Dealing with Manipulative People

Janet Aucoin December 2, 2022

We all encounter people who try to manipulate our actions or emotions for their own purposes. How does Scripture call us to respond to those who try to manipulate others around them? In this episode, Janet and Jocelyn explore the heart behind manipulative behavior and discuss ways to come alongside those who try to control others and respond with Christ-likeness.

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Episode Transcript


Manipulation - Lou Priolo

How to Handle Trouble - Jay Adams


ACBC Counselor

Faith Bible Seminary


Jocelyn: I don't just need to feel better. I need the truth. And ultimately that will make me better.

Janet: I just want to make it as totally simple as possible for ladies to see that the Bible is really applicable to their everyday life.

Jocelyn: When they understand theology, the application flows out of it quickly with joy.

Janet: It is a journey, but even the journey itself is joyful when I'm doing it, holding the hand of my savior and trusting him all along the way. This is the joyful journey podcast, a podcast to inspire and equip women to passionately pursue beautiful biblical truth on their journey as women of God. When you choose truth, you're choosing joy.

Janet: Well, hello, welcome back. I am here once again with Jocelyn.

Jocelyn: Hi, friends.

Janet: And Jocelyn's gonna be leading us today to explore the topic of manipulation and dealing with manipulative people.

Jocelyn: It's gonna be fun.

Janet: A hard conversation, but I do think it's one that most of us can relate to. I think most of us think that we are not the manipulator though. I think we may find out that's not always the case, but to start with, let's do our favorite thing, tell us a definition. What is manipulation?

Jocelyn: Sure. Well, manipulation means to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means. The booklet, Manipulation by Lou Priolo, which we'll link in the shownotes, explains that manipulation is often an attempt to gain control of another person or situation by inciting an emotional reaction rather than a biblical response. And I think that's a really important definition to understand.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: It's often accomplished through intimidation, like are your bells ringing already?

Janet: Right.

Jocelyn: This involves really selfishly coercing someone to or inhibiting someone from a particular course of action by either directly or indirectly, causing him to sense some kind of a threat. And, you know, this episode is probably gonna hit home on both levels. Sometimes we have been manipulated and you probably recognized and felt some of what I was just talking about.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: And sometimes unfortunately, we are the manipulator and I can recognize and feel the shame of what I've done to manipulate others listening to that definition. An example of this would be wanting something and instead of just coming out and asking for what you want or think you need, you play on their emotions to try to get them to give you what you want.

Janet: Because we don't wanna have to actually ask.

Jocelyn: I know, isn't that so silly? Like, is it that I don't know what I want? Or is it that I know what I want is probably not cool . So it reminds me of when early in marriage, my husband Brian was like, do you know that if you just asked me for that, I probably would've said no. So maybe you shouldn't have just tried to get it because it wasn't a good thing to want. So sometimes I think you manipulate because you know that what you're wanting is not good, but sometimes you manipulate because you just haven't thought through it.

Janet: Right. It's a habit.

Jocelyn: It's a habit, yeah. Here's an example of Martha in Luke 10:40. So Martha was upset that Mary wasn't helping her with a dinner prep. She went to Jesus and said, Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all this work? Tell her to come and help me. So instead of just asking Mary, Hey, Mary, could you please come help? Or saying, Hey Jesus, could you please send Mary to help? Possibly could have been a ridiculous interruption of what Jesus was doing.

Janet: Which is maybe why she recognized maybe that's not the right way to do it.

Jocelyn: Yeah. So she just played on his emotions. Doesn't it seem unfair to you? So was it wrong for Martha to want help?

Janet: Well, no, not necessarily.

Jocelyn: What made it wrong?

Janet: Well, thinking about what you just said for the definition, she's trying to motivate someone, and in this case, Jesus, to do something and Mary to do something.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: Without just saying what she needed. If she had just said what her need was, then the other person can evaluate, is it wise? Is it loving? Is this best for me to leave Jesus's teaching and help? They could make that determination if she just asked. But by not saying what she actually needed, it was, I mean, in a way it was kind of dishonest.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: She was asking Mary and Jesus to be involved, but she didn't give them all the facts that they needed.

Jocelyn: So as we're talking about this topic, just to be honest, like I feel pretty bristly, like hair stands up in the back of my neck. I don't like this topic. I don't like having been manipulated. I also feel super ashamed of times that I have manipulated.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: So I just wanna kind of draw back a little bit and say like, manipulators are not the enemy. Sin is the enemy.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: Sin is what makes us be motivated to do things in these ugly ways and if we're using sinful means to accomplish things in our relationship, that's a problem. So sometimes manipulators aren't aware that they're pulling on us to get stuff done sometimes like that's just the way they've learned how to do relationships and they've never really thought through it before.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: We have to be really careful that we're not just like thinking bad about the people who get caught up in the act of manipulating. Sin is the problem.

Janet: And that's true. I would say on the other hand, a manipulator can be and sometimes are fully aware of what they're doing. And they don't have a problem using deceptive and underhanded ways, in part because they really believe what they want is what's best or right, at least in their eyes and any way they get it is justified.

