We need to pay attention to the relationship between people’s actions and words (including our own). Sometimes there are direct ties. We hear someone speak of compassion. We experience their generous sacrifice—with no strings attached. We see their humility leading up to, during, and after an interaction. There is consistency.
Many times, there are not. What we hear someone say is not how we see them respond over time. Of course, there will be some discrepancies. Each of us is in process. But sometimes the discrepancies are because of manipulation. A person might be manipulating others, and he/she might be manipulating him/herself as well. Manipulation is not always as intentional and devious as we assume. Sometimes it comes from the manipulator’s lack of understanding, shame, or learned behavior. Sometimes it grew out of survival or success tactic, whether it was in a family, a workplace, or an educational setting. It worked with some people, so it quickly generalizes into other situations where it not only does not work but is horribly damaging.
Actions and words might mismatch because of naivety and lack of reflection and insight. Some people have not developed sound introspective practices. Some people deceive themselves very well.
Why bring this up? Because not all manipulation needs to result in anguish, retaliation, jealousy, or some other consuming response that digs in and becomes our own baggage. We need to be aware of manipulation—with wisdom, not with grandiose assumptions that grow into conspiracy theories that consume us—with a discernment that invites us to respond appropriately. We can acknowledge the truth without taking on the baggage of the manipulator. In fact, manipulators often excel at packing heavy bags and finding a way to convince you they have your luggage tags on them to carry through life. Discernment allows us to identify the right luggage to pack and carry.
We don’t have to engage. We don’t have to feed the manipulation. We don’t need to fix everybody and every situation. Yet we need to deal with the hurt and the trauma. We need to walk with others as each of us heals and grows, even if others choose to stay in the anger, retaliation, and jealousy.
We need to seek wisdom in all things, including the congruency and authenticity of our own words and actions.