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Archive for the ‘Manipulation’ Category

30 Reasons Why People Lie

SOURCE:  Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC/PsychCentral

Rebecca is a middle school English teacher. Previously she worked in a local public school but was frustrated by the number of daily lies from her students. Thinking the private school environment would be better, she switched. But what she found was even more creative lies that her students would tell her.

One day she decided to count the number of deceptions she heard. Much to her surprise, it wasn’t just the students who were deceitful but the administration, other teachers and parents as well. In all, she counted over 50 lies in one day. This lead to generating a list of the different types of deceit. Here is her list of reasons why people lie.

  1. Defensive: The most common reason for lying is to self-protect. There might be a real consequence or a perceived one that a person is trying to defend themselves against.
  2. Vindictive: Some people lie intentionally to cause harm to others because they feel harmed by that person. It is a way of getting back at another person.
  3. Disappointment: In order to avoid disappointing another person or even themselves, a lie might be told. The uncomfortable feeling of disappointment justifies the deception.
  4. Manipulate: An abusive person constantly lies in order to continue their manipulation. If the truth came out, the abused might leave.
  5. Intimidated: Sometimes a lie is done because the person feels intimidated by others. Again, this feeling of inferiority is so uncomfortable that they lie to cover it up.
  6. Attention-seeking: Unfortunately, there are people who lie just to get the attention of other people. The irony is that most of them don’t know what to do with the attention when they do get it.
  7. Curiosity: This is a very childlike behavior that some adults don’t grow out of. Instead, they lie just to see what will happen regardless of the harm it might cause others.
  8. Superior: For those with a larger than life ego and in order to maintain their superiority, they lie to make themselves look better than others.
  9. Avoid: Some lies are done to get out of trouble or avoid any consequences. This is especially true with children.
  10. Cover: Some people wear a mask and pretend to be something they are not. To maintain their appearances, they lie to cover up any attempt at revealing the real person.
  11. Control: Sadly, sometimes it all comes down to control. In an effort to control another person’s behavior, a lie is told.
  12. Procrastinate: Passive-aggressively avoiding responsibilities is procrastination. This lie is more subtle in that the person knows they should be doing something but is intentionally putting it off.
  13. Bored: Some people like drama in their lives. So they lie to stir it up and watch the reactions of other people.
  14. Protect: There are some lies that are done to protect others. In some cases, a lie is told to take on responsibility for things they are not responsible for in an effort to help someone else.
  15. Habit: After a period of time and done constantly enough, bad habits can form. This is true for some lies that are said over and over.
  16. Fun: Some people lie as their form of private entertainment. For them, lying is fun because they like to watch how others respond.
  17. Desire: A person who wants a lie to be the truth has a deep desire to believe their misperception.
  18. Harm: People who want to harm others undecided, lie about who they are and what they are doing. This is a common tactic during the abduction of others.
  19. Sympathy: Similar to attention-seeking, a person is trying to get empathy from others by lying about a past or current event.
  20. Lazy: On occasion, a lie boils down to a person being lazy and not wanting to do the work, so they lie about it.
  21. Indifference: If a point or issue doesn’t matter to a person, they might lie about it and not see anything wrong with their deception.
  22. Perception: Some people believe their own lie. Their perception of reality is not accurate so in their eyes, it’s not a lie.
  23. Elevate: A person might want to elevate themselves to another person’s level high morality, strong work ethic, or perfectionistic standards, so they lie to lift themselves up.
  24. Impress: As a way of trying to impress others and cause a better impression, a person might lie about who they are, what they have done, or where they are going.
  25. Covet: When a person wants what other have, they covet the item or person and lie about their jealousy.
  26. Minimize: As a way of reducing the damage, harm, or consequences that might otherwise occur, a person minimizes the truth in their lie.
  27. Maximize: On the opposite end, a person might exaggerate their lie and make things worse than what it really is.
  28. Suppress: In an effort to cover up a problem, a person might suppress the truth. This lie is intentional.
  29. Deny: Not every person who doesn’t want something to exist by denying the reality, is lying intentionally. Sometimes this is an unintentional.
  30. Hide: A person might hide themselves, others, or things and lie about doing so as a way to avoid accountability. This is commonly done in conjunction with addictive behavior.

