I’d like to have us think about the communities we are using to facilitate our learning and development, the places we are spending our time. Community can dictate how we think and feel about everything, even ourselves. Personally, I belong to many communities, namely; religious, educational, athletic and even the simple one of home. I have noticed some of these communities are healthy and some are destructive, waning in and out of positivity or negativity depending on the culture being cultivated. We have so many voices competing with our own thoughts and development. Some of those voices are more manipulative than others and can work to contradict the message God has for us.
I don’t know if I have really shared my faith but as part of the rebranding, I hope to mention it some more as learning and personal growth is a multi-faceted exercise between body, mind and spirit. However, within my religion, I have seen this waning and waxing of community culture plenty. I’m sure everyone has had experiences like that where they feel supported or opposed in their life’s mission, vision or responsibilities. I have witnessed people in these spaces using the church as a way of manipulating people to move in the direction they deem to be correct. This manipulation can become so confusing because it can conflict with our internal compass of what feels authentic to ourselves. It can make us second guess ourselves and cause internal turmoil that effects other areas of our lives. Once this manipulation takes root, we lose all sense of ourselves and begin to take on the aura of these manipulative places. I guess that is fine if it is your authentic self but if not, it is a struggle between their will and our life’s mission.
How can we recognize the potential for spiritual manipulation? I have seen some evidences as:
People who openly quote scripture or talk about how they have prayed over your situation…whatever that may be. The use the correct lingo of your communities that helps to give them credibility.
People who interject their spiritual “feelings” on you, or for your life. Like I feel like God want you to…whatever. This makes you feel like you should follow their advice vs. your own instincts or spirit. It could cause you to question your own guidance, that maybe your need spiritual enough.
People who criticize your way of doing things, they tend to think there is only one way, their correct way, or make comments demeaning other methods.
People who behave mostly on fear - fear of punishment, - fear of not being accepted - fear that things won’t work out - fear of diverse groups or thinking
People who have a distorted view of respect - they forget that respect is earned not given
People who demand allegiance - it is either their way or the highway, if you deviate for their view they make you feel wrong, guilty, or somehow you have lost your way.
Ways to Combat Manipulation, to not fall victim to the influence:
Ask yourself questions. What do you think? How do you feel? What is instincts or spirt telling YOU?
Recognize the your life, journey and activities don't have to look anyone else's. We all receive and feel inspiration different ways, so just because your impressions don't come the same way, don't discredit yourself.
Talk with diverse groups of people, maybe with people you don't natural agree. Listen and weight their thoughts and opinions against your beliefs. Learn from them what you can and throw out the rest.
Learning comes from humility so learn from others and don't be fearful.
Resource used: Spiritual Manipulation: How to Spot it
Good Leaders work in the ways of the Left / Manipulators work in the ways of the right: