“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” 

Romans 14:19

Are your thoughts, emotions, and actions frequently controlled by a domineering spouse, boss, or friend? Do you ever feel like a puppet—as if someone is pulling your “strings” like a cleverly maneuvered marionette? No one should exercise control over your life like that. 

If you are a manipulator, you’ll learn how to let go of control and lean on God who alone is sufficient to meet all your needs.
Do you see yourself as being “power-hungry”? Power plays an intimate role in each of our lives. We all have a need to control our circumstances. In childhood, we throw tantrums to get our way. By adulthood, we’ve mastered the art of manipulation. In fact, you could be a manipulator, or the one being manipulated, and not even realize it!

Do you see yourself as being “power-hungry”? Power plays an intimate role in each of our lives. We all have a need to control our circumstances. In childhood, we throw tantrums to get our way. By adulthood, we’ve mastered the art of manipulation. In fact, you could be a manipulator, or the one being manipulated, and not even realize it!

Manipulation isn’t wrong only because it’s dishonest and selfish. Manipulation happens when humans take control of their own circumstances in order to have their needs met. We’re not designed to meet our own needs. Only God can do this. He’s designed your heart to need Him. He’s made the world to thrive under His power.
Trust the One who directs the birds’ song, commands the seas, and knows the stars by name. Ask Him to help you surrender your heart. With your life in His hands instead of your own, you’ll find lasting security.
Attempts to control our own world begin with the first breath of life. A baby’s natural cry, called the “cry for attention,” represents the first efforts at getting our needs met. 

Over the years, children can learn to use manipulative tears to get their way within their little circle of life. As we grow into adults, we develop highly refined personal skills for meeting our needs by taking matters into our own hands and manipulating people and events around us. These methods of control are so deeply ingrained that we lack personal insight into our own deceptive behavior. 

Most of us are more aware of the manipulation of others than of our own “string-pulling.” But maturity demands that we lay bare before God our need to control and that we begin the process of trusting the One who is in ultimate control.  "To stop being manipulated, you must sometimes say no to people so you can then say yes to God."  —June Hunt

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
Psalm 20:7


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God Alone is Our True "need-meeter"

"Have you heard the saying, “normal is just a setting on your dryer?"  Well it’s a catchy phrase, it’s cute, and in many ways, it’s true. Actually we all have our own understanding of “normal.” You may have a friend or a coworker whose normal includes being the victim of consistent manipulation.

Realize God may call you to help someone come face to face with the patterns of manipulation. When you’re given that opportunity, help your friend understand and recognize that God alone is our true need-meeter. He’s the only one who can meet our deepest inner needs for love, significance and security. Be ready to share God’s hope and help. It can make all the difference in the world!


What Is Manipulation?

  • Manipulation is the art of controlling people or circumstances by indirect, unfair or deceptive means, especially to one’s own advantage.
  • Those who are manipulated allow others to have excessive control over them—the control that God alone should have.

“You shall have no other gods before me.”
Exodus 20:3


What Is Persuasion?

  • Persuasion is the act of convincing people by urging, reasoning and appealing to one’s mind.
  • Those who are persuaded are won over by logical arguments of sound reasoning.


What is the difference between manipulation and persuasion?

  • Someone who manipulates uses emotional means to get their way.
  • Someone who persuades uses logical means to achieve their goal.

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
1 Peter 3:15

What Are Some Biblical Illustrations?

With his great God-given strength, Samson could have delivered Israel from the oppression of the enemy—the Philistines.

He fell in love with a prostitute. At the request of the Philistine rulers who wanted to capture him, she began to cajole Samson into telling her the secret of his strength. After three failed attempts, she finally said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me?” (Judges 16:15). 