For Rebecca, understanding why a person lies helped her to identify the behavior and more accurately address the underlying issues. She took her frustration of experiencing the lies and turned it into a greater awareness of knowledge and discernment.


Unlearning the Lessons of a Toxic Childhood

SOURCE:   / PsychCentral

I didn’t realize until relatively recently how much my view of things is shaped by childhood. I took the position, until I went into therapy, that at age 42, all of my problems had to do with the present. But they don’t.

Even my therapist said that my mother did the best she could, and I believed that and, frankly, thought I should just make do with what she did give me and muddle through. But that’s not the answer, I now realize. Reading this book has made me realize how much I am getting in my own way.

Everyone in my life keeps telling me to move on, that the past is the past, and I need to just get on with living in the moment. They just don’t get it. The little girl I was needs to be dealt with.

Our culture is characterized by impatience with slow recovery, has a penchant for quick fixes, and a focus on forward motion, and future possibility; these cultural biases make it hard for someone who’s trying to make sense of and deal with childhood experiences as these messages, received from readers of my book Daughter Detox: Healing from an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life, attest. Get Over It! Is considered by many to be positive cheerleading, even though it belies any understanding of what psychological damage looks like.




14 Thought-Control Tactics Narcissists Use to Confuse and Dominate You

SOURCE:    / PsychCentral

Narcissists’ lives are about winning, generally at others’ expense.

Many narcissists pursue a win-at-all-costs, anything-goes approach.

The casualties:  Honesty, empathy and reciprocity.

Narcissists distort the truth through disinformation, oversimplifying, ridiculing and sowing doubt. Narcissists can be incredibly skilled at using classic elements of thought-control and brainwashing.

To get free of narcissistic thought control it is essential to spot the distortions narcissists deliberately and instinctively practice. Applying critical thinking skills can inoculate you against their campaigns.

Here are 14 thought-control tactics narcissists frequently use:

1) Emotional Appeals:  Attempting to play on emotions such as fear, guilt and loyalty rather than using logic and reasoning.

Narcissists use emotional appeals to disguise false or outrageous claims. Since many narcissists tend to be Drama Kings or Queens, using over-the-top emotionality to control others comes naturally for them.

Example:  “How dare you question me! After all I’ve done for you.”

2) Bandwagon:  An attempt to pressure another to go along because “everybody is doing it.”

Narcissists know the power of numbers. They slavishly follow their “likes” on social media and other measures of attention. Having lots of followers reassures them of their worth. They use the power of group-think and peer pressure to play on others’ fears of missing out, being ostracized or being in the wrong.

Example:  “All your friends agree with me.”

3) Black-and-white / Either-or:  Pretending there are only two choices when there are several.

Narcissists view the world in either-or terms. Nuance is lost on them. They derive a feeling of power from this divide-and-conquer approach.

Example:  “You’re either with me or against me.”


4) Burden of Proof:  Asserting that the speaker does not need to prove his points but, rather, that the burden is on the listener to disprove them.

Such an entitled stance comes easily for narcissists. In addition, narcissists love to take credit but have little interest in taking responsibility. They hate to be wrong, so putting the burden on others is a stonewalling strategy that makes it especially difficult to disprove them.

Example:  “I know I am right. What I say stands until you can prove otherwise.”

5) False Flattery:  Buttering others up to make them more receptive to your arguments.

Narcissists rarely meet a compliment they don’t like. They think others are as susceptible to flattery as they are. They ply listeners with pseudo-compliments, hoping to get things in return.

Example:  “I couldn’t possibly be manipulating you, you’re way too smart for that.”

6) Incredulity:  Acting as though what someone said is unbelievable.

