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5 Warning Signs of Manipulative People (and How to Deal with Them)

5 Warning Signs of Manipulative People (and How to Deal with Them)

As Christians, we can have a hard time setting boundaries. We want to believe the best from our brothers and sisters in Christ and may not know what to do when we encounter a manipulative person, especially if that person claims to be a believer. Often manipulative people can use gaslighting techniques, so we think we’ve become the problem rather than them. In this article, we’ll explore many of the signs that we may have run into a manipulative person, and how to deal with them in a biblical way.

Examples of Manipulative People in the Bible

Although those in Ancient times may not have had terms for gaslighting or projecting, they did understand the concept of deceit and false friends. We know plenty of people throughout Scripture who would use sugar-coated words and fake actions to get what they wanted. Let’s explore a few of those now.

For instance, let’s take a look at the story of Daniel in the lions’ den in Daniel 6. When Daniel had earned a high place of power, due to his hard work, he earned a lot of political enemies. They attempted to get King Darius to enact a law that could kill this prophet.

Daniel 6:6-9: So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! 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 human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” So King Darius put the decree in writing.”

Notice how they use very flattering language to puff up the pride of the king and cloud his senses. Let’s take a look at another example found in Esther 3. We all know the story of Haman and how he tricks the Persian king into making a decree that could kill the Israelite people (noticing a pattern?). Let’s analyze the verses in which Haman does so.

Esther 3:8-9: “Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury.”

Haman lies and stretches the truth—all because Mordecai would not bow to Haman—to get the king on his side.

5 Warning Signs of Manipulative People

So how do we distinguish a manipulative person now? After all, our close friends aren’t getting kings to make a law to destroy us. So how do we spot a manipulative person? And how do we deal with them in a biblical way?

They Play the Victim

Everyone faces trials. And we should not discount when someone goes through something incredibly difficult. But a manipulative person will take this to the extreme. Everything will turn out to be a trial for them. In their eyes, they can do no wrong. If a person appears to have an unrepentant heart and places the blame on anything but themselves (circumstances, other people, etc.) then you may have run into a manipulative person. You handle this situation through prayer (asking God to open their eyes) and through telling them when they should take responsibility for their own actions. They may not react well to this, so make sure you season your words with salt and that you do everything with grace (Colossians 4:6).

They Withhold Information

You know if you’ve run into this person. When you ask them what’s the matter they say, “Nothing.” They almost want you to coax the information out of them. Manipulators have a tendency to like to control situations. They do so by seizing control of what information they will and won’t share. If you run into this kind of manipulator, it may be best to diffuse the situation. The more attention you give to the fact they’ve withheld information, the more they’ll use this to their advantage. Express to them how it hurts you that they won’t share but that you are also not going to beg for the information out of them.

They Turn it into a “You” Problem

Manipulators don’t like to be called out for their wrong actions. So they will use every trick in the book to try and turn the tables on you. They may use ad hominem arguments, “Well, you’re an obtuse person, so of course you wouldn’t understand the situation” or “Well, you did XYZ action a year ago, so I don’t see how you’re justified in bringing up this action to me.” They may say that you’re projecting your feelings about yourself onto them, or worst of all, that you made the whole thing up or exaggerated (gaslighting). They find ways to make you feel shame so the attention gets off of them.

When faced with this kind of person, only the grace of God can turn their hearts. A person who had gone too deep into this path lacks a great deal of conviction and will need a prompting of the Holy Spirit to turn them away from these manipulative tactics. When faced with such a person, express how much hurt you feel, how you do believe that you haven’t exaggerated about the situation, and how you’d love to seek reconciliation.

They Compliment Fish

We’ve all run into this kind of person. And, if we’re honest, we’ve been this kind of person before. “I’m so untalented.” “I’m worthless.” “I’ll never be good enough.” We or the manipulator may say this statement to get the opposite reaction. “Oh, don’t say that. You’re so talented and amazing.”

When someone does this, it may be helpful to say something along the lines of, “I’m sorry you feel that way. Obviously, that’s not true, but I hope you remember that you’re made in the image of God and are loved by him” (Genesis 1).

They Anger Easily

Do you know someone who has a short fuse? Maybe you walk on eggshells around them or filter your speech because they’ll take anything you say the wrong way. They’ll automatically assume that everything you say is a tirade against them, even if you aren’t talking about them at that moment. Christians may struggle to know what to express to this person. Again, it could take a heart change from the Holy Spirit for this person to realize what they’ve done. Like all our examples before, declare how you feel. Tell them you fear that if you say the wrong thing that they may blow up or cut off ties with you but do so with grace.

I’m sure that when we’ve read through these examples that we can think of someone in our lives who follow these patterns. But we must bear in mind that manipulators don’t often realize how their actions affect others. In fact, we may have many of these toxic traits as well. Ask God to open your eyes to how you may be employing these manipulative tactics, and seek out forgiveness for those you may have hurt as well.

Other Sources

6 Ways You're Being Manipulative without Even Realizing it

5 Manipulative Tactics Used by Narcissistic Abusers 

How to Protect Yourself from These 10 Toxic People

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Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, book editor for hire, and the author of almost 30 books. More than 1500 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids. Check out her editing profile at Reedsy.com to find out about hiring her for your next book project.