Have you watched a good action movie recently? You know, two hours of nonstop, thrilling suspense.
Imagine sitting on the edge of your seat, hanging on every word as you desperately try to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. Years ago, producers simplified movie plots by dressing good guys in white and bad guys in black.
Distinguishing the bad guys in real life, however, is not that simple.
I know a young woman who served time in prison for crimes she did not commit. This young woman’s boyfriend convinced her if she truly loved him, she would serve out his prison sentence. Yes, shockingly, she believed him. Sometimes I seriously wonder how situations such as this happen. How can one’s self-esteem be reduced to such depths? Why would an innocent person be willing to serve time in a federal penitentiary? Why do innocent people assume responsibility for the actions of villains? The more cases of injustice I study, the more I come to disdain manipulation. One thing I know: when an innocent party is willing to take the fall for actions they have not done, it usually means they have experienced the heartbreaking pain of trusting a mind manipulator.
What Is Manipulation?
Manipulation is emotional extortion. It is the persuasive power to acquire from others what they do not want to give. Consider the friend or sibling who magically seems to get their way no matter what. They have the uncanny way of persuading others to give them anything, sometimes everything, they desire. What’s the trick? How does a tenant deliberately neglect to meet the obligations of his lease and then compel his proprietor to feel sorry, even apologetic, for expecting payment? By skillfully projecting emotions of self-pity and unworthiness onto his victim, he steals a trick right out of the con man’s play book.
Persuading victims they are, in fact, the villains, manipulators generate compassion from others, even when they are the ones inflicting pain.
As you learn more about manipulation, it is helpful to remember two very important principles.
First, a manipulator’s primary pleasure is control. In the same way cocaine provides a euphoric high for an addict, control becomes an addictive high for a manipulator.
Second, a manipulator is a polished liar. Since they fabricate stories that distort the truth, it will take a sharp mind and godly discernment to avoid the enticing words or actions of an experienced mind manipulator.
The correlation between rejection and manipulation is profound. In fact, the number-one target for con artists and mind manipulators are those who have been emotionally wounded or rejected. I recently watched a documentary based on this very principle. The hour-long show brought to light the fact that a large percentage of scam artists search the Internet for bankruptcy or divorce notifications, even obituaries, to find their next victim. They target the vulnerable—specifically, the lonely, insecure, sick or uneducated. Once they have identified their intended victim, the next step is to establish a relationship.
How does a villain befriend a victim? Manipulators gain the trust of their potential victim by portraying themselves as victims. After all, every hurting person longs for a friend who can understand their pain. The most destructive part of betrayal is that it undermines trust. Consider a time when you uncovered the evil schemes of a manipulator. How did you respond to the knife stuck in your back? Were you shocked? Disappointed? Did you question your ability to make wise decisions or to discern the motives of others? Perhaps you were not swindled out of thousands of dollars, but you lost something greater: trust and self-respect. Feelings of doubt and shame are often hard to conquer, especially if you have been coerced into believing a lie.
If you have suffered from tragic feelings associated with betrayal, it is important for you to begin the healing journey toward wholeness. Healing begins by addressing the negative events that have taken place and then focusing of the positive takeaways that will help you be more discriminating in selecting who qualifies for your future.