LETTERS TO MY SON: the manipulator
Strength and dignityare her clothing, and she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
Proverbs 31:25 NASB
These words of advice from King Lemuel’s mother to her son hold a wealth of wisdom. She is painting a picture of a wife who “will not hinder him but help him all her life”. In fact, this kind of woman “will greatly enrich his life”. (Proverbs 31:10,11 NLT)
And that is what I want for you, Matthew— a wife who will greatly enrich and bring help and delight into your life.
But there are other kinds of women, dear son. Women who hinder. Women who bite. Women who cannot be depended upon because of hidden ugliness.
For the next few weeks I want to help you learn how to spot some of the subtle attitudes common in women who hurt rather than help their men.
And I know these things, dear son of mine, because I recognize them in me.
These uglinesses I am about to describe are common to every woman. But we each have choices to make— will I give in to my urge to control and manipulate and demand and punish, justifying my sin and blaming others? Or will I fall on my face in deep repentance and beg the Father to take my brokenness and make me beautiful?
Here are the four most common ways women “hinder” (NLT) or “do evil” (NASB) to men:
Every woman falls into this trap, Matthew. It is our default mode when we don’t get what we want, or when we suspect we might not get what we want, or when we want to make absolutely sure we will get what we want when we want it and then some.
And honestly, it works!
We do this so subtly that most men have no clue what’s really going on. They just feel a vaguely uncomfortable sense that something is not right. It’s confusing, I know, but if you will pay attention, the patterns are not hard to spot. Here are my own observations:
How to know when you’re being manipulated:
- Manipulation almost always involves extreme temperatures. Hot, volatile anger or cold, rigid bitterness.
- A manipulator leaves the targeted person confused. He knows something is wrong but he cannot for the life of him figure out what.
- The manipulator focuses on one flaw in order to justify her anger.
- She’ll often make a big deal out of a minor mistake in order to get what she wants.
- The manipulator does not understand you. She does not give grace to cover over your less-than-idealness. She wants you to change, to be who she wants you to be.
- Sometimes the manipulator will crumble in a heap of feminine despair. “I’m so bad nobody loves me…” But she wants your sympathy, your encouragement, not your honest evaluation and certainly not true repentance.
- The manipulator will use her sexual allure to get you and keep you before you are married.
- Then she’ll use your sexual hungers to control you by requiring you to jump through her hoops before she’ll give herself to you.
- The manipulator is not straightforward. She cannot tell you exactly what is wrong, nor will she accept her own responsibility in conflict.
- 10. The manipulator often tries to separate you from your friends. But sometimes she will try to endear herself to your friends. Confusing, I know.
Matthew, it takes time to identify manipulation. It is a subtle sin. If you are alert and you give yourself time to live life together, to walk through conflict, to experience ups and downs, to be less than perfect, you will be able to spot it.
Trust your own warning signals. If you often feel guilty and confused after a conflict listen to that caution. Ask the Spirit of God to give you insight below the surface.
And ask yourself these questions:
- Does she like you exactly as you are? Or does she like the general idea of you but wish you would change?
- Can you be fully you in her presence? Or do you find yourself quieting down, being careful, withdrawing a little?
- Does she get mad at you a lot? Does she withdraw into a cold shell of indifference? Does she rage?
- Does she entice you and then push you away?
- Do you feel subtly pushed by her? Is she trying to move the relationship forward faster than you are comfortable with?
Part of me wishes I didn’t even have to talk about this. Like I am unveiling ugliness and exposing you to what I wish I could ignore. But I love you too much for that, Matt. And I want so much more for you. I want for you a wife who will be your helper, your partner, your friend and your joyous lover.
Be wise, my son. Listen to your heart. Listen to the Spirit. Ask for wisdom and then wait for God’s clear answer. He promises to give generously to those who trust in Him.
From my heart,
PS: Dear girls who are listening in,
I laid awake last night worrying about the two young women who wrote to me yesterday with sadness lacing their words. They felt defeated and discouraged by my description of the manipulative woman, seeing far too much of themselves in that list. I vascilated in those middle of the night hours between feeling a heavy ache for their shame and a holy anger at the evil one who would twist my words to tempt these precious women to defeat.
How dare that enemy of ours suggest to these girls that they are incapable of redemption! How dare he shame them into hiding, suggesting that no godly man will want a woman who is struggling her way out of this sinful pattern!
But he did and he does and that makes me so angry!
So here’s what I want you to hear:
In no way do I mean to imply that if you fall into this common trap of manipulative control, your boyfriends should dump you! We’d all be single if they did that! Is there a woman alive who does not see herself somewhere on this list? I’m still, after 4 decades of walking with Jesus, seeing my patterns of manipulation come back and bite me. And yet my godly husband loves me and leads me and often times calls me on my not-so-subtle attempt to control.
At the same time, may I gently advise you to take your fears to the foot of the Cross, allow Jesus to cover those patterns of sinful manipulation, and confess those doings as wrong? That’s the only way to freedom. Then lets gather our closest friends around to help us be women of truth. We have got to be honest with each other and with ourselves.
And dear girls, please don’t let the enemy shame you any further. His grace is able to change even the most deeply rooted tendencies. Isn’t that the whole point of His death for us? He is a Redeemer!
I love you dear seekers of His heart,