Thursday, May 17, 2012

Not being manipulated

A few years ago a mentor of mine spoke of spiritual manipulation.  I had never heard that particular wording used.   I've heard of abuse of all kinds, abuse of power, using an extreme religion to control others, manipulation and psychological control and all that kind of thing.  We've all heard of it.  Some of it you can see in the news.  

One thing that was brought to my attention that I thought worth writing about is how often spiritual/religious ideas or teachings are used in a way that manipulates or controls another.  Not what you would see in some cultish scene of a Hollywood movie.  I'm referring to the more subtle, pervasive, and little by little degrading kind of thing.  It's something each of us should look at.          

Most folks I know would not spiritually manipulate another knowingly.  It's that so often "we know not what we do".   We mimic traditions, cultural patterns, and accepted norms of behavior and rarely stop to consider if they in fact could be skewed or wrong.  You can't trust everything you're taught, or everything that was modeled to you.  Just because everyone does it, even for years, doesn't mean it's not an error or misleading.   
I'm not referring to anything big, or intentionally sinister here..... I'm referring to subtle interpersonal tendencies we all probably encounter or hear of frequently.  The mentor who talked to me about this was respectful, kind, showed long-suffering, showed forth pure knowledge, love and used the tools I find in scripture.  I was persuaded to consider what was being presented to me.  There was light to it, even though it caused me to see errors in and around me.  I've never forgotten it and it's made a difference in how I think.  
Using spiritual teachings, references, or "authority" as a means to either gain compliance, credibility, or influence the thinking or feeling of another "in any degree of unrighteousness" is not good, it's manipulative.  It could be called "using the name of God in vain" in one senses of that phrase because the action misrepresents God. 

D&C 121  says: "That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man."

This kind of stuff could show up as someone using a large church calling as evidence or reason for someone else to trust them in a business deal.  How many scams are perpetuated due to the network and "trust" church members have with each other?  Or with a local leader?  

It could also be a simple communication tactic that uses a spiritual idea or teaching as a "trump" card to establish credibility, or to gain some advantage, or put someone in a position of submission to further a personal agenda. "God told me this, therefore you would do well to...." or  "My answer to prayer was that you need to.... "  We could call those "spiritually suggestive messages".  If you've ever been around such a thing, it can leave a pit in your stomach.   

One other of these manipulative tactics worth recognizing is when someone in a position of "spiritual authority" uses that authority as the backing for their position, and reason why someone should show compliance or obedience to them.  The scriptures say unrighteous tactics such as this causes the person to loose or forfeit priesthood power, but that may not stop some folks from continuing to act as though they still have it.  So we should be aware.       

At the end of the day, so many scriptures teach that the true practice, the true test and display of pure power is the long suffering, the meekness, the respect and honor for someone elses's choices.   The true kind is having pure knowledge, knowledge which can aid and shed light and increase the mind's understanding.  I've seen people use these, and it works.  Not all the time, on everyone, under all circumstances.  In fact using God's tools gets persecution a lot of the time.  But the tool is correct, and you can sense it. 

The more lack a person feels internally, the more fuel there often is to engage in the wrong tools and engage in manipulation.  But if we can reconnect with our creator, and obtain a promise from Him, then the lack can be filled by Christ and His atonement.  Then the tools scriptures teach may make a whole lot of sense, and become natural to use as an expression of the grace, mercy and forgiveness God granted you.

I remember as a missionary there were many subtle small tactics that were used frequently, many of them I look back at and feel bad about.  They were not intended to cause harm, and would probably be considered "normal", "understandable", and their usage was actually so common that we sometimes were actually taught or told to use them with investigators.  I'm not proud of it now. I see the error of it.  Semi manipulative tactics never worked anyway.  Lack of understanding, or fear for me is what fueled the using of incorrect Gospel methods.  The more I attempted to feel close to God's spirit, the less those tools seemed to surface.  Somehow God manages to work in spite of us at times.    

1 John 4:18 : There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. 

Fear hath torment.  I think fear is the energy behind manipulation.  I considered how destructive the little spiritual manipulations are in the long run and decided it important enough to write about.   May we not be manipulated, or manipulate but instead show forth pure knowledge, patience and charity.  Everyone prefers those things anyway.  

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