Monday, August 12, 2013
Manipulation: The Heart of Witchcraft
You might have heard some Christians say "Manipulation is witchcraft." Is that true, and where does this idea come from?
When I was nineteen years old, a girl I knew from high school asked to interview me for a college paper. One of her questions had to do with what I had learned in life that I considered valuable. At the time I had no compunction about providing an honest answer:
I valued what I had learned about how to manipulate the world around me to my advantage.
Of course, what I was referring to at the time was witchcraft, along with other spiritual techniques that could also be classified as such.
When I first became a Christian, along with a whole host of other character defects, I discovered I had a serious manipulation problem.
I have discussed power and control in previous posts. Manipulation is an offshoot of power and control, a manner in which they are applied. It is one of the most nefarious because it is so covert and deceptive, it often deceives even the one who is using it into being unable to recognize it. In fact, most of the time when people are manipulating, they are unaware of it.
The first definition for the word manipulate on Dictionary.com says, "to manage or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner."
It seems to me that the key word here is unfair.
I'm sure most of us would agree that managing or influencing skillfully in certain cases is sensible, even wise at times. It's when it becomes unfair that it goes from managing to manipulating.
Add selfishness to managing and/or influencing and you have manipulation. Selfishness is never fair. It's too concerned with self to concern itself with others.
True fairness requires compassion. The compassion of Jesus. Only Jesus knows what each person needs in order for true fairness to exist. What we may deem fair nearly always falls short, and sometimes what we deem unfair is actually right in God's sight.
However much we know or don't know about another person, manipulation insists on getting its own way, regardless of what the other person needs.
Concerning oneself with others requires a radical ability to take a blind leap into the unknown. It requires a sacrifice of the self, a dying to the self, and if you want to do it right, it's a death of self that lets Jesus live in us.
Manipulation is an unwillingness to "let go and let God," so to speak. It utilizes the power of the flesh rather than trusting in God's power. It seeks ones own glory - or vindication, or absolution, or some other similar benefit for self - before, or rather than, the glory of God.
All the same things could be said of witchcraft as well. That's because manipulation is the heart of witchcraft. Even when utilizing of the power of the flesh. A witch might think of his or her workings as purely spiritual but they always begin with the desires of the self (which is the flesh) never with the desires of God. After all, God condemns witchcraft in His word.
As much as some witches would like to claim the ethics of never violating another person's free will, that is exactly what witchcraft does. It forces, or attempts to force another person to do what he or she would not do otherwise.
Likewise, that is what manipulation does.
Manipulation uses the needs of others as leverage for one's own agenda. It may even pretend to be kind and good, helpful and trustworthy while gaining the upper hand for ulterior motives.
Jezebel is often referenced as a witch. In 1 Kings 21, she tricked Naboth by setting him on high among the people in order to obtain his property for her husband. Just as she manipulated her community, so witches manipulate the spirit realm in order to obtain their desires.
I've heard it said that manipulation is like a dog that's licking your face while urinating on your shoes. I can tell you this: every person who ever spiritually deceived me flattered me in the process.
A manipulator has to be the one who makes all the rules, and is only concerned with how he or she benefits from them. Never mind the risk or cost to another.
Now, does that mean every person who seems to manipulate is a witch? Not necessarily. I'm sure almost everyone has manipulated at some time or another. That doesn't make a person a witch.
Also, we don't always know every detail of a person's situation, and sometimes people who accuse others of manipulating are doing so out of their own selfishness. Take for example, the Nazis who tried to shame Corrie ten Boom for lying about hiding Jews during the holocaust. They weren't exactly being selfless.
Each of us can only look at ourselves and check ourselves against the Word and the Holy Spirit to see whether we are submitting to God's will or being selfish. One question we can ask ourselves in any given situation is, "Who benefits?"
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (Philippians 2:3)
The best way each of us can avoid manipulation is to put others before ourselves. And that should be easy to do when we put Jesus first.
So, what it comes down to is our heart's allegiance. Is our heart's allegiance with Jesus or with ourselves?
When someone is doing witchcraft, this is what's at the core of the matter. The heart's allegiance is to the self. Even in many new age teachings, self is revered, sometimes to such an extreme that it's spelled with a capital "S," because the "Self" is "God."
As Christians we know how absurd that is, but when we begin to place self before God, even in the slightest, we are treading on thin ice. And beneath that ice is the cold reality of witchcraft, just waiting to take us under.
The thesaurus at Dictionary.com says that the opposite of manipulate is to leave alone. If you find you have manipulated a person, or you are tempted to, the best thing you can do is step back and get alone with Jesus.
Where have you been afraid to trust in Him? What is it that you're really afraid of? If you make the Lord your stronghold, you will have nothing to fear.
We all have our moments of humanness, but the more we seek Him, the more we find Him. When we are manipulating, whether spiritually or otherwise, we are not seeking Him.
Our security is in Him. When we seek Him first He teaches us the compassion that we need to put others before ourselves. And when we have the compassion of Jesus, manipulation ceases to be a temptation.