Jocelyn: Yep. So let's think about what it might look like to do the act of manipulation. So first of all, it might include influencing or even tricking people into serving you or giving you what you want or think you need. Secondly, it often includes expecting others to sacrifice themselves for you. And thirdly, it sometimes includes forcing others to meet your needs or desires. So throughout this episode, we're gonna come back to some real life examples to apply what we're discussing so we don't keep it up in theoryland and philosophize about it. So let's just think about what it might look like to manipulate as it applies to a couple different real life situations like friendships or marriage and family relationships, and even in the workplace.

Janet: That's a good idea.

Jocelyn: Yeah. So number one, in the first description of manipulation, we heard that it might look like influencing or even tricking people into serving you or giving you what you want or think you need. What do you think that could look like inside of a friendship, Janet?

Janet: Well, it's so funny when you say bristle, cuz my first thought, I can't stand when I feel like somebody's trying to manipulate me.

Jocelyn: I hate it.

Janet: And yet I've been that person too. So I need to get over that, and look for how I can help. So let's, I don't know, take an example of Tina. She has a friend, Pam, and her friend is telling her that she really, really, really wants to go away for a girl's weekend at a cabin. So far great.

Jocelyn: Not a bad desire.

Janet: No. Tina then has to tell Pam, you know what? Right now my budget is really tight. In addition, I'm kind of behind on a lot of the things that I'm responsible for at home. My yard is a mess. And Pam, with an opportunity to have said her desire, heard Tina's concerns, she can respect that. Instead, Pam decides, I really want to go. I'm just gonna lie, I'm gonna tell her, actually, don't worry about the money. It's actually a hundred dollars less than it actually is. And you know what? I promise you when we get back from the trip, I'm gonna help you do everything in your yard. You don't have to worry about it. Now the trip is over. Tina now knows she owes more money than she thought.

Jocelyn: Yep.

Janet: And surprisingly, Pam is never available to help her and now Tina is behind in money and she's behind in her responsibilities.

Jocelyn: So that's a pretty good life real example. The second description of manipulation includes expecting others to sacrifice themselves for you. What could that look like in the workplace?

Janet: In the workplace? Well, that can be, let's imagine me and a colleague, Heather. We're responsible to present the quarterly profit and loss statement in our staff meeting. Fine. Instead of me collaborating on the work and doing part of the research and helping formulate a mutually agreeable presentation. Instead, I start guilt tripping Heather into doing all the work. You know, you remember that last project we did together, Heather? I mean, I really had your back. I covered for you. Remember when you got sick? Like, I did that work. What if she even pushes back and says, you know what? I don't have extra time to do my part and your part. I can't this week do all the research and the presentation by myself, and so you knows what I do next. I stop talking to her. Fine after all that I did for you. If you can't even do that for me, I won't say anything. Maybe I'll even go to the boss and listen to him and then I might misquote him to Heather and make it look like the boss intended for her to be the one to do it all, and for me, just to be the one to do the presentation. That was the plan all along. If Heather resists, I may even go as far as to attack her. You're not even a team player. You don't even care about anybody but yourself. So the very same thing I'm doing, I may accuse her of.

Jocelyn: I think we're all feeling that. Okay, so the third description of manipulation, forcing others to meet your needs or desires. Let's talk about what that could look like in a marriage or a family relationship.

Janet: Let's say I'm a wife and I really wanna go out to supper. I really don't wanna cook. For whatever reason.

Jocelyn: Some days are just like that.

Janet: Oh my word.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: I have to sadly say if I gave into it, most days are like that. I just can't do it. I could text my husband and say, hey, do you think we could go out to dinner tonight? But instead of just doing that one time, how about if I text him over and over cuz maybe he didn't answer. Maybe he said, I don't know if that's a good idea. And so I start pleading, come on, I'm so tired. You have no idea what it's like. Please over and over and over begging him until he finally says, yes, we can do that even though he knows we don't have that in our budget. Now we're gonna have to put that on a credit card. We have no way to stretch and pay for that.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: Or maybe it's a teenager bullying her little brother. I'm gonna hide your controller for your favorite Xbox games unless you take care of that cat litter for me, even though it's her chore, not his. I think one of the scarier ones is when one spouse in a marriage starts misquoting scripture to force the other spouse to go along not because they love God, but because they just wanna get what they want.

Jocelyn: That's super tough. One of the things that's been really helpful for me to understand is that the biblical word that could come closest to describing manipulators is the term for oppressor. So just let that sink in. When someone is using manipulation as a tactic, they are oppressing other people. That means they're abusing their authority or power and they trample or burden or crush those who are lower in station than them. That's super convicting.

Janet: Yeah, and I think not always is it power, could be influenced. So I may not have the power position, but I might be able to use my influence and do the very same thing.

Jocelyn: Yep. So another word that the Bible uses for manipulator is connected to fraud or deceitfulness. And a lot of time in manipulation, you're really concealing important information from the person that they're trying to control. So you control the amount of information because you're trying to accomplish something.

Janet: Yeah. So then those biblical terms for manipulators has something to do with authority, power, influence that they're using to oppress and fraudulently deceive so that the other person is not gonna have the information they need to make an accurate independent decision.

Jocelyn: Which we know we're gonna answer to God for. Like we answer to God for the decisions that we make, and that needs to be the strongest motivation. But manipulators are choosing to do a different motivation to get people to make decisions.

