9 of Satan's Manipulation Tactics Women Need to Know
- Patricia Engler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2019 11 Jul
When she first met him online, he couldn’t have been more charming. Every letter he sent her—every compliment he offered to quench her thirsting heart—left her a little more intoxicated. Soon, she’d fallen hard.
That’s when the requests for money started coming. They were small at first—a couple hundred here, a few thousand there. Before she realized that the man she loved had no intentions of keeping his promises to her, she’d already transferred him $250,000.
But she’s not the first to fall for a con artist. According to the FBI, romance scam rates are skyrocketing, preying on thousands of victims worldwide.
And right now, there’s a con artist at large who deals with eternal stakes. As the Apostle Peter warned,
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Whether through conning you out of your peace of mind, your riches in Christ, or your immortal soul, this scammer wants nothing more than for you to be his next victim. How can you foil his schemes? By identifying his lies, being aware of his manipulation tactics, and fighting back with truth.
Identifying the Lies:
Deception is the core of every con job. And according to Jesus, no one is more devious a deceiver than the devil (John 8:44). His lies are vampiric shapeshifters, able to adopt any form ranging from You’re less than who God says you are to You can be like God. But no matter what form the lies take, the same weapon works against them every time: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).
Jesus wielded this weapon Himself when dealing with the devil face to evil face (Matthew 4:1-11). For every temptation Satan hurled, Jesus could respond with a truth from Scripture. His success in defeating temptation illustrates not only the power of God’s word, but also the importance of hiding His word in our hearts now (Psalm 199:11) so we’re already armed against any attack we might encounter later. Plus, knowing God’s word helps us recognize each lie in the first place, much like being familiar with real cash helps us recognize play money when we see it.
But here’s the catch: successful conning involves more than just telling lies. Professional scammers also wield countless manipulation tactics, brainwashing techniques, and psychological weapons to trick their victims into accepting those lies. If Satan is the ultimate con artist, we can expect him to employ these same devices.
Here are just nine of Satan’s manipulation tactics:
1. Assaulting our Identity
Studies on concentration camp prisoners who had been brainwashed during the Korean war uncovered a chilling reality: brainwashing begins by assaulting a victim’s identity. Message after message, lie after lie, the victim’s sense of self becomes eroded with the accuser’s whispers:
Who do you think you are? You’re a horrible excuse for a soldier. You were never fighting for a worthy cause. Everything you’ve believed is a lie.
Controlling partners in abusive relationships leverage this same technique, repeatedly telling the victim she’s not lovable, not pretty enough, too stupid to handle life on her own…the list continues. Should it be any surprise that Satan does the same to us? How many of his lies, from Your worth is in your physical appeal to No one will love you with your kind of past, attack our value and identity in Christ? Fight back by listening to what your Heavenly Father says about you instead.
After assaulting their victims’ identity, brainwashers’ next step is to smother those victims in guilt, shame and humiliation. Isn’t that how Satan works, too? Scripture exposes Satan as “the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night” (Revelation 10:22). But Hebrews 10:19-22 reveals the secret to fighting this accuser back:
“Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
Truths like these are harder to remember when we’re separated from godly family, friends and mentors who can remind us of reality, encourage us, and pray with us. That’s why Satan will do everything in his power to disconnect us from Christlike influences (especially Christ Himself) and to ally us with ungodly ones. He’ll sow seeds of division, nurture roots of bitterness, cultivate resentment, and reap unforgiveness to disengage us from the body of Christ. He loves nothing more than to drive wedges into churches, marriages, ministries, mentorships, families and godly friendships.
Human scammers, brainwashers and even cult leaders do this too, isolating their victims away from those who could support them. Fight back by surrounding yourself with the body of Christ, making “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” (Ephesians 4:3)--especially when you don’t want to, don’t feel like it, or are ‘too busy.’
Whether isolating us from others, destroying godly relationships, or leading us into ever more destructive sins, Satan probably won’t accomplish his goals overnight. Rather, he’s likely going to try what manipulators call the “foot-in-the-door” technique. The idea is to start small, asking minor requests of the victim, and then progressively build up to something more significant.
Like the romance scammer who gradually swindled $250,000 from one woman, Satan often asks us for a series of little compromises rather than one colossal leap into sin. Fight back by setting clear boundaries for yourself based on God’s word, before the temptations even start coming.
