The clouds reflect in the water, tight with swirling tension. They are brooding and full. My mood matches the melancholy of the weather as I walk along the water’s edge, deep in thought.
We all know that leadership is about influence but we also know that there is a fine line between influence and manipulation. I believe Jesus modeled one and abhorred the other. Most of us know that we don’t always have the answers and we are open to being influenced but we feel used and uncomfortable when we suspect we are being manipulated.
Manipulation is the tactic of the enemy of our soul. It pushes instead of guides, it is self-serving rather than loving and it sets one person up to lord it over the other.
I brooded over these thoughts as I watched the clouds billowing in the dark water. Fresh into this young year, I felt manipulated by someone. My contemplative nature took over and it gnawed at me, chomping away at my peace and joy. My initial response was to dig my heels in and become stubborn but this posture of stubbornness soon lost its sparkle. So there I was, late afternoon on a day threatening rain, watching the clouds gather. What to do? I know that the Christ-like response is to bless those who persecute me, to bless and not curse. Yet, I felt cornered, out of sorts and just plain miserable about it all.
The enemy of my soul was busily playing games with me but the lover of my soul was right there at the water’s edge, walking with me.
That night, while struggling to turn away from my stubbornness (my own form of manipulation) and toward Jesus, I came across this in a reading:
“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” – Mother Teresa.
And right there the stubbornness softly fell like the rain outside. You see, you and I are not responsible for the actions and motivations of others. We are accountable only for our own. I don’t have to like the manipulation. I don’t even have to give in to it. I do have to forgive and be kind and honest and do good. It was never really about that other person and me. It was always about God and me.
Therein is my daily quest.
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” – James 3:17