Narcissists often use this tactic when they don’t understand what another person is saying. Rather than admit they are confused, they pretend that what the other person is saying is beyond belief. This is an attempt to dismiss valid concerns.

Example:  “You seriously think there are other husbands who are better than me? You really think other wives get anywhere near what I have given you? You are not living in the real world.

7) Labeling:  Applying a negative phrase or attributing negative characteristics to a person or position.

Narcissists love labels. Having a single word to invalidate or humiliate another feels like an ultimate power for narcissists.

Example:  “You’re too needy. You’re a loser.”

8) False Compromise:  Offering to meet half way on matters in which there is clearly a fair and unfair choice.

If a narcissist has a choice to treat another person fairly or unfairly, a “compromise” that still treats the other unfairly is no compromise – it’s still wrong.

Example:  “Okay, you win, I’ll pay you back $50 of the $100 you gave me and we’ll call it even. Hey, it’s better than nothing.”


9) Empty Promises:  Promising to give others what they want without any plan or intention of fulfilling the promise.

Example:  “You’ll get your turn. I promise.”

10) Quoting out of Context:  Repeating only part of what another person said or using another’s words completely out of context.

Narcissists do this to discredit others and put them on the defensive.

Example:  “You always said people have to take responsibility for themselves so I didn’t think you needed my help when you had to go to the ER.”

11) Ridicule:  Mocking or humiliating another person or their requests or feelings.

Narcissists devalue others through dismissive remarks, sarcasm, or hostile humor instead of taking the other person seriously.

Example:  “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. You’re just embarrassing yourself.”

12) Slippery Slope:  An appeal to fear which takes a small problem and predicts that it will lead to an escalating series of worst-case scenarios.

The goal is to use an extreme hypothetical to distract from a reasonable complaint or argument.

Example:  “If I do this for you, you will think you can get whatever you want from me. I’ll become your slave and have no life.”

13) Dehumanizing:  Classifying others as inferior, dangerous or evil to justify oppressing or eliminating them.

This ends-justifies-the-means tactic is second nature for narcissists, who see most other people as inferior.

Example:  “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

14) Slogans:  A simplistic phrase that is a catch-all designed to shut down dissent.

Narcissists often have pat phrases they employ when they feel threatened.

Example:  “I’m your last best hope. I’m all you’ve got.”

Knowledge is power. Recognizing narcissists’ tactics is the first step in setting healthy boundaries against their manipulation. Read additional thought-control techniques used by narcissists in my blog 12 Classic Propaganda Techniques Narcissists Use to Manipulate You

Emotional Abuse: How Gaslighting Affects Your Mental Health

SOURCE:  Julia Naftulin / / Motto

‘If a relationship leaves you constantly second-guessing your own instincts and feelings, you may be a victim’

Once in a while, it’s normal to have a fleeting moment where you question your own sanity, like when you’re severely sleep deprived or stressed out. But if a relationship leaves you constantly second-guessing your own instincts and feelings, you may be a victim of a sophisticated form of emotional abuse: gaslighting. Like other types of abuse, gaslighting can happen in all sorts of relationships, including personal, romantic, and professional.

Ben Michaelis, PhD, a New York City-based clinical psychologist, has worked with victims of gaslighting. For one of his patients—we’ll call her Marie—the gaslighting began when her husband shouted another woman’s name during sex. When she tried to discuss the incident with him, he flatly denied what he’d said and told Marie she was hearing things. Marie figured she must have had too much to drink. But then the lying continued: Marie’s husband would change his alibi constantly, and when Marie questioned him, he’d say she was acting delusional. It wasn’t until almost a year later when Marie realized her husband had been hiding an affair the whole time.

“[Gaslighting] is like someone saying the sky is green over and over again, and at first you’ll be like ‘no, no,’” says Gail Saltz, MD a psychiatrist and host of the podcast The Power of Different. “Then over time the person starts to manipulate you into saying ‘I guess I can’t really see what color the sky is.’ It’s just this sense of unreality.”

