When we are small children, we learn the art of manipulation quickly. When we cry we get picked up. When we don’t want to go to bed, it’s because we are too thirsty and need another glass of water.
As adults, most of us learn that transparency and compromise lead to better, more intimate relationships. However, some adults never learn the lesson, particularly those with power, money and prestige. They can manipulate others because of their importance while never letting down their guard or revealing their vulnerabilities. They see the entire world as threatening, a viewpoint rooted in insecurity.
I must constantly ask if I am the manipulator in certain difficult situations. Am I the one who is twisting the information to get the reaction I want? Am I trying to embarrass someone in a public situation to prove how superior I am? Am I the one who controls information and only reveals what is necessary to support my decision without presenting a situation fairly?
I am better at recognizing manipulation in myself than in others. I like to trust people until proven otherwise and a manipulator will take advantage of that trust. How can I tell if I am being manipulated, particularly in casual situations at work or in the community?
In the birth story of Jesus over 2000 years ago, we read of the grand manipulator, King Herod. In Matthew, Chapter 2:2-8 we hear:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
Here is the great King, threatened by a little baby. The Magi would have been subservient to the King and should have obeyed orders. What was it that Herod said that they knew that there was danger for Jesus and that it was a lie that Herod wanted to worship the newborn babe? Why were the Magi so perceptive? The reality of the lie was told to them in a dream.
We hear further in Matthew 2:9-12:
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
I wonder what happened to the Magi who disobeyed the Great King’s order? Were they persecuted and killed for their disobedience or did they quietly slip back to their own countries, secure in the knowledge that they had just witnessed an event that would transform the rest of history?
Are there Herods in your family, friends or acquaintances who say one thing, but mean another?
Beware of modern day Herods.
Blessings, my friend,