When I encourage someone, I highlight something good within them that they may have overlooked. But when I manipulate them, I try to sneak in my idea, my agenda (“I know what’s best”) with or without their invitation, with or without an accurate reading of their needs, with or without testing whether my shoe fits their foot.
“You’re such a gooooood artist!” my friend Joyce gushes to her daughter, Annie. She beams at me, raises her eyebrows, “Isn’t she wonderful?” she nods her head expectantly, silently insisting I agree. I do smile, but Annie is fifteen, smart, has dashed off the sketch in a few seconds, and we (Annie and I) both know it’s sloppy.
Annie looks at me, I look at her, we look at the sketch, and back at each other. She rolls her eyes and shakes her head so that her mom can’t see. “Mom means well, but . . .“ her eyes clearly say.
Joyce is still waiting for my agreement. The air turns awkward, but Annie bails me out, and guides the conversation in a new direction.
The Tale Wagged
Very cool story. In this little scenario, a mom has unknowingly driven a wedge between herself and her daughter. She positions herself in her daughter’s eyes, either as ignorant or as a liar, and I squirm, grasping for a way to correct her faux pas. This happens hundreds of times a day, and everybody thinks it’s normal.
Of course, it isn’t my place to set Joyce straight; she doesn’t seem ready to hear. She’s so sure she’s doing the mother’s job, certain that it’s love.
I chew it over until I stumble on this blog, and bring it to you instead. Annie sees it clear, and since she’s okay with the way things are, I have a sane moment, and keep my mouth shut.
So what is the line between encouraging and manipulating? Maybe it’s whether I respect you in our interaction, that is, whether I’m willing to let you evolve in ways I never anticipated, willing to release you into God’s care and direction, having simply offered you a gift with no strings attached.
But if I detect in myself a desire to make you go my way, I’m manipulating, almost guaranteed.
Isn’t this graphic great? It’s not even a real carrot!