Janet: It's probably not that they're not giving any information. They're just not gonna give all of it.

Jocelyn: All it. Yeah.

Janet: So that it looks a certain way. So, Okay. What then would you say, what's the right way to respond to that?

Jocelyn: So something that's really helpful to remember because inside of manipulative circumstances you feel very confused.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: 'Cause you're not quite sure what's going on. So one of the things to remember about manipulation is that people who use manipulation are doing wrong inside of relationships. That's a wrong way to function inside of relationships if the scripture is gonna be your source of truth.

Janet: Right.

Jocelyn: The scripture tells us in Proverbs 10:23, that doing wrong is fun for a fool.

Janet: Ouch.

Jocelyn: And yeah. Proverbs 12:15 says that fools think their own way is right. Proverbs 14:8 says, the prudent understand where they're going, but fools deceive themselves. And Proverbs 1:7 says that fools despise wisdom and discipline. So someone who manipulates others is a fool. That's really important to remember.

Janet: As you said that, it also made me think about the passage that said, fools think their own way is right. What can be so confusing is the way they're communicating, they believe they're right. So then you think it must be you. But a fool thinks their own way is right.

Jocelyn: Right, right.

Janet: So they can believe they're right. They can be very convincing.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: And that's not how we determine whether or not they're a fool.

Jocelyn: Exactly. So here's something to remember first off, number one, don't answer a person who is being foolish with a foolish response yourself.

Janet: Which is tempting.

Jocelyn: Very tempting. So you can't violate scripture in response to someone else who is violating scripture. Those two wrong things are not gonna undo that situation. So respond, but don't respond the same way. Proverbs 26:4 tells us, don't answer a fool according to his folly, or you will become like him. And instead, Proverbs 26:5 says, answer a fool as his folly deserves so that he won't be wise in his own eyes. And we're gonna talk about what that actually looks like to answer a fool as his folly deserves.

Janet: Good.

Jocelyn: Because that's hard to understand.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: I think, and we're gonna break that down. Secondly, don't shy away from confronting the foolishness that's being used in the relationship. And when I say confront, I don't mean like all up in your face screaming at people.

Janet: Right.

Jocelyn: I mean, be willing to point out the tactic that's being used in a way that honors God.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: It's not loving to allow a manipulative person to continue communicating manipulatively and being wise in his own eyes.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: That was the lesson I needed to learn inside of my relationships, but it was also really helpful when I understood that in other relationships where I felt like I was being manipulated like it's not loving to let this continue.

Janet: Right.

Jocelyn: The most loving thing I can do is stop this conversation, stop the communication, and actually be willing to talk about that thing that just happened. So when people interacted with Jesus beacause they wanted to make him feel, like look stupid or foolish, He spoke truth back to them in a way that helped them to see that they were being foolish. So He didn't ignore. He didn't smooth over. He responded in a way that helped them to see what was going on. He didn't defend Himself because He didn't wanna get taken advantage of. I think that's my temptation.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: When someone manipulates me, I'm like, who do you think you're talking to? Like, don't you know that.

Janet: Which is all about me.

Jocelyn: Right. Jesus, spoke the truth because truth was what those people needed to hear in that moment.

Janet: I love that. I mean, just look at that and of all people.

Jocelyn: Right.

Janet: Jesus, who was never saying anything that was inappropriate or wrong had every right.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: To just say, how dare you.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: But He didn't. I mean, when I'm being manipulated, for me, one of my goals in my flesh is I want you to know you did not fool me.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: Do not believe you fooled me. I'm too smart for that.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: Which is all about me. But even in situations where people were trying to manipulate Jesus, He was still focused on what was best for them.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: And speaking the truth and not allowing yourself to be manipulated is what's best for them.

Jocelyn: Yeah. Thirdly, ultimately keep your goals and relationships to honor and glorify God by loving and obeying Him. It doesn't honor and glorify God when we allow our time and talents to be squandered.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: Meeting the ridiculous demands of people who are selfish or self-centered.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: And that's an important thing for us to understand. It also doesn't honor and glorify God to do things that aren't righteous, just because someone is forcing us into feeling like we had no other option. Fourthly, when you are being manipulated, appeal to the conscience of the person to fulfill specific personal biblical responsibilities that they have using the Bible as your standard of truth by which that manipulator, that person is gonna be judged.

Janet: Okay. You're gonna have to explain what you mean by that.

Jocelyn: Yeah. That's complicated. And when I was reading that in my studies, I was like, wow, that's really true and very complicated.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: So here's an example. We were talking about Martha earlier.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: So in the example of Martha, we can see that's how Jesus responded to Martha. In Luke 10:41, He appealed to Martha's responsibility. So he said, my dear Martha, you're worried and upset over all these details. Martha knew that she shouldn't be worrying and feeling troubled because Jesus had already taught a couple of things. He'd already taught them when they're worried, they're supposed to trust God's care for us, and then make living for His kingdom the highest priority. Also, Jesus had already fed miraculously thousands of people, and so.

Janet: He can take care of that.