What manipulation! Ultimately, she wore him down with her words, nagging and prodding him, until he told her the truth. (Judges 16:16–17)“Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison.” (Judges 16:21)


Characteristics of Spiritually Manipulative People

  • Controlling religious family members
  • Manipulative church leaders or members (and equivalents in all religions)
  • Covert occult practitioners
  • Mind-controlling cultists 

Characteristics of Spiritually Manipulative Groups

  • Authoritarian.
  Implying that God communicates with His people only through a hierarchy of power
  • Coercive.
  Using any tactic available to persuade followers to do what the leaders demand
  • Condemning.
  Heaping condemnation on outsiders and anyone who leaves the congregation
  • Discriminatory.
  Telling members their needs are less important than are the needs of leaders
  • Image Conscious
.  Seeking to present themselves as an image of perfect righteousness
  • Intimidating.
  Threatening members routinely with punishment in order to gain compliance
  • Isolating.
  Encouraging members to minimize or discontinue contact with family, friends, and the outside world
  • Legalistic.
  Expecting members to make extreme sacrifices of money, time, and energy
  • Perfectionistic.
  Condemning failure of any type or magnitude
  • Suppressive of Criticism.
  Maintaining that those who question anything about the organization are actually challenging God’s authority
  • Terrorizing
.  Blaming the ministry’s problems on the sins of the members
  • Unbalanced
.  Flaunting their distinctiveness in order to validate their claim of having a “special” relationship with God

Background of Manipulation 

In childhood, you... 

  • Had an over-controlling parent 
  • Experienced some type of abuse 
  • Grew up in an abusive home environment 
  • Had “no voice” at home to share honest facts and feelings; never dealt with your true feelings 
  • Learned about manipulation by watching your parents 
  • Grew up in a “blaming home” that used guilt to control others 
  • Accepted blame for everything in childhood 
  • Blamed everyone else for all of your wrongs, setting yourself up to become a manipulator 
  • Thought your “normal” was normal, but it was not 
  • Wanted to please others, but your “pleasing” was never pleasing enough 
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” 
(1 Corinthians 13:11) 



How to Stop Being Spiritually Manipulated 

  • Submit yourself to God’s authority. (Acts 5:29) 
  • Talk about your concerns with spiritual leaders who are not involved in your manipulative situation. (Ephesians 4:2–3) 
  • Consider how the spiritually manipulative attitude of others is impacting your spiritual life, your relationships with family members and friends, and your sense of personal value. (Proverbs 27:17)
  • Separate yourself from manipulative situations and seek out people who are encouraging. (Hebrews 3:13)


How to Stop Being a Manipulator

  • Face the Facts. (Psalm 51:10)
  • Tell the Truth. (Psalm 51:1–3)
  • Consider the Causes. (Psalm 51:6)
  • Pardon the Past. (Colossians 3:13)
  • Focus on Faith. (Romans 8:13–15)
  • Grow in Grace. (Ephesians 3:16–17, 20–21)
  • Oust the Old. (Colossians 2:9–12)
  • Mold Your Mind. (Romans 12:1–2)
  • Live to Love. (Ephesians 3:17–19)


10 Major Maneuvers to Conquer the Manipulator

1. Decide not to be dependent on the manipulator. (Philippians 4:19)
2. Expect exasperation from the manipulator. (Psalm 31:3–4)
3. Prepare yourself for pain. (Job 3:26)
4. Examine the methods of the manipulator. (Proverbs 22:3)
5. Notify the manipulator of the necessity for change. (Hebrews 12:1)
6. Don’t defend yourself. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7)
7. Expect experimentation with new strategies. (Proverbs 2:12)
8. Nullify your need to meet all of the manipulator’s needs. (Psalm 37:4–5)
9. Commit Galatians 1:10 to memory.  (Galatians 1:10)
10. Yield to pleasing the Lord first.  (Psalm 56:11)

“‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘ is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.’ ... ‘For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.’”
(John 4:34; 6:38)

Key Verses to Learn

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
Romans 14:19

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
(Proverbs 4:23)
For the One Manipulated:
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
(Galatians 1:10)
For the Manipulator:
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
(2 Peter 1:3–4)

Key Passage to Read

1 Thessalonians 2:3–8

Additional Scriptures

Philippians 2:3-5
Hebrews 12:121
Thessalonians 2:3–8




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Abuse Recovery
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