Beware, now: Satan will try to make you second-guess those boundaries. One way he’ll do this is by making you second-guess God’s word. This is exactly how he conned Eve in Eden, asking, “Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1)
Planting doubt in a victim’s mind this way, leading her to question her perceptions of reality—what she heard, what she believes, and whether she’s even sane—is the psychological manipulation tactic of gaslighting. Satan tries gaslighting whenever he whispers questions like, Did God really say He forgave you for your past? Does He really expect you to watch your words? Did He really say you must not move in with your boyfriend, even though you’re both committed to a loving relationship? Fight back by walking close to God, consistently feeding your spirit on His word, and staying sensitive to His voice.
6. Striking When We Feel Weak
Resisting spiritual attack—or any manipulation—is harder when we’re personally compromised, and Satan knows it. Human manipulators know it too, which is why brainwashing regimes often involve bright lights, repetitive music, physical violence, verbal abuse, deprivation of food, medication or sleep—anything to lower victims’ physical, mental or emotional defenses.
Satan is not above knocking us when we’re down. In fact, he even waited until 40 days of fasting had weakened Jesus’s defenses before tempting Him. To fight back, we need to be extra alert to Satan’s attacks when we’re tired, hungry or sick; when we’ve just received bad news, fought a battle, lost a job or experienced a major transition; or when we’ve otherwise taken a physical, mental or emotional blow.
These are the times when we must stay especially aware of our dependence on God. We also need to guard against any lies—for instance, "You’re not valuable unless you’re exhaustingly overscheduled"—which could lead us into a weakened state in the first place.
7. Striking When We Feel Strong
Sometimes, however, Satan plays the opposite game—attacking us when we feel strong. Both pagan and righteous kings have learned this the hard way, as you can read about in Daniel 4 and 2 Chronicles 26. Even Solomon, who excelled in God-given wisdom above every other ruler and wrote entire Bible chapters on the perils of seductresses, ultimately let his weakness for women entice him into idolatry (1 Kings 11:1-4).
Often, human scammers target the seemingly strong too—the wealthy, the educated, and those who, like Solomon, might never suspect themselves to be vulnerable. Fight back by recognizing that everything you have comes from God, that you need Him in your strongest hour at least as much as in your weakest hour, and that you’re never too faithful to fail.
8. Sowing Discontentment
The seemingly strong are also prime targets for another manipulation tactic—one which drives consumer advertising. Advertisements sow discontentment in our minds by suggesting that no matter how blessed we already are, there is something missing from our lives, a gap which only the advertised product will fill. Satan loves nabbing us with this ploy too, telling us that we need wealth, status, looks, relationships, extrabiblical religious teaching, or anything else besides Jesus to be secure, saved and satisfied.
Beyond making us miserable, this consumeristic discontentment also advances Satan’s ambitions for us to keep our eyes on ourselves rather than on God or others. Fight back with thankfulness, and by remembering that our greatest purpose is not to please ourselves, but to love our neighbours and our Lord, who alone gives life to the full (John 10:10).
9. Exploiting Human Emotion
Another ploy of Satan, the thrust of countless manipulative persuasion methods including most propaganda, is to take advantage of our deepest human instincts. Satan exploits our drive for social conformity, offering us sin as a means of gaining others’ acceptance. He hijacks our Divinely-designed wiring for connection, luring us into relationships that sidestep God’s guidelines. And above all, he feeds off our fears. Fight back by obediently, ongoingly committing yourself, emotions and all, into the hands of your loving Father.
Countering the Con:
Praiseworthily, our Father has already equipped us with the truth, strength and spiritual weaponry we need to counter the ultimate con artist, that suave serpent of old (1 Corinthians 10:13). Like other manipulators, he leverages techniques including identity assaults, guilt, isolation, foot-in-the door, gaslighting, striking when we’re at our weakest or strongest, sowing discontentment, and exploiting our emotions. Playing with the highest stakes imaginable, this romance scammer wields all his charms to con us out of the peace, hope and life that we have in our true love, Christ. But by staying ever alert to Satan’s tactics, we’ll be well prepared to identify his scams—and to fight back with Christ’s truth.
Patricia Engler is an adventurous writer who explores how Christians can navigate secular cultures and classrooms, with Christ. After 12 years of homeschool and a B.Sc. degree, she backpacked 360°around the world documenting how Christian students keep their faith at university. You can follow her stories and get connected at www.patriciaengler.com.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash-Larm Rmah