By Janel Breitenstein
When my husband and I first married, I was mortified when he called me—get this—manipulative.
Of course, I denied it. Manipulation was for people trying to control someone.
I was passive, for crying out loud! I wasn’t trying to lead anyone anywhere. I couldn’t even tell you where I wanted them to go.
(That was part of the problem.)
I was so dedicated to being the perfect wife and Christian, I couldn’t admit to myself when I wanted something. Yet the wanting was still in my subconscious.
But I couldn’t acknowledge that. Wanting something might rock the boat. I might want wrongly. I might be selfish rather than sacrificial.
Let me put it this way. If I’d put my desires in a basket, I’d be holding the basket behind my own back, asking meekly, What desires? I failed to present what I longed for to God with open hands, allowing Him to change me.
So my wants ended up subtly managing me from behind instead of me managing them.
These back-door desires ended up manipulating others. I fished for compliments, gave my husband the silent treatment because I couldn’t speak anger. I’d find myself surprisingly ticked when I “so freely gave” to him and it didn’t turn out like I planned. I’d appear to wholeheartedly please others, rather than actually loving them as a sincere choice (Romans 12:9).
Beware, people-pleasers of the world. You “naturally submissive” wives. You who think you have no desires.
I’m fascinated by Jesus’ example in the Garden of Gethsemane: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus articulates His desire and then surrenders it with profound trust. He didn’t empty Himself of desire. He practiced simultaneous truth-telling and yielding.
Who knew that cutting off marital manipulation at the knees started with honesty about what I want?
The good stuff: Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. (Psalm 51:6)
Action points: If you’re a people pleaser, take time to examine your deeper motives. Does your care for others “earn” you the love and appreciation you crave? Does your passivity keep the (pretend) peace? Like Jesus in the garden, acknowledge your desires to God with a heart toward surrender.
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