The Prodigal Altar Boy

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Language of Manipulation

Something I read in Jeff Elkin's blog sparked this series.  The premise of his writing exercise was things today he would tell the Jeff Elkins from five years ago.   It's a great series, and I've enjoyed reading his blog.  

Even though I pushed to get out another post before Father's Day, the series isn't quite over.

In this post I want to talk about some specifics we should be telling our young men.  The last post was about generalities, but as we come down the home stretch for  this series, my goal is to talk specifics, again using Jeff's post as a touchstone.  

If you haven't clicked on the link the to the post I was talking about, here it is:

"If I were to meet that guy (Jeff's talking about himself from five years ago) for coffee this morning I would say…

You have an unhealthy admiration for and trust in men around your father’s age.  They aren’t Dad.  Guard your heart."

My response to that statement:

"Think about all the young men right here in Baltimore who didn’t have a good relationship with their father, or the father wasn’t present, and what their vulnerabilities must be. And I’m not setting this up to jump on the evils of fathers not being in the home, I’m more concerned about the men in power who recognize that wound in our young men and exploit it. At its most egregious, we can point out sexual exploitation, but more pervasive and insidious are church leaders leveraging that wound to use young men to forward their own agendas in church situations."

From there I started the whole "I Got A Daddy" series.

While it's nice to throw out some generalities we hope young men will follow, or at least listen to, when I think about people I've met who not only recognize the wound of a person whose father was not in the home, but used that discernment to manipulate people to forward their agendas, the more practical tool for young men is a tool of discernment that puts them on guard to manipulation.  While we focus on the church, we all know manipulation is everywhere.  In the church, in the school, in the workplace, in the social environment.  

When we talk to young men, we should equip them with knowledge on how to recognize they're being manipulated.  I'll start the ball rolling by throwing out some telltale phrases that always causes my "Spidey Sense" to tingle.  Whenever I hear any of this, I instantly get on alert.  

If you find yourself using this language, I won't say it automatically means you're trying to manipulate someone, but I will say when you're using this language, it may be time to check yourself and ask, "What are my motives?"

The Language of Manipulation


- "you should be ashamed"

Mock disbelief
- "I can't believe___________"

Questioning/Confusing Identity
- "who do you think you are?"
- "this isn't like you"

Projected peer pressure
- "do you see anyone else doing that?"
- "everyone else wants you to ________"

- "you're upset over that?"
- "don't be so petty"

- "it's like you've forgotten how to________"
- "so you think you're more important than___________"

Personification of the absent
- "what do you think ______ would think about this?"


- "I don't even want to talk to you right now"
- "I want you to go back _______ and think about what you did.  When you're ready
to________, come on back."

- "it's nothing personal"
- "sometimes you have to take one for the team"
- "this isn't about you"
- "there is no 'I' in the word 'team'."

Thanks for checking out the blog.  I'll be wrapping this up shortly, and I invite any and all comments.  Thanks to those who've commented so far, and I look forward to seeing more.