These are the counseling cases that I dread the most.
“What are you saying? Are you saying that I said this? Are you saying that I am the issue and not the wife who is a jerk to me?”
I almost feel like a ping pong that has been passed back and forth. It’s almost like what Paul said, “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Eph 4:14). At the end, you feel like the crazy one! Which one is what?
How does the Bible inform and help navigate through the mind of a master manipulator? How can we identify and examine whether we are master manipulators?
Here are a few things biblically you should know before speaking with the master manipulator.
Gaslighting in the Middle of the Conversation
I wasn’t familiar with that word at first. What does “Gaslight”? My friend and colleague in ministry and counselor at Reigning Grace Counseling Center, Bruce Roeder answered this very well. What is gaslighting?
The term originates in the systematic psychological manipulation of a victim by her husband in Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 stage play Gas Light, and the film adaptation released in 1940 and 1944.
In the story, the husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes.
The play’s title alludes to how the abusive husband slowly dims the gas light in their home, while pretending nothing has changed, to make his wife doubt her perceptions. The wife repeatedly asks her husband to confirm her perceptions about the dimming lights, but in defiance of reality, he keeps insisting that the lights are the same and instead, it is she who is going insane.
That is so often where people live today. You’re not crazy. You don’t have a disease or disorder. You’re being gaslighted.
Skillful Politician in False Humility
I am certain, the mayor in your town is not a “skillful politician” but a “good politician” I would suggest, not to call your boss and say, “You know, you’re a skillful politician” and lose your job, and you rightful deserve if you approach that way!
These master manipulators have become so skillful at it, they are as Scripture will say, “come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matt 7:15).
I would even say what society calls “bipolar” Scripture will say, “double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Jam 1:8).
These are people who come to you, and you feel good about them, until you get to know them and later find there are dead bodies of fellow teammates in the organization in the back closet.
So often because sin blinds their eyes, the individual does not see how the act is causing an issue with people! The skillful politician, master manipulator, the one clothed in “false humility” is as Scripture will say, “this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers” (2 Cor 4:4).
So how can we help the master manipulator? Does the Bible offer any help? Here are several thoughts.
How to Grow in Humility and Become Humble?
Throughout Scripture, God uses four ways of humbling individuals
(1) We humble ourselves (based on God’s Word)
Jesus is the primary example of exemplifying humility.
“So, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by agreeing, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his interests but also to the interests of others.” (Phil 2:1-4)
(2) God humbles us (often through difficulty)
I think of the quote by Charles Spurgeon the prince of a preacher, in which he said, “Great faith must have great trials” Either we can humble ourselves before God or can be humbled by God!
The Book of James is clear as he puts it this way, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (Jam 4:8).
(3) Other people humble us (correction and rebuking)
I think of the story of 2 Samuel 12 where Nathan confronts King David.
“Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you, king, over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul.” (2 Sam 12:7).
(4) The gospel by believing and repenting (confession and surrender)
The gospel implies the two areas of belief (faith) and repentance (confession). The gospel account says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15).
Gospel centrality means this in our lives. I often run into this when I meet initial counselees to identify whether they are truly regenerating or not. These diagnostic questions come from C. J. Mahaney in his book, Living the Cross-Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing
- How has the person internalized the Gospel?
- How does the person fervently pray considering the Gospel?
- How does the person respond in worship because of the Gospel?
- How can the person articulate the wonder of the Gospel changing their lives?
- How one persistently studies the Gospel?