The concept of friendship begins in the essence of the Godhead. As the Trinity relates to one another in love, delight, and service, so should our friendships be. God relates to man as a friend with Adam, Eve, Abraham, and Moses, and later when Jesus comes to earth as God in human form, he is a friend with his disciples, Lazarus, Martha, Mary, and even sinners.
As children of God our friendships are never just between two people. As Jesus’ friends were drawn into relationship with his Father, because he and his Father were one, so our friends are drawn into relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, because we are united with God.
The triad nature of our friendships (my friend, me, God) makes them fundamentally different than the world’s model of friendship. We are one with God and therefore he is in the midst of each of our friendships. This safeguards against dysfunction and selfishness and empowers us to extend love to our friends as an outflow of God’s love for us. We are able to absorb rejection and are immune from manipulation because our security is based on a relationship with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and not in human relationships. In fact, we are simply adding our new friend to our already established relationship with God.
Your relationship with your disciple is a friendship as demonstrated by Jesus and Paul with their disciples.
Building a friendship with your disciple is an important means of him becoming a follower of Jesus.
Your friendship with your disciple not only draws him into relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but also with other disciples.
The courage needed to make disciples comes from God’s relationship with you. His love will both empower and protect as you develop the friendship with your disciple.
How your disciple remembers his past is more important than the actual events. He has a personal agenda, which not only determines how he will remember the past but also what he will remember from his past. He chooses which events to recall and which ones to forget, no matter how significant or insignificant the event may have been, in order to accomplish his aim. Israel conveniently forgets the parting of the Red Sea, one of the greatest miracles in the Bible, in their argument that God had neglected them; in contrast your disciple will harbor the hurt from a minuscule event such as of an unreturned text message from three years ago if it will serve his purpose.
The Godly characters from the Old Testament give us examples on how to remember the past. Although the facts of Joseph’s enslavement could not be change, he did have a choice in how he would remember his brothers selling him into slavery. The lens of doubt would have led him to despair, hatred, manipulation, and revenge whereas the lens of trust in the character of God led Joseph to peace, love, leadership, and forgiveness. Joseph was convinced that there was a larger purpose behind the betrayal by his brothers and his imprisonment. He did not seek to revenge the past nor change the events from his past but rather he placed them in the larger sequence of the purposeful sovereign acts of a loving God.
Once I had a disciple who sought to hold God hostage in order to manipulate him to change what had happened in his past. Though God redeems the past he does not change it and so he placed his relationship with God in an irreconcilable position. He had created a scenario where the only way his relationship with God could be restored is if God would change the events of his past. This position forced him to daily relive the pain of his past through the gate of his memory, which only increased his bitterness.
A couple of ideas in closing:
We give an entire evening to each person being discipled to share his story with the whole group. Here different spiritual gifts can detect how the disciple remembers his past as well as discern what God’s purpose may be for his life.
A priority for our ministry is to take the opportunity to meet the parents, siblings, and friends of each disciple to gain a complete perspective of his past.
Help your disciple to look at his memories from the perspective of the sovereign purpose of God for his life.
Hopelessness in your disciple’s outlook is another indication of a manipulator’s influence over his life. Hopelessness is a deep gloom arising from a belief of the uselessness of further effort. It is a favorite tool of a manipulator to control another. He creates the illusion that there is no way out.
It is important to remember that manipulators cast a long shadow so you may need to explore relationships from your disciple’s past that still have a control over his thinking and behavior. It could be a parent, grandparent, past girlfriend, past teacher, etc. John was a college student I discipled whose entire life revolved around a statement made to him by his second grade teacher who said, “You can’t seem to do anything right.”
In Daniel chapter 6 we have an example in how to deal with a manipulator. Daniel’s manipulators had arranged circumstances so that without a miracle his situation was humanly hopeless. Even King Darius, who was the most powerful man in the world, could not help Daniel. Daniel dealt with his manipulators by focusing on the trustworthiness of the Lord.
The natural response for your disciple will be to focus his attention on his manipulator (who always wants to be the center of attention) and his circumstances. As long as the disciple’s attention is on the manipulator or his circumstances the manipulator is in control. Part of the secret of his power over a person is his ability to keep the attention off of the Lord and onto himself. In contrast, a true friend will always seek to point the attention to the Lord and not onto himself.
Our God is the God of hope. Paul writes:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
The Lord always brings hope to a situation no matter how desperate or powerful the manipulator.
A manipulator carefully studies his prey. He continually probes and prods your disciple looking for a weak spot. The manipulator then uses this weak spot as a point of leverage to control your disciple. It does not matter how many strengths your disciple has, it takes only one point of vulnerability for a manipulator to take him down.
A common vulnerability is shame. Shame is a painful emotion caused by the loss of: innocence, reputation, or self-respect. This shame may be private, of which only your disciple is aware, or his shame may be public of which everyone is aware, either way shame makes cowards of us all. The manipulator discovers this shame and then uses it to control his victim. I have even seen manipulators draw a person into a sinful act into order to establish shame as a control point in his victim.