Acknowledging you’re a victim of gaslighting like Marie did can be tricky at first, says Michaelis, who is the author of Your Next Big Thing: 10 Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy. “Initially, if someone is insisting on a reality that is different from your own, you’ll think, Why was I off that day? Was I tired?” As the gaslighting continues, victims begin to question themselves and their judgment more and more. Michaelis says this can go on for months or even years before they realize they’re being gaslighted. “People who experience gaslighting may show obsessive-compulsive symptoms because they want to constantly check themselves and recheck themselves,” says Dr. Michaelis. The confidence-depleting nature of gaslighting could contribute to increased anxiety in many or all aspects of a victim’s life, not only in the relationship. Many gaslighting victims berate themselves or feel the need to apologize all the time, explains Dr. Saltz.

Gaslighting can manifest in a workplace environment as well. “Your boss may use gaslighting to hide a mistake or cover up information they didn’t mean to share,” says Michaelis. “It can also be a passive-aggressive gesture used among peers who are competing.”

If you realize you’re being gaslighted, the first thing you need to recognize is that a gaslighter may not be conscious of the effects of their actions, especially if they have issues with being wrong or out of control. In this case, confronting the gaslighter could work. Michaelis suggests conducting all conversations you have with the gaslighter in a recorded format, like through email or text. Then, when gaslighting occurs, tell the person what they originally said. “If they continue do deny what they said, you can supply the recorded evidence so they have a concrete understanding of what happened,” says Michaelis. This method works best when confronting a friend or partner.

In professional relationships, Michaelis suggests reaching out to a third party, like human resources, which can make the confrontation more objective. You can take this route in your personal relationships as well by enlisting a friend or family member to help. “If you find it happening to you, be thoughtful of the person’s motivations,” Michaelis says. “They don’t usually do it out of pure ill-will. It usually correlates with trying to cover something up, so first try to repair the relationship if it’s worth it.”

If confrontation fails and ending the relationship is an option, Dr. Saltz recommends doing so. Michaelis agrees: “All relationships are changeable. Maybe not immediately, but they are changeable or severable if need be,” he says.

If you have to stick it out with a gaslighter, though, try to boost your confidence with the support of good friends. “If you’re having a hard time changing the situation, they can bolster your reality otherwise,” says Michaelis. In a work environment, you should also be wary of what information you share with a gaslighter. Michaelis suggests withholding personal life details with a gaslighting co-worker or boss to protect yourself from emotional abuse in the office.

No matter which method you choose, it’s important to take control of reality again, says Dr. Saltz. This involves setting limits that stop gaslighting attempts in their tracks. For example, if your boss calls you overly sensitive when you ask, “Why won’t you let me work on big company projects?” demand true feedback rather than accepting blame on your character. “It’s holding the line for what you’re wanting to achieve,” Dr. Saltz says, “and not buying into accusations intended to knock down self-confidence.”

Helping victims of domestic abuse: 4 pitfalls to avoid

SOURCE: Dr. Diane Langberg/

To understand domestic abuse properly, let’s start with the word abuse, which comes from the Latin word abutor, meaning “to use wrongly.” It also means “to insult, violate, tarnish, or walk on.” So domestic abuse, then, occurs when one partner in the home uses the other partner for wrong purposes. Anytime a human being uses another as a punching bag, a depository for rage, or something to be controlled for that person’s own satisfaction, abuse has occurred. Anytime words are used to demean or insult or degrade, abuse has occurred. And anytime there is intimidation and threats and humiliation, abuse has occurred.

Domestic abuse is something you as a pastor may encounter, or it may be a “silent sin” within the church that goes unseen. Either way, it is a reality, and one for which we must be prepared. But how do we do this? How can we prepare to minister to victims of domestic abuse? Below, I share four common pitfalls of pastors and leaders, then conclude by explaining how the church is called to act in these situations.

