I was scrolling through TikTok as 600 million of us do daily, when I came across a stream of viral videos introducing books on a certain niche: psychological manipulation. I mean, for an app that thrives off of memes, cringey POVs and thirst traps, I didn’t expect something so heavy to reach my for you page. But there was a budding interest in literature that exposed the inner workings of manipulation (some of these books have been said to have “restricted access” such as 48 Laws of Power).
I mean, I get the sudden interest.
As someone who was emotionally manipulated by past love interests, I can say I was tempted to hop on Amazon and order a book for next day delivery (and you know I’m serious because I hate the idea of my money going to Amazon). Like many in the comments sections of these videos, I wanted to protect my own heart. I wanted to notice the signs, the red flags and get the hell out of there just as much as anyone else. I mean, biblically speaking, we are instructed to guard our hearts above all else (Proverbs 4:23) so what else is a girl supposed to do? It’s books like these that make us realise how oblivious we are to manipulation. Sometimes, it’s books like these that make us realise how aware we are of manipulators but highlight our unwillingness to let them go. But I quickly found myself along with the comment section falling into something a little more sinister than being a manipulation watchdog:
I wanted to be the manipulator.
I can’t tell you how badly I daydream of being the classic femme fatale, who strings along hearts. I wanted to be a man-eater and hurt men the way men hurt me. And my desire to notice manipulation signs was quickly warped by this femme fatale fantasy. I saw a lot of comments saying the same. Slowly, these comments became POVs and their own videos on the popular platform, with people boasting about manipulating and using people or creating skits where they would use these manipulation tactics on said characters. We as a consumer body went from looking out for signs of manipulation to looking out for ourselves by becoming the manipulators as the ultimate way to ensure self-preservation.
But the challenge as a Christian is to abandon that eye-for-an-eye mentality, which was done away with when Jesus came. Before you assume that I tell you to turn the other cheek, I’m actually not going to because I don’t think Jesus would tell us to respond to emotional abuse and manipulation by staying to be manipulated again. I believe that He would account for Proverbs 4:23 in His response and tell us to make the wise decision of being loving, but from a distance. Our main priority as believers is to flee from anything that would draw us away from the arms of the Father at any cost. I do believe that a manipulator qualifies.
We need to make some distance between manipulators and ourselves, but we also need to pray for manipulators.
Why the hell should I pray for the guy who said “if you love me, you’ll do…”? Why in the hell should I pray for another guy who tried to control my every move? Why in the hell should I pray for emotionally abusive relatives?
Because they don’t deserve it, but it’s what Jesus would do. Also, if God can change their hearts, we can protect them from harming others in the same way. Yes, I want to watch the world burn at times, but I never want another young girl to go through the things that I have. I wouldn’t even want my manipulators to endure my experiences at the hands of another. I’m just going to leave you with a standout statement from Luke 6:32-36 that Jesus made that resonates with the human experience of hurt so beautifully. It’s challenging yet liberating, and I really hope that it speaks to you as it has spoken to me:
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”