus in the wilderness when he was tempted (Matt 4).
In this account, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Side note: Its’ always been weird to me that is reads like the Spirit of God and the Devil we working together. Kinda like in JOB... 🤷♂️
So, Jesus is in the wilderness and he has just finished a 40 day fast when the devil shows up.
And what is the first thing the devil does... He tries to tempt him with carbs.
Let's be honest, I can be tempted with carbs when I'm not even hungry, much less after a fast.
Actually, what the devil is doing here is trying to use God's words against Jesus by quoting scripture.
Three times the devil tries and Jesus wisely navigates each manipulation.
You might say, well, of course. It's Jesus...
Yes, you have a point. AND, we must remember, Jesus never said "Worship me" he instructed us to, "Follow me".
So, how can we, "Follow Jesus" here?
A few thoughts:
It's clear that Jesus trusted himself and that he had a clear filter for how he interpreted scripture.
So how should we interpret scripture???
I'm glad you asked. Jesus actually tells us exactly.
Check this out:
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. Matthew 22: 34-40
This is the filter Jesus used and this should be our filter as well.
When considering if we should or shouldn't do something, we must run it through the filter of,
Does this honor God? Does this honor people?
If the answer to these two questions is yes, it's probably smooth sailing. if the answer is no, run.
This filter is the best defense against manipulation from others, from the accuser and from yourself.