Jocelyn: He can take care of the eating and drinking needs of the people that wanna sit at His feet and listen. So then Jesus reminded Martha to obey God's will as seen in the scriptures. He said, there is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary's discovered it. Don't take it from her. Jesus reminded her that sitting at His feet and being focused on the kingdom was way more important than worrying about all the stuff that Martha was currently worrying about.

Janet: So at this point, when you have to respond to a manipulator, it's helpful to remember that two-step process, appeal to the conscience of the person, and remind them of the truth they're supposed to be obeying from scripture.

Jocelyn: And you can see Jesus doing that over and over in the scriptures, especially as He dealt with the religious leaders of His day. He was constantly saying, have you not heard? Have you not read? Like, hey, religious leaders, you know what the law demands. You know what the scriptures say. Why are you not obeying it? So let's kind of go back and work through some of the examples that we talked through earlier. What could it look like in real life to respond rightly to a colleague at work who's manipulating you? So go back to the situation with you and your colleague, Heather?

Janet: So the situation was one where me and my colleague Heather have been assigned to collaborate on this presentation for that profit and loss statement at the next staff meeting. I didn't wanna do it, quite frankly.

Jocelyn: Right.

Janet: So my way to manipulate is I'm gonna use guilt trips to get Heather to do all the research and all the presentation prep. And then I'm gonna give her the silent treatment if she's gonna push back and not do it. I even misquoted the boss to her to make it sound like she's supposed to do it, and then I attacked her, if she's not gonna be a team player.

Jocelyn: We can all identify. Okay. We can feel it.

Janet: So if Heather wanted to respond to my manipulation in a biblical way, here are some things she could've done. Well, from what you said earlier, Jocelyn, first, not answer a person who's being foolish with a foolish response herself. So it would not be helpful for Heather to respond to my manipulation to try to guilt trip me back.

Jocelyn: Yep.

Janet: Oh, well, how about this?

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: Which is so tempting.

Jocelyn: Yep.

Janet: Or if she's gonna ignore me, I'll ignore her. Or to say, well, you know what actually the boss told me. Or to attack me personally. And I've certainly provoked it.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: But that would not be helpful. Instead, she would need to communicate in a forthright, honest way without being underhanded like I am. She would also not shy away from confronting the foolishness that's being used in the relationship.

Jocelyn: Which I actually think is one of the hardest things to do.

Janet: Oh.

Jocelyn: Especially if you have a relationship habit where one person manipulates frequently. Like this is just the groove that you're in. It's the vibe of your relationship.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: And learning to speak back is a really critical skill that you can learn.

Janet: Yes because I think the temptation, if I see it, is to find a way out of it.

Jocelyn: To skirt the issue, but not address it.

Janet: But not address it. So Heather needs to, as hard as that would be, not be afraid to talk about the foolish ways I was behaving. She could say it, and again, like you said earlier, Jocelyn, we don't mean get in her face.

Jocelyn: No.

Janet: It's what's loving, what do I need at that moment? So if Heather's actually thinking about my soul, she can say, you know, Janet, I don't appreciate the way you're trying to coerce me into doing this project your way. Why don't we together check with our boss again and clarify what he really wanted? Which of course I'm not, probably not gonna like if I'm manipulating, but that would be wise.

Jocelyn: And that conversation for Heather is gonna be difficult, if she's not in the habit of having said something back to someone who is manipulating her.

Janet: Right. So Heather's gonna have to always keep, what's the ultimate goal in these relationships? It's not, not have Janet mad. It's not keep the peace. It's to honor and glorify God by loving and obeying Him.

Jocelyn: Which probably needs to be, if you're in a manipulative relationship, written on a three by five card and memorized.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: Because that is so difficult.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: Because there is a million competing reasons that you function inside of relationships, but that's the only one that matters.

Janet: Yes. So if she can get her focus there and keep it there, then she's gonna be able to obey God by the way she seeks to solve the problem between me and her, and also get the project done no matter how I treat her. Because she's wanting to honor the Lord, and part of honoring the Lord is going to be loving me.

Jocelyn: Right.

Janet: And loving me is helping me give a better account.

Jocelyn: Right.

Janet: So it all fits together. So when you're being manipulated, the other thing that you mentioned, Jocelyn, appealing to the conscience of the person to fulfill specific personal, biblical responsibilities that they have using the Bible as the standard of truth. Now I realize in a workplace someone might be thinking, let's assume you're in a workplace where you can use the Bible as your standard. So Heather would be able to say, hey Janet, I know it's really important to you that we get this project done. Let's go ahead and work on it together until it's accomplished. So there's my responsibility. So Heather's assuming that I want to do my responsibility.

Jocelyn: You want to get this done.

Janet: Yep. So what time works in your schedule this week and let's get our heads together and let's do this together. And she has not attacked me, but she has pushed me back toward my responsibility.

Jocelyn: What were we supposed to be working on to begin with?

Janet: Yeah. Yep. So there's tons of reasons that we could be prone to being manipulated. What do you think some of those top reasons are?

Jocelyn: Well, I think the top three reasons that we allow ourself to be manipulated are fear, guilt, and living for the approval of others.

Janet: Oh wow.

Jocelyn: So let's just kind of break these down a little bit. Sometimes you allow yourself to be manipulated because you're afraid that if you don't give them manipulator what they want, something bad is gonna happen.

Janet: Yep.