Pitfall #1: Not realizing the frequency of abuse

We need to realize just how frequently abuse happens. We are surprised by it in the church, but statistically 20 percent of women in this country will experience at least one episode of violence with a husband or partner.

That’s almost one-third of women, and that includes women in the church.

20% of women in this country will experience at least one episode of violence with a husband or partner.

Further, more than three women are murdered each day by their husbands or boyfriends.

Or here’s another statistic: pregnant women are more likely to be victims of homicide than to die of any other cause.

That is astounding. And again, those numbers don’t change when you survey women within the church.

Pitfall #2: Not calling abuse what it really is

One of the most important things we can do is call abuse what it really is, because people have a tendency to rename abuse into other things. For example, an abuser might say, “I was upset from a bad day at work … which is why I turned the table over, broke the dishes, and hit my spouse,” or “It was a mistake.” Abusers use words to minimize what has been done and make it seem normal. And unfortunately, those trying to help do the same thing, saying things like “Can’t you forgive so-and-so for that mistake?”

But domestic abuse is not a mistake. It is abuse; it meets the definition of abuse. So we have to call it what it is, because we are called to the truth. We have to call things by their rightful name. By changing the wording, we diminish the gravity of the sin.

Pitfall #3: Encouraging submission despite abuse

Sadly, many women have been beaten, kicked, and bruised, and then return home in the name of submission. Worse, many of these women have been sent home in the name of submission. But submission does not entitle a husband to abuse his wife.

Unfortunately, this instruction is one of the biggest mistakes pastors and church leaders have been known to make. So many women are sent home by church leaders to be screamed at, humiliated, and beaten, sometimes to death. Their husbands can break their bones, smash in their faces, terrify their children, break things, forbid them access to the money, and all sorts of things, but they are told to submit without a word and be glad for the privilege of suffering for Jesus.

Pitfall #4: Protecting the institution of marriage instead of the victim

Domestic violence is a felony in all fifty states. So, to send people home and not deal with it, not bring it into the light, and not provide safety is to be complicit in lawbreaking, which is also illegal. In sending women home, the church ends up partnering in a crime. But it is not the church’s call to cover up violence. Paul says in Ephesians 5 to expose the deeds of darkness so the light can shine in. That’s the only way there is hope for truth and repentance and healing.

I also find one of the things that confuses Christians is we think that if we take the wife and children out of their home to bring them to a safe place, for example, we are not protecting “the family.” We say that we have to protect the family because it is a God-ordained institution, which it is. But what we forget is that God does not protect institutions, even ones He has ordained, when they are full of sin.

It’s easy for us to forget that truth, and particularly when we know those who are abusive, we tend to want to believe them. We don’t understand how incredibly deceitful and manipulative they are, deceiving first themselves and then others. We think we can tell when people are lying—even though the Scriptures say we are all so deceitful, we can’t even know the depths of it. But we are deceived into thinking that they wouldn’t do something so severe. And while we think we are doing the right thing by believing or trusting them, we are actually completely opposed to Scripture.

The calling of the church

The church is called to be the church. What that means is that we are called to protect the vulnerable and the oppressed; that’s all through the Scriptures. And we are called to hold others accountable, despite the tough road to repentance, even if they are our best friends.

So when a pastor hears from a woman that she is being abused in her home, the first step is to find out what that means. It could be verbal abuse, or it could be that her life is in danger, and she and her children need to be taken out of the home and put in a safe place.

Unfortunately, though, not all victims of domestic abuse feel that they are able to leave, a source of frustration for many caregivers. The vast majority of women in these situations love their husbands and want their marriage to work, and many times, the husband assures her that he won’t do it again. She wants her husband, so she keeps going back. So while we want to ensure her safety by not sending her back to an abusive home, we also want to give her the dignity of being able to make her own decision, which he does not give her.

