Master manipulators are not necessarily big, ugly, frightening people. No, sometimes they are smooth, really smooth. They have a way of wanting you to know they are with you, on your side, and think and feel as you do. Unfortunately, manipulation can be disguised as friendship. This can make it even more difficult to deal with.
Watch a manipulator work a room. The manipulator may be a male. She may be female. For the sake of example, let’s suppose the person is female. She panders, flatters, and knows where the soft spot in each person is. She knows how to get to you. She shows interest in your children. She shows interest in your favorite hobby. She might have a way of making you feel as if you have a friend.
Yet, after seeing this person work, you may begin to wonder: Who is this person? What does she really think? What does she really feel? How can she communicate to person after person "I think like you"? Who is she anyway?
Perhaps one problem with the manipulator is that he or she is not living as an authentic self. This person is a pretender, pandering to people in order to use people for his own purposes. The manipulator puts a lot of energy into trying to manage relations (Dallas Willard’s words) instead of genuinely relating to people as a mature human being.
Before going any further with this, I need to first look at myself (and maybe you will consider looking at yourself).
- What do I really think? (At times have I been more concerned about being liked rather than being authentic?)
- How do I really feel? (Do I express what I really feel?)
- What would I do if I knew no one would see me? (Do I avoid immorality just because I wouldn’t want to be caught?)
The answers to those questions reveal what is in my heart. These answers reveal the true me. As Dallas Willard notes in his fine book The Great Omission, "duplicity" has become second nature to so many of us. After all, we live in a world where we try to "manage" our relationships. Consequently, we have to hide what we really think, what we really feel, and how we might act if we knew we wouldn’t get caught.
Duplicity takes a lot of energy.
- Would those closest to me (my wife, my children, my friends) be surprised if they knew what I was really thinking?
- Would those closest to me be surprised if they knew what I was really feeling?
- Would I behave in a sinful or immoral way if I knew I would be out of the watchful eye of those who know me?
Some of us would say, "Just be authentic. Be real. Say what you really think! Express the way you really feel!" Some might even say regarding behavior, "Do what is right for you."
I want to be authentic. I want to be real. But–I want to be more than this. I want to become what Jesus wants. Right now, I am reading Dallas Willard’s book The Great Omission, and he is causing me to think through this.
…only avid discipleship to Christ through the Spirit brings the inward transformation of thought, feeling, and character that "cleans the inside of the cup" (Matthew 23:25) and "makes the tree good" (Matthew 13:33). As we study with Jesus we increasingly become on the inside–with the "Father who is in secret" (Matthew 6:6)–exactly what we are on the outside, where actions and moods and attitudes visibly play over our body, alive in its social contest. An amazing simplicity will take over our lives–a simplicity that is really just transparency. (p. 15)