Jocelyn: And you know what? Quite honestly.

Janet: Sometimes it is true.

Jocelyn: Sometimes it's true. Something bad does happen when you don't give a manipulator what they want. So think about the example of the wife that was manipulating her husband to go out to dinner instead of cooking. He might be willing to go along with spending money on wisely because he's afraid of the cold chill that's gonna descend on the house, if she doesn't get her way.

Janet: Yeah, he's gonna pay for it.

Jocelyn: How many times is that just a regular part of marital relationships?

Janet: Right.

Jocelyn: Like you give each other what you are manipulating each other to get because you just don't want to deal with the effects if you don't. The second one is guilt. Sometimes we allow ourselves to be manipulated because somebody has exploited our weak, sensitive conscience and accuses us of being selfish and wrong if we don't do what they want.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: So in the example of the teenage sister, that little brother may be willing to be manipulated into doing his big sister's cat litter chores because he adores her.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: He loves his big sister and he hates it when she calls him a selfish little baby for not helping her.

Janet: Right.

Jocelyn: And so she's playing on his easily, laden conscience.

Janet: Right.

Jocelyn: And guilt is his motivation. And then the third one is living for the approval of others. And to some degree, quite honestly, all of us are gonna struggle with this one little thing.

Janet: Absolutely. I know I do.

Jocelyn: So sometimes you allow yourself to be manipulated because you care so much what other people think.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: So think about the example of the friend who is manipulating to get that girl's weekend. Pam may have been willing to be manipulated because she really wants Tina to think she's more well off than she is and can afford the time and money to have a life that's like a certain vibe. So she wanted her friend to think highly of her, and she was willing to go along with something that she knew was not wise.

Janet: And yeah, I do think it's important that in some of those examples, I was the one doing the manipulation.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: Because let's face it, we all wanna think of ourselves as the victim, but we're pretty good at manipulating people too.

Jocelyn: I really am.

Janet: Yeah. We're all good at seeing what we want and then creatively figuring out a way to make it happen.

Jocelyn: Yep.

Janet: And I think we tell ourselves, because we're so wise in our own eyes, what we want is the right thing.

Jocelyn: And I'm just solving problems.

Janet: Yeah. So what if I'm the manipulator then? What might be some of the reasons I'm willing to manipulate?

Jocelyn: Well, I think there could be a ton of reasons, but here are three big ones that I see kind of happening consistently. The first one is greed, envy, and discontent. And they're different, but they're kind of all the same kind of topic. Sometimes we're just convinced that we need more than what God has given us, and that when we get what we want, we'll be satisfied. And so one of the things that I think is helpful to remember is Luke 12:13-21. It teaches us it's really important to guard against greed and to understand that riches and possessions do not make our life any better.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: So if I just start out generally unhappy with what God's given me and I envy having more or different, then I'm very likely gonna manipulate others and even to try to manipulate God or try to.

Janet: Which will never work by the way.

Jocelyn: It won't, but it's funny how often we try. And to manipulate the situation to get what I think I need to be happy. And Proverbs 1:19 is this really big warning. It says, being greedy robs us of life.

Janet: And you know, you mentioned material possessions, but to also realize that goes way beyond that.

Jocelyn: Oh yeah.

Janet: Greedy for relationships. Greedy for respect, greedy for whatever, and it will rob us of life.

Jocelyn: Envious for more of anything.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: Or discontent cuz you don't have what you want. I think personally, another big reason that people manipulate, and this is hard for me because I'm seeing a little bit of a streak in this in my life right now, and I'm like, what? Is laziness. If we're gonna be honest, sometimes we manipulate others because we just don't wanna do the work ourselves.

Janet: Ouch.

Jocelyn: We are so convinced that we're gonna be happier if we get the result we want, but we don't have to be the one to put the work in to get it. And you know, we're, a lot of people are just really smart, and you can see an easier way to get it done than just you getting up and doing the work.

Janet: Right.

Jocelyn: And then the third one is just love of self. Manipulation is really about using other people instead of loving them. And one of the core teachings of scripture is that love looks like sacrificing myself to serve others.

Janet: The opposite of what you've been describing.

Jocelyn: Yeah, and if I don't see that as a core truth in my life, I'm gonna be totally willing to manipulate others and use my power and influence to get them to serve me. And I'm just gonna pause it and say this, any moms out there know exactly what I'm talking about. Like moms are so good at naturally doing this. Oh honey, could you please go do this for me? Oh sweetie, could you go do this for me? Like, I am so good at just getting other people to do what I don't feel like doing . So.

Janet: But at least you say please.

Jocelyn: I'm sweet when I do it. Since you're getting up already. So, I think the three big reasons that I see why I'm willing to manipulate others are greed or envy, and then laziness, and just because I love myself and I want you to serve me more than I wanna serve you.

Janet: So if I don't want to be manipulated and I don't want to be the manipulator, how does God teach us, we are supposed to have relationships with others?

Jocelyn: Well, I think it's so cool that God gives us so much great truth in the scripture about relationships in general, but He also gives us the example of relationships, and we find that when we study the Trinity. So before anything in the entire universe existed, God the Father, Jesus Christ the son, and the Holy Spirit existed in a perfect relationship with each other. Isn't that mind blowing?