We must also have the humility to involve other authorities like the police, if need be. They are God-given authorities for matters such as these, but it can be a bit of a revolving door. If she wants to report the abuse to the police, go with her to the police. If she needs to file a protection order, go with her to the courthouse. We must walk with her as she makes her decision.

As pastors and leaders, we must not minimize abuse, nor should we teach women that submission means being a punching bag, even a verbal one. We also cannot minimize the gravity of the issue or be naïve to its prevalence in the church. Instead, the church is called to love and protect those who are vulnerable, to walk with them and care for them well.

Marriage: When Trying Harder Becomes Destructive

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick, LCSW (AACC)

Christian women in troubled marriages who have gone to their pastor or a Christian counselor seeking help are often encouraged to work on themselves and try harder to be more submissive, more caring, more attentive to their husband’s needs, more respectful, and less demanding.

In many marriages this might be wise counsel.  When one person starts to try harder it often begets a reciprocal response in the other person. He begins to try harder too.  Amends are made and the relationship is repaired.  This is a good start and when the marriage stalls, someone needs to get some movement forward. However, in certain kinds of marriages it is not a good idea and can actually make the marriage worse.

Briefly, let me explain why, in some marriages, trying harder to accommodate one’s husband, do what he wants and needs and to be more compliant and submissive to what he says becomes destructive not only to her but also to her husband as well as their marriage.

It Feeds the Lie

Some men do not want to be married to a real woman who has her own feelings, her own needs, and her own brokenness. Instead they want a fantasy wife.

A blow-up-doll wife that continues to bounces back with a smile even when he knocks her down. He wants a wife who always agrees, always acts nice, always smiles and thinks he’s wonderful all of the time no matter what he does or how he behaves.  He wants a wife who wants to have sex with him whenever he’s in the mood, regardless of how he treats her.  He wants a wife that will never upset him, never disagree or never challenge him, and never disappoint him. He wants a wife that grants him amnesty whenever he messes up and never mentions it again.

The more a woman colludes with her husband’s idea that he’s entitled to a fantasy wife, the more firmly entrenched this lie becomes.  She will never measure up to his fantasy wife because she too is a sinner. A real wife will disappoint him some times. She won’t always be able to meet every want or need. A real wife also reflects to him her pain when he hurts her and God’s wisdom when she sees him making a foolish decision.

In a healthy marriage where both individuals are allowed to be themselves, couples must learn to handle disagreements, differences and conflicts through compromise, mutual caring, and mutual submission.  Sacrifice and service are mutually practiced in order to love one another in godly ways. When we fail (as we will) we see the pain in our partner’s face and with God’s help, make corrections so that damages are repaired and love grows.  In an unhealthy marriage when real wife and fantasy wife collide, it’s never pretty.

Therefore, how do we counsel wives in destructive marriages? We must help her gain a vision for God’s role as her husband’s helpmate. According to the Bible a helpmate is not an enabler, but rather a strong warrior. It means she will need to learn to fight (in God’s way) to bring about her husband’s good.  She will need to think and pray about how God can use her to meet her husband’s deepest needs, not just his felt needs.

I often give women in these situations this challenge. Ask God what are your husband’s biggest or deepest needs right now.  Is it to continue to prop him up, indulge his self-centeredness and self-deception or does he need something far more radical and risky from you?

I encourage her to prayerfully and humbly ask God to show her how best to biblically love her husband. It may be to stop indulging his selfish behavior and speak the truth in love. It may be to reflect back to him the impact his behaviors have on her and their children.  It may be to set boundaries against his misuse of power under the guise of headship so that he doesn’t remain self-deceived. It may mean exposing some of his sins to the leadership of the church so that they too can act as a reflective mirror so that he has the best opportunity to look at himself from God’s perspective and repent.

That kind of love is indeed risky, redemptive, and sacrificial as she does not know what his response will be to this kind of love.  But if he wakes up and repents of his demand for a fantasy wife that would be a positive change for her, for him, and for their marriage.