The good news of Jesus deals directly with shame. The cross removes all shame, whether private or public. No matter the decree of shame in the life of your disciple the grace of the gospel goes even deeper. Shame has a powerful attraction that draws your disciple to fixate on his own shame. As a disciple maker you want to point the inward eyes of your disciple upon Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 states:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Shame if one of the most powerful dark forces in your disciple’s life. Expect aversion and push back.
Shame casts a long shadow. Shame may come from your disciple’s childhood or as recent as yesterday.
Unless your disciple confronts his shame he will be vulnerable to any manipulator.
A manipulator disrupts and neutralizes your disciple’s relationship with his family and friends. She subtlety drives a velvet wedge between your disciple and all his relationships. Relationships that once were strong are now strained. In the beginning the wedge is imperceptible so that it seems as if the manipulator wants a relationship with your disciple’s family and friends but then over time there grows a distance between him and all his relationships. A good manipulator deceives your disciple so well that when his relationships do become detached he believes that others are the problem, not him.
In Daniel chapter 6 we see how effectively a manipulator can neutralizes a relationship. King Darius loved Daniel and planned to promote him to rule over the whole kingdom. Yet manipulators who surrounded the king were so crafty that they were able to neutralize his relationship with Daniel even though Darius was the most powerful man in the world. (Never underestimate the shrewdness of a manipulator.)
The account states:
Then they (the manipulators) said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O King, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made ever effort until sundown to save him. (Daniel 6 13-14)
In the end Darius was powerless to help Daniel.
Random closing thoughts:
A parent who is a manipulator seeks to control his child and all the child’s relationships under the guise of “good parenting.”
A mate who is a manipulator creates a distance between his wife’s relationship with her family and friends. He may not want children for fear that he will lose control of his wife or have to share her with someone else.
A child who is a manipulator will drive a wedge between his mom and dad and will seek to control his parent’s relationships with his siblings.
A friend who is a manipulator disrupts a person’s relationship with old friends and family.
A new girlfriend should not disrupt a guy’s relationship with his parents or friends but actually she should be a catalyst to draw his family and friends closer together.
A non-manipulator will fit into existing family and friend relationships.
The manipulator is cunning. He weaves his web with such skill and patience that his victim does not realize he is caught in the trap until it is too late. As a disciple maker you will need to help your disciple break free from the web of the manipulator and teach him how to recognize and evade the snares of manipulation. Few people can untangle themselves from the snarled relationship with a manipulator without outside help.
What is manipulation?
Manipulation is when someone imposes a false idea or belief on another that causes ignorance, bewilderment, or helplessness so that he can control that individual for his own advantage.
Recorded in Daniel chapter six is the story of the vice presidents of Persia manipulating King Darius in order to remove Daniel from the government. Here we find several insights into the ways of the manipulator, but first I want to look at two premises of manipulation.
Manipulation is based on lies.
A manipulator will have your disciple believe a lie to be true and the truth to be a lie. These lies are difficult to discern because they are based on half-truths and slight exaggerations. He knows how to cloak the lie behind a germ of truth found within the lie. The manipulator uses these half-truths and embellishments to throw his victim off balance just enough to maneuver him to his advantage.
The vice presidents told King Darius “The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers, and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lion’s den.”(Daniel 6:7) It was a lie. Daniel was one of the top three officials over the kingdom and he would have never agreed to such a decree.
Manipulation is selfish.
At his core the manipulator is self-consumed and cares for no one but himself. His victims are expendable. The royal administers intended to not only remove Daniel from office but they wanted him dead, even though it would be a detriment to the king and the kingdom.
Your disciple may be caught in the trap of a manipulator. This manipulator could be his mother, father, brother, sister, mate, child, boyfriend, girlfriend, friend, pastor, teacher, or boss . . . a manipulator could be anyone. Teaching your disciple how to recognize and deal with a manipulator is an important part of the disciple making process.
What is a manipulator?
A manipulator uses unfair or subtle means to control circumstances or people to his own advantage.
The manipulator disguises his actions so shrewdly that few recognize his true intent. He is so masterful at deflecting the blame off of himself and onto others that if questions do arise both the victim and the outside observer believes that the victim is the real problem.
Manipulation is the antithesis of love. One of the tools I use to help my disciple discern manipulation is 1 Corinthians 13. Here the apostle Paul gives us a clear and understandable picture of love, which we can use as measurement against the behavior of the manipulator.
Beginning the process:
Discuss with your disciple each of his relationships, both past and present, with the eye for the manipulator.
Manipulators strike fear in the heart of your disciple. Expect reluctance, procrastination, and excuses when he begins to deal with the manipulator(s) in his life.
The process is long. De-tangling any manipulative relationship is complicated and will take time, but dealing with a family member who is a manipulator is even more knotty and can take even more time.