Janet: I can't. I don't even how to think about it.

Jocelyn: None of them manipulated each other. None of them. The three of them worked in perfect harmony. So in the Trinity, you can see God loves Jesus, the son and also glorifies Him. Jesus loves and glorifies the Father and the Holy Spirit glorifies both of 'em. So God the Father, God the Son, the Holy Spirit, they're all working together to glorify God and His holiness and His majesty. God gave Jesus the freedom to decide if He would agree to sacrifice His life, and Jesus just wanted to obey the Father. So all three persons in the Trinity were constantly, they are constantly honor and complimenting each other. There's no love of self. There's no laziness. There's no envy for glory. They're givers in every true sense of the word. So human God honoring relationships might mirror that same pattern with the qualities of three things that are kind of big words, but they're good to think about. The first is mutuality, which means that both in the relationship can contribute caring, respect, and honesty.

Janet: And you certainly see that in the Trinity.

Jocelyn: Absolutely.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: The three persons of the Trinity, they care for each other. They respect each other and they're honest.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: Reciprocity means that both in the relationship are giving and taking and sharing power and responsibility. And freedom means that both in the relationship, they're allowed to make choices. And I think that's sometimes where you see the power imbalance getting out of control.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: When only one person is allowed to make choices or only one person is allowed to give input and you're not allowed to say no without being badgered or bullied or punished.

Janet: So as we're looking at our current relationships and to one degree or another, we're seeing some kind of manipulative aspect to it. What would it look like to grow out of dysfunctional, manipulative relationships?

Jocelyn: Well, you know, focusing on living to exemplify the love of Jesus Christ as we see in the scriptures, will ultimately be the best motivator.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: And then I think it starts with being willing to take courageous risks for the glory of God. And I say that because it's true. To say I'm gonna start functioning inside of this relationship in a different way, a different, more biblical way, that's risky.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: And it requires courage. So if you want to grow out of dysfunctional, manipulative relationships, one, or hopefully both people in that relationship, they're gonna really have to say courageously, I want to honor Christ Jesus through my obedience to Him more than I wanna keep that other person happy with me.

Janet: I think you need to even just say that again because I think that's exactly where we need to get.

Jocelyn: I was just thinking the same thing, like I think I even just need to slow down and say, and just say, Listen to this. If you need to grow out of manipulative relationships, one, and hopefully both people, will need to have courageous risk taking willingness to say, I want to honor Christ through my obedience to Him more than I want to keep the other person happy with me.

Janet: I think that's so important. And it's loving.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: It's loving. When they stand before the Lord, you giving them an environment that made it harder for them to manipulate.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: And easier for them to repent. They're gonna be very grateful that you did that.

Jocelyn: It's loving and tough.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: It's hard, like what we're talking about is not something that you just wake up one morning and be like, I guess I'm just going to confront people when they sin against me.

Janet: Right. There's a lot of background of an understanding of the love of the Father. The heart of the Trinity for you.

Jocelyn: Yes.

Janet: That He's worth serving even when others don't. So a lot of other podcasts, when we talked about the hesed love of God, a lot of other things that would be helpful to get you there.

Jocelyn: Yeah, absolutely.

Janet: Well, give us some hints on ways that we can practically start growing.

Jocelyn: So these are just kind of some overview hints that I was thinking as I kind of wrapped up my research, and here's one that's easy to say and hard to do. Be willing to tolerate pain when you don't get your way. Be willing to sit in this place of uncomfortableness. So here's the bottom line, it is okay for life to not go your way.

Janet: No way!

Jocelyn: I know!

Janet: It's not a sin for others to not do what I want.

Jocelyn: What I want. Yeah. So too often we assume we're sovereign and we know what's best for us.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: And that usually includes really, really limited experiences with discomfort. And here's what the Bible says it's okay to not get your way. It's okay for life to be hard. It's okay for someone else's opinion and choices to be valued and their desires to be met. So I really love this little booklet by Jay Adams called, How to Handle Trouble. We'll link that in our show notes. It's a great little booklet. It breaks down some really valuable reminders inside of those difficult moments. And often when we're manipulating people, it's because we want things to go a certain way because we think it's the best way.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: Because it avoids pain. It's not uncomfortable. It's not irritating.

Janet: It's more efficient. It's whatever.

Jocelyn: Whatever. Sometimes we just don't have a good view of difficulty, and the really transformative power that it has in our lives to help us to be conformed to the image of God.

Janet: And so maybe it will also reveal my highest priority has not been to be conformed to the image of God.

Jocelyn: It will most likely do that.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: The second thing, and I feel like this second thing can apply to every situation in life, but learn to embrace humility.

Janet: Common theme.

Jocelyn: I know at its core, manipulation is a language of pride. When I am a manipulator, I am pridefully assuming that I know what's best. I manipulate when I'm convinced that I am right.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: So sometimes we squeeze other people into doing what we want because we don't understand how they could be missing something so completely obviously correct.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: As our opinion.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: And I think back on times that I've manipulated my husband, it's because we had this decision to make and clearly he was missing that my way of doing it would've been easiest, cheapest, most efficient.

Janet: Yeah. How do I just get it to go this way? Cause it's clearly best.