Leslie Vernick, M.S.W., is a popular speaker, author, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and relationship coach with a counseling practice in Pennsylvania. She is a best-selling author of seven books, including The Emotionally Destructive Relationship and her most recent, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. For more information, visit her Web site at

True Guilt and False Guilt — What’s the Difference?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

What’s The Difference Between True Guilt and False Guilt?

Question: How do I discern true guilt from false guilt? I want to please God and serve others for Him, but I don’t want to give in to manipulators, either in my family or my friends.

Answer:   If a manipulator can make you feel guilty for saying no, he or she is much more likely to be successful in getting you to back down. Their strategy is to make you feel as if you are doing something wrong or you are being selfish when you won’t do what he or she wants. A manipulator’s thinking is simple. He believes, “If you love me, then you’ll always do what I want.” Therefore, if you say no, then you must not love me or you are selfish.

A two-year-old uses this tactic on his mother to get her to buy them something while standing in line at the grocery store. Most mothers are wise enough not to be manipulated by these tantrums. We know that a firm “no” to our child is the most loving thing we can do. The same is true for other relationships. Saying no to manipulation is actually taking a stand against someone else’s sin. This is a good thing.

However, when the manipulator is not our child, but our mother or husband or adult child, it’s much harder not to get sucked into his or her drama. It doesn’t help that they often accuse us of being unloving and selfish because we are not giving into their demands, and consequently, we’re tempted to feel guilty.

So what’s the way out? Let’s first look at Jesus. He never sinned, never was selfish yet he did say, “no.” He didn’t always do what people expected or wanted him to do. Jesus took time out for friendship, rest, relaxation, and prayer (Mark 6:30-31,46). When you feel guilty because you’ve said no to someone, take a moment to read Mark 1:29-39.

In this passage, we learn that Jesus went to Simon Peter’s house for a relaxing dinner, but people brought the sick to Jesus and the whole town gathered at the door. Can you imagine the pressure Jesus felt with everyone pressing in on him to do something? That evening he healed many people, but he eventually said no more and went to sleep. Those who were left behind unhealed must have felt disappointed.

While it was still dark, Jesus woke up and went off by himself to pray. Peter eventually came looking for him. “Jesus, where have you been? Everyone back home is waiting for you.” Jesus answered Peter saying, “I’m not going back to your house. Let’s go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

Jesus knew he could not do everything everyone wanted him to do and still do what God wanted him to do. During that quiet time of prayer, Jesus asked the Father to help him discern between the good things and the best things. Just like we do, Jesus had to make some hard choices – to please God or to please others. He chose pleasing God. This priority regularly cost him the disapproval and disappointment of others, including his disciples, religious leaders, and his own family (see Matthew 26:8; Mark 3:21-22).

To break free from the guilt trip, we must all learn to distinguish between true guilt and false guilt. True guilt is a God-given warning signal that we are violating God’s moral law. False guilt arises when we or another human being judges our actions, ideas, or feelings as wrong, even if there is nothing sinful about them.

So next time you’re struggling with guilt, do these three things.

  1. Go to God’s word for clarity. Am I breaking God’s moral law or is it some other human being’s law such as “Thou shall never say no to me”?
  2. Invite the Holy Spirit to search you and see if there is any wicked way in you (Psalm 139:23-24). You may find you have more guilt over feeling angry and resentful that you said “yes” when you wanted to say “no” than you would have if you had just said “no” in the first place.
  3. Ask yourself this question. If I say “yes,” am I saying, “yes” because I want to or because God asks me to? Or do I feel I pressured to say “yes” because I’m afraid to say “no”?

Remember, you are a finite, limited human being. When you say “yes” to something, you also always say “no” to something else.

When you repeatedly say “yes” to a manipulator, keep in mind that you are also saying “no” to your own needs, to perhaps your children’s needs, or to the greater good of what God wants for you. When you accept that you can’t always make everyone happy with you, (Jesus couldn’t either) then the false guilt will dissipate.

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