I don’t typically “bare my soul” but I thought I’d share a tough lesson I learned in hopes it brings freedom to someone else as it did for me. Having dedicated my life to service and helping others over the last twenty years in various capacities as a nonprofit co-founder, pastor’s wife, writer, etc., I’d fallen into the trap of wanting to help others in such a way that I was almost willing to do anything to see their lives changed or improved. This included making sure others had what they needed even if I didn’t have what I needed and encouraging others along their journeys even at the risk of not pursuing my own.
For years, I bought the lie that in order to be the “perfect” pastor’s wife or a “true” servant it meant I needed to please others at all costs. It was a slippery slope the enemy set up perfectly because the lie says ‘if you don’t meet any and everybody’s needs, you’re not doing what you’re called to do’. Looking back, there were many situations or opportunities in which I should have said “no” or people I should have allowed to find their own way after several months of helping them to no avail.
Recently, a friend of mine was going through a difficult situation and received some bad news. She proceeded to tell me the situation but said it wasn’t urgent that I respond. Of course, since this was my friend I was definitely going to send an encouraging word as soon as I had a break in my day to think, pray and collect my thoughts on how I could best “minister” to her. Several minutes passed and I wasn’t able to respond as quickly as my friend wanted me to and when I did, it wasn’t fast enough. She was upset because I didn’t drop what I was doing at that very moment and put my life on hold to rescue and comfort her. Over the years, I had set myself up to drop everything and save someone.
But this particular day, the light came on and I realized what had been happening over the years. I had been on the receiving end of manipulation. I had been played like a puppet, allowing others to control my life. They may not have even intentionally meant to manipulate me but most people don’t really set out with the intention to manipulate. However, they quickly learn how to say the right thing or give the silent treatment to turn the tables on you as if it’s your fault they’re in their predicament. It’s selfish on their part to expect you to drop everything and run to their rescue. They become offended when you don’t react or do things the way they want them done.
I became free that day when I realized I would no longer be played and manipulated. I wouldn’t allow anyone to have that much control over my life. True friends aren’t selfish and don’t place unreasonable demands and expectations on you.
My advice to you is if you are a manipulator and seek to control others with what you say or have unrealistic expectations, please stop. Ask the Lord to show you how to stop being a manipulator and focus on others and not yourself. If you are being manipulated, decide you’ve had enough and don’t allow anyone to exercise that control over you. It’s a difficult and can be a painful process. I probably lost a “friend” because I chose not to jump at their demands. And because of that, I experienced a greater peace and freedom. I conquered that silent giant never to return again.
~Coletta Jones Patterson