On Merry-Go-Rounds, Motives and Maddening Manipulations

My community is passionate. Our emotional and spiritual fuel can create enough energy to launch a rocket. Sometimes it does. Life refuses to submit to our expectations; and the rebel it is can frustrate my precious and precocious people. When our world tumbles instead of following our order to flow, we can get a bit upset. Complaints and questions grow large and conversations, sometimes weepy, sometimes angry and sometimes a lovely, wild, mixture, ensue. We hash it out, insisting that the dissonance of life will not keep us from getting where the good Lord has told us to go.

It can get ugly. Words are powerful things, and when someone lets the irritation of their heart furrow the work of the tongue, we cringe as those words morph from sandpaper to razor, and the hope of hashing it out slips to a self-preserving slashing. We fail to remember that there never a word that can be returned and never a cruel thought that can be undone once it is cut into the mind. We know, though, that forgiveness is a balm to the wound and that though the past cannot be changed, it can indeed be redeemed. We apologize. We correct our actions. We hug and we start again.

We find ourselves sometimes brutally spun in the swirl of it; and we find ourselves throwing up. However, we have been doing this life thing long enough to know how to scream for help. Those who do so will get a hand (or 10) reaching out to slow the speed and nurture until the healing can come and life can be stomached again.

This is the merry-go-round of our living.

Life, though, is as relentless as it is rebellious. It keeps happening in and around us, never once taking a glance at what its sometimes spiteful ways are doing to our hearts or souls. It does not stop to ask us if we are ready for it. It never asks us if we have had enough or if we are ready for the next thing to happen.

Sometimes, when life is not cooperating, some are tempted to try to manipulate it to submission. With utter determination tucked tightly in our own agenda, we seek to mold life to our will. The problem, though, is that life will not even read our agenda, let alone surrender to it.

And here is the hard part. God made life that way. Now, rather than go off on the truth that sin is our world’s problem and stomp around telling me that if there was no sin we would not have troubled, unsurrendering lives, let’s accept that sin is real and this world has been steeped in the result. God has chosen not to rescue us from this world and its life. Rather, he determines to have us be in it with all its turmoil.

When we drag out our manipulation tools and start hacking away at the life we are living, we hurt. We hurt ourselves and we hurt others. Manipulation is defined as: a process in which we: handle something with skill, control or influence (a person or situation) cleverly, unfairly or unscrupulously (Dictionary.com). To manipulate is to try to work out circumstances in our own way for our own desires. Manipulation has only one motive: Self.

Manipulation is rare in our community. It’s usually called out and dragged down to the truth powered shredding machine. Sometimes, though, it gets past the mainstream of our relationships and seeps in the edges. Someone gets an idea that they believe to be true, sound and of importance. Rather than talk outright, covert measures are taken. Discussion with those around the community happens and yet the person being manipulated is left out of the stream. This is why I hate manipulation so much: No one can manipulate without lying about something.

Funny how that motive thing can change how actions are played out.

All of this writing is really about the last sentence. Manipulation is the rancid fruit of wrong motives. Recently, I was manipulated under an undeserved judgement. In a situation of disagreement, rather than come right at me, which is the best way to deal with me (I am a straight shooter. I will listen, consider and make some choices, if you do. However, I don’t promise my choices will please you), I was placed in a room with others and trapped into a wannabe-round-table-discussion about perceived personality problems, the voids in life God should fill, the healing needed after a difficult experience, self-assessments, and the like. During the discussion, there were absolutely zero positives presented. It was all about what was wrong with the individuals in the group.

The facilitator presented himself as much more knowledgeable than the rest of us (Funny…two people in that room were ministers just as he is), and claimed that he himself was indeed healed; while also presenting that others were not. I was so angry while this was going on that I wanted to cooperate with the rebellion of life and even help it out a bit. Rather than do that, I answered the questions frankly and asked some real questions of my own. The facilitator’s partner was so irritated with me she was at one point rolling her eyes. The whole meeting was a fiasco. It was based on an attempt to show me how I ought to be behaving; it sought to show me my errors by dragging me down a path of existential proof that should, at least in the manipulators’ minds, change my wicked ways. It didn’t.

Rather it made me very angry. I hate it when Christians use pseudo spirituality as a tool to control. It actually infuriates me. I do not tolerate it well and I decline to participate. I refuse to give to the manipulative, veiled correction of people who have not personally communicated their troubled perception of my actions. I stopped participating, for there was zero love in that space.

That is the problem with manipulation. Its devoid of love.

The whole thing was a control tactic, a cowardly attempt at proving a point without saying a point. It was meant not to build up but to tear down, to force those in the room to look at how messed up they really are and to arrest behaviors that had been judged as wrong. Funny, the behaviors are not sin. They are, though, not what is expected and not what make others comfortable. What they are is completely out of the norm for me. However, they are also directed by God through profound and constant prayer.

I intend to keep walking this road and doing what I am doing until God bends the road. No amount of suggested negative introspection will change that, for it is hard enough to trust God in the new ways he brings without those suggestions that I am not going to do it right or that I am not healthy enough to be doing it all. Healthy is relative and I have never once claimed the corner on mental wellness. I struggle in my mind and heart just as all do. However, I do claim my corner on the truth that God is guiding me in all things, and I can trust him even when the things he asks me to do are unusual or new; or when they are things that someone I love does not like.

I will not be manipulated off that corner.

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