Intimidation, Manipulation, or Influence

People have always tried to control other people.  Various means are utilized to achieve this objective, such as…

Intimidation. Intimidation is most often physical, and trades upon coercion through violence, or at least the implied threat of such. As a biblical example, note John 11:9-11.  After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, “a great multitude” heard about it and came “not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead,” v.9.  Now note carefully the next two verses, “But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away, and were believing in Jesus,” vv.10-11.  This proposed assassination would serve two purposes: 1) remove a cause of belief from the Jews- a resurrected Lazarus; and, 2) send a clear message to the people that the authorities would not tolerate this “movement” or participation in it.  Clearly, this is Intimidation.

Manipulation.  Manipulation is typically psychological, and often preys upon the objects own ignorance, prejudices, desires, fears, and foibles.  Demetrius, a silversmith, sought to turn people away from Paul, the Truth he spoke, and the rapid expansion of Christianity in Ephesus in Acts 19:23-34.  He used a two-prong psychological attack: 1) draw upon the Ephesians’ long and emotional attachment to the idol god Diana/Artemis, and suggest that “converting” to Christianity would be a disloyal abandonment of their ‘religious’ heritage, vv.26,27b; and, 2) suggest that conversion to Christianity would hurt them financially, since the silversmiths who made the idols and trinkets depicting her, as well as  and who sold them, were dependent “upon this business,” cf. vv.24-25, 27a.  Demetrius sought to manipulate others’ actions through guilt and fear.  This is plain old psychological Manipulation.

Influence.  Influence is different than either intimidation or manipulation in that rather than seeking to externally control others, it hopes to change others from the inside out by showing them a better way to think, feel, and act.  Instead of merely intimidating or manipulating another’s behavior or actions, influence seeks to change their hearts and minds.  Its tools are rooted in truth and understanding rather than violence and/or psychology. 

Influence is also differently motivated than intimidation and manipulation, as they seek control of others for the benefit of the intimidator or manipulator.  But influence seeks to change others for the personal benefit of the influenced.  For an example of properly utilized influence, consider Acts 17.  Much as was the case in Ephesus, Athens was “a city full of idols,” v.16.  So how and why did Paul seek to “convert” them to Christ and Christianity?  Note v.17 where the text says he was “reasoning” with the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles.  The original word is dialegomai, and more literally means to “revolve in the mind.”  Paul utilize the truth of the gospel to get these Athenians thinking; to get them to “revolve” in their minds what they currently thought about their idol gods in comparison to the new and strange deity of Jesus and His resurrection, vv.18-21.  He then further reasoned that: God made the world and all things in it, v.24; that we need Him rather than the other way around, vv.25-29; and therefore, that such things required us to repent and serve Him instead idols of our own making so that we might be saved eternally, vv.30-31.  He used truth to reason hoping to influence them to change (repent) for their own benefit (salvation).  That’s influence how it’s properly done!

When anyone, whether a “bully” in life or even a “preacher” in a pulpit, seeks to intimidate or manipulate you into doing what benefits them, know that they are simply seeking to control you.  But when someone seeks to influence you with truth and reason hoping thereby that you’ll change yourself for your own good or benefit, they’re trying to help you! 

Now, here’s the point of all of this:  Some consider “organized religion” to be a cult that uses intimidation and manipulation of the masses for their own benefit.  It’s not a charge without evidence or merit in many cases.  But (and thankfully there is one!), when a congregation or one of its members seeks only to reason with you via truth, and encourage you to change yourself for your own benefit, they’re simply trying influence you for truth and righteousness.  And that’s another matter entirely!  Don’t shut yourself off from eternal salvation and those who truly want to help you achieve it because others have tried to intimidate and/or manipulate you.  Not everyone is like that.  There are also those who simply want to “further God’s provision which is by faith,” and the “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith,” 1Tim.1:4b,5.  

If you’re looking for spiritual guidance rather physical intimidation or psychological manipulation, let me know and I’ll be most happy to either do what I can, or point you to someone in your area that truly has your best interest at heart, and will go about helping you in the right way. 


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