Jocelyn: Why isn't he seeing this?

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: So the key to changing that area is not only rejecting pride as the ultimate sin that it is, but it's also embracing humility. For example, what would it look like in this situation if I cared more about the other person?

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: Not getting what I think is right. How can I help that person to communicate their desires?

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: And not drown them out with mine, which I've a big mouth and I talk loud, I am good at doing that. How can I love that person more than I love myself?

Janet: Excellent.

Jocelyn: It's also really important to learn about God's view of desires and needs, and God teaches us that the only desire that we should have is for Him. Isn't that just earth shattering?

Janet: And you think, oh, okay, but it's so hard.

Jocelyn: The only yes desire.

Janet: I can't even imagine.

Jocelyn: The only desire we should have for Him and through our relationship with Him to realize that all of my needs are already met.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: That really helps me to fight against envy. Like, why do I think I need that thing? Why am I jealous? I find irritatingly often if I see someone that has something that I want, especially inside of relationships or a situation that I want, like why is my first thought to be jealous? So scripture tells us in Philippians 4:19, and this same God who takes care of me, will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: And I love, there's a couple different translations of Psalm 23:1 that I really love. It says, the Lord is my shepherd. I have all that I need. Isn't that so cool? There's this other version that says, the Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing. Do we really believe we lack nothing because of what Christ provides for us? Because at its core, manipulation is about forcing somebody else to give me what I'm convinced I need.

Janet: And don't have.

Jocelyn: And don't have, and I'm being kept from. And then when you are a manipulator, repent, confess your sins and seek forgiveness.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: The key to change is based on repentance and confession. So as soon as you realize you've even thought a manipulative, kind of like a pulling like type of thought, identify it and repent of it. Confess manipulation quickly and allow Jesus to forgive you, which, you know, absorb the cost of violating someone else in your relationship instead of loving and giving. So allow Him to cleanse you. We can't just be like, oh, I'll try better next time. Oopsy. That wasn't nice. Oh, it's a sin.

Janet: Right.

Jocelyn: And when you're manipulating, you need to confess it like the sin that it is.

Janet: And I think that's really hard, especially when you're saying, even if it's the thought.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: Because we can rationalize anything.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: You know I didn't do it and it's understandable, and you're saying don't minimize it.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: Confess it. Kill it.

Jocelyn: Here's a super hard one. Like super hard. I get this. Ask the other person to help you identify when they are feeling manipulated. That's super hard.

Janet: And we don't recommend you do that of people who hate you. So choose wisely. Choose people who care about you.

Jocelyn: Yes.

Janet: It's so hard, but so good.

Jocelyn: But you've had a difficult relationship where you've set the pattern that this is how you function and you're serious about killing it.

Janet: Yep.

Jocelyn: Another really good step is to ask the person that you frequently manipulate to give you some sort of a sign when they feel like you're unfairly pulling from them. So that could be like a verbal statement or raised hand or like, you know, some sort of little signal. Part of repentance is learning how to operate differently and manipulation is a habit and it, you know, it might take you a little while to grow out of it.

Janet: Yep.

Jocelyn: And it will probably include a little bit of failure that you have to confess and repent.

Janet: And the humility you gain along the way is only going to help your growth.

Jocelyn: Yep. And then finally, I would say embrace the fact that relationships can transcend differences and disagreements and even being told no without falling apart. That's one of the beautiful aspects of long-term relationships. You cannot be in a long-term relationship and not have sinned to deal with.

Janet: Right.

Jocelyn: It's a part of relationships, and you also can't be in a long-term relationship without having differences to work through or different ways of wanting to do things, or even someone saying, I just don't wanna do that. So God created us uniquely. It's possible to have conflict that helps you grow.

Janet: Yep.

Jocelyn: Shockingly, disagreements are not always wrong. Like if you're sinning inside of disagreements, that would be something to avoid.

Janet: Sure.

Jocelyn: But it's not bad to learn to embrace living in a world that doesn't revolve around you, and is not absorbed with you getting what you want or thinking the same way as you.

Janet: Okay, so tell me repentance, you've said we need to repent out of a manipulative way of life would look like what?

Jocelyn: So let's look at the initial things that we talked about manipulation and flip them on their head.

Janet: Okay.

Jocelyn: If you're gonna repent out of manipulation, it's gonna look like seeking ways to serve others instead of tricking people into serving you. It's also going to look like sacrificing yourself for the good of others instead of expecting others to sacrifice themselves for you, which is,

Janet: Yep.

Jocelyn: At its core what manipulation is. And it's also gonna look like meeting other people's needs instead of forcing others to meet your desires. And in the middle of all of that, communicating biblically about what you're asking someone else to do so they can evaluate if that's actually a wise and loving thing for them to participate in.

Janet: So much about doing relationships biblically is gonna depend on Luke 10:27 and what Jesus summarizes was the ultimate, most important commandment. Loving God.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: Loving others.

Jocelyn: Yep.

Janet: So learning to make decisions should be based on thinking through what would be most loving, or wisest to handle that opportunity.

Jocelyn: I wanted to talk about this topic today because I've experienced some things in my past where I was manipulated and it was really hard.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: It's very confusing.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: quite honestly, I needed help. I needed someone outside of myself.

