Saturday, February 23, 2013

If You Really Loved Me....

I hate ultimatums. I hate being manipulated in that way (or, in any way). And, I'm usually going to do the exact opposite of whatever ultimatum you throw my way.

"If you really love me, you'll sleep with me".... yeah, dream on buddy.

"If you really love me, you'll let me buy this useless item I don't need".... yup, go get a job and spend your own money on it.

"If you really love me, you won't go out with any friends".... buh bye.

"If you really love me, you won't cheat on me"... hmm, I'll be home in the morning...

"If you really love me..."

Well, you get the point.  This ultimatum happens in many different kinds of relationships... with many different kinds of loves. Children try to manipulate their parents with this. Parents manipulate their kids. Spouses use this. Friends use it. Other relationships may substitute "love" for something else... a boss to an employee may say "if you truly respect me, you'll stay late tonight", or an employee to a boss "If you truly respect my work, you'd give me that raise."

Don't misunderstand - these expectations themselves aren't exactly wrong. Spouses, for example, shouldn't cheat on each other. There's an implied loyalty there - if you love each other and are married, there shouldn't be extramarital affairs. But it shouldn't have to be spoken. Once it is... once one spouse utters the phrase, "If you really love me..." he/she is manipulating the other person. In the case of the employee to a boss... true, if the employee is doing a good job, he/she may be deserving of a raise. But then this should be simply spoken to the boss... "I do my work, I go beyond. I would like a raise..." Don't try to use guilt or other forms of control to manipulate that other person.

Manipulation of this form has been around forever. In Judges 16:15, Delilah speaks to Samson...

"Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.”"
 There are other examples throughout the Bible as well. I read these tonight as I was preparing to write this sermon, but the truth is - right now, for the purposes of this post, these examples aren't important. Because, no matter how many times it has happened in the Bible, this doesn't make it right. It doesn't justify the action.

I have been accused of being manipulative. Actually, I've been accused of that a few times I believe... probably many more than just a few times... but never before have the words stung as much as this latest time. They still sting. Not because the accusation is wrong, or because my feelings got hurt. They sting because the accusation is correct, and because I know I set out to hurt someone else.

I never said the words "If you really love me..." I didn't need to. They were implied. Although I never said the following words, this is basically what could be read between the lines... If you really care about me, you'll talk to me. You'll tell me what I want to hear. You'll be here for me. You won't leave me. I didn't realize I was doing this. Or, maybe I did realize it but just didn't want to truly see it for what it was.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not on some pity trip here. I'm simply stating that I, like many others, am capable of manipulating people to get what I want. Perhaps I do this more often than others. Perhaps not. I honestly cannot say. I have been manipulated, and I have manipulated.  I do believe many of us at times find ourselves being the manipulator... and many of us at times find ourselves being manipulated.

Sometimes - actually, I think quite often - the manipulator doesn't even realize he/she is using manipulation. For some people, it's such an imbedded trait, we do it without thinking. For some people, it's caused by a lack of trust in mankind. For some, it's a way of testing someone's loyalty and caring. For some, they just don't know how to ask for/state what they want/need. For some, they're just cruel and/or selfish. 

But, no matter the reason for why someone is being manipulative, we need to recognize this action and bring it out into the open. And, we need to realize and accept that this is not love - real love has no room or need for manipulation.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

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