Love and Manipulation

We hear the word “love” so often that sometimes we get it confused. God describes His love in 1 Corinthians 13. If we put our name in the place of the word love, for example, Betsy is patient, Betsy is kind, do we see that kind of love evident in our relationships? Sometimes we try to get our way, or our needs met in our relationships. This is not love, it is manipulation or game playing, and it is destructive to both ourselves and others.

What is the difference between manipulation and love? To manipulate someone is to use that person to get your own needs met, or to treat them as an object. When we love according to God’s word we think highly of others and know that we too are loved by God. If we trust God to meet our love needs we don’t have to manipulate others to supply those needs.

A common form of manipulation has been termed “game playing”. Games are ways of attempting to get our needs met at the expense of another person. There are three different roles in the Psychological Game Triangle: the Rescuer, the Victim and the Persecutor. We have all been tempted to interact with others by playing one or more of these roles. Even Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness in these same ways (see Matthew 4:1-10).

My hope is that as we go over this theory you can recognize the roles you are most tempted to play and can let God help you resist these unloving ways of relating to others.

The first role that we are often tempted to play is the Rescuer. The Rescuer gets pleasure and importance needs met by being overly helpful to other people. If you say yes to anything people ask without thinking and praying first, you may get caught up in this role. The Rescuer has a compulsive need to save others to bolster their own self worth. Jesus was tempted to “rescue” himself by turning the stone to bread.

The second role we can be tempted to play is the Victim. The Victim avoids responsibility for themselves by acting helpless and hopeless thereby inviting others to take care of them. If you find yourself frequently saying or thinking “this is too hard,” or “I can’t …” and looking to other people to save you instead of God, you may be being tempted to play the Victim. The Victim has the compulsive need to depend on others to take charge or rescue them. Jesus was tempted to be a victim and throw himself off the temple and have the angels rescue him.

The third role that we can be tempted to play is the Persecutor. The Persecutor feels important by having power over others. When you find yourself thinking, “I can do that better” or “I’m right, you’re wrong” you may be being tempted to play the role of the Persecutor. The temptation is to derive self-worth through power and control of others even if it involves compromises of justice. Jesus was tempted to compromise and bow down to Satan to gain power.

There are a number of powerful strategies for staying out of games.

  1. First pray and ask God to give you awareness of when you are playing games and the roles you are tempted to take on.
  2. Speak the truth in love and use direct language to invite change: asking “What specifically do you most want from me right now?”or “What am I needing right now and how does God want me to get this need met?”
  3. Identify what you currently want in the relationship by asking, “If they loved me they would….” Then bring that need to God and ask Him how He wants you to fill it.
  4. Finally, the most important way to resist temptation is to do as Jesus did and speak and know what God’s Word says. Here are some scriptures on right relating.

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others as better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 NKJV

Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:10 NIV

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the One Who will

keep you on track. Proverbs 3:5-6 The Message

My prayer for us all is that as we grow in knowing and experiencing God’s perfect love for us, we can trust God to meet our needs, and we can operate out of that secure place and reflect His love to others. Then the world will be able to look at us and say that they know we are Christians by our love.

God bless you my brothers and sisters in Christ,


Betsy O’Callaghan