Janet: Yep.

Jocelyn: To process that with, it was just really controlling and that's how I learned relationships should function and it did not lead to joy.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: But also I wanted to talk about this because we all struggle with this to one degree or another. I'm a good communicator. That was my major in college. I like communicating and I also think really logically, I can draw conclusions really quickly, and I think all those things together make me really, really good at manipulating people. So if I try very hard, I can get people to do what I want them to do.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: And I don't want to work that way.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: I don't want inside of my relationships for people to feel like, oh,

Janet: I have to be careful because she's gonna be manipulating me. Yeah.

Jocelyn: Like I also grew up, shockingly, I hope this is shocking to everyone. I grew up to be a world class pouter.

Janet: Oh my word. I just, I want to even picture that. That's hysterical.

Jocelyn: I'm so thankful that you can't even picture that. I had no idea that was not okay until, you know when, until I got married.

Janet: I'm sure Brian knew that was not okay.

Jocelyn: Oh, I learned quickly. So the thing is, I'm still good at communicating. I'm still good at thinking logically, but I have a bigger desire. I really want to live for Jesus Christ.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: And for the good of other people. And so when I learned about Jesus and how my needs were already met inside of my relationship with Him, it really freed me up to love other people. Even while I'm accomplishing a lot of stuff and even learning how to communicate, like what my ideas are and how I think we could go about something and not always doing it my way because my way and doing the thing the way that I think is smartest is not always what's best in the long run. You even know from your own experience I'm the queen of, oh my word, I have a great idea.

Janet: Yes, you have lots of ideas. It's so true.

Jocelyn: So what I've been learning is instead of coercing people into agreeing with me, I've learned to express my super great ideas and then stop talking. Just allow other person to evaluate whether it's as great of an idea as I thought it was.

Janet: I'm sure, they always are though.

Jocelyn: They usually are, but learning to live it in biblical relationships means giving other people the freedom to

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: Think for themselves, and evaluate without coercion and come to a conclusion that here's the thing they have to answer to God for what they decide to do. They don't have to answer to me.

Janet: Right.

Jocelyn: And when I'm communicating manipulatively, it makes it seem like them answering to me is their greatest concern.

Janet: Yeah. I do think we need to just mention as we're closing, we do need to acknowledge there are some relationships where the manipulation is so deep seated and confusing, and you mentioned that you even have some of that in your past.

Jocelyn: Yep.

Janet: Learning to grow out of it just could be extra challenging.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: So we want to encourage you, if you find yourself in that position, it really could be smart, get someone else who can be objective, involved, help them to think this through with you. At your church, I'd start with your deacon or your pastor, or seek out a biblical counselor in your church or through ACBC that might be able to help you think through a confusing situation. It really gets tricky if there are deep habits of manipulation inside relationships or where one or both spouses habitually uses manipulation as a tool.

Jocelyn: Yeah, that's super tough.

Janet: Manipulation's a dangerous tool and it can lead to a host of other problems. So we will, as we have done several times, we're gonna link in our show notes how to find a counselor through ACBC, if you need to do that.

Jocelyn: Yeah. There's a lot of counselors that are local all over the United States, so you could probably find one in your area.

Janet: Right.

Jocelyn: We would really recommend you getting connected to someone who can help you think about this really challenging situation.

Janet: Yep.

Jocelyn: I also mentioned two other resources that I use when I was researching and writing for this episode. There's a booklet called Manipulation by Lou Priolo. It was really helpful.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: And if this is something that you wanna grow out of, having the book in front of you that you can study and reread would probably. And then I also mentioned the booklet by Jay Adams called, How to Handle Trouble, which is good for anybody, not just someone who is in a manipulative situation, but in general how to handle hard stuff without feeling like hard stuff is bad.

Janet: Thank you, Jocelyn, for taking us through a subject that's ouchie on both levels.

Jocelyn: Little bristly.

Janet: Yes, and yet, it's not about us, it's about Jesus. So we can address that with great hope, whether I'm being manipulated or whether I'm the manipulator, or for most of us, whether there's times when I'm both.

Jocelyn: Both, yep.

Janet: And to know that in all of that, the Gospel has answers, the way out is the same, and there is great hope. So thank you for that. And thank you for listening and I hope you'll join us for our next episode as we're on the journey together.

To keep from missing any future episodes, please sign up for our newsletter on our webpage From there you can also subscribe to this podcast on Apple, Google, or Spotify. You can also visit us on our Facebook page or Instagram at Joyful Journey Podcast. If you have questions or comments for us, you can email us at Joyful Journey Podcast is a ministry of Faith Bible Seminary. All proceeds go to offset costs of this podcast and toward scholarships for women to receive their MABC through Faith Bible Seminary.

Host Janet and her husband, Brent, also speak at a variety of conferences as a way to raise money for the seminary. If you want to look at what they offer or book them for a conference, go to their website.

Janet Aucoin


Janet is the Director of Women's Ministry at Faith Church (Lafayette, IN); Host of the Joyful Journey Podcast (helping women learn that when you choose truth you choose joy); ACBC certified; teacher in Faith Community Institute; Coordinator of FBS seminary wives fellowship, retreat and conference speaker; B.S. Human Resources, University of South Florida.