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By Pastor Delbert Young

3. Handling Controlling and Manipulative People

Handling Difficult People

We find controlling and manipulative people all through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Eve manipulated Adam. Sarah controlled Hagar and manipulated Abraham. Jacob manipulated Esau. Laban manipulated and controlled Jacob. Miriam and Aaron even tried to control and manipulate Moses. Eli's sons controlled and manipulated the people. Delilah manipulated Samson and on and on.

3. Handling Controlling Manipulative PeopleBy Pastor Delbert Young (sermon notes) (listen mp3)
Scriptures Judges 16:15-17; Matthew 16:22-23; Exodus 20:3-5; Galatians 1:10

Today we are going to talk about HANDLING CONTROLLING AND MANIPULATIVE PEOPLE. This has been the #1 downloaded, read, watched, and listened to sermon I've preached in my 30 plus years of ministry. I receive emails nearly weekly and phone calls (I respond to those I can) as people read, listen, and watch this sermon. There have literally been thousands of hits on this one sermon. Because of the interest, I am realizing how many people feel controlled and manipulated by others. I pray this helps you. I see the need to do a complete series on this specific topic.


We find controlling manipulating people all through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Eve manipulated Adam. Sarah controlled Hagar and manipulated Abraham. Jacob manipulated Esau. Laban manipulated and controlled Jacob. The sister and brother of Moses, Miriam and Aaron, attempted to control and manipulate their own brother. Eli's sons controlled and manipulated their own father and the people of God. Delilah manipulated Samson, her lover. That is a good one. We will stop and look at this one. You remember the story. Delilah had Sampson drunk and intended to manipulate Samson into telling Delilah his secret of strength. She planned to, then after drunk, relinquish Sampson to his enemies. Manipulation will always expose you to your enemies.

 (NLT) Judges 16:15-17  Then Delilah pouted, "How can you say you love me when you don't confide in me? You've made fun of me three times now, and you still haven't told me what makes you so strong!" So day after day she nagged him until he couldn't stand it any longer. Finally, Samson told her his secret…

Look at how the King James' version says it.

Judges 16:16  And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death.

How many men might, just might, understand a little of what Samson experienced? (I'm teasing ladies) Let's go on through the Bible with more controlling and manipulative situations. How about the New Testament? Did people attempt to control and manipulate Jesus? Do you remember when Peter tried to manipulate Jesus? That is where Jesus addressed Peter as Satan?

Here is a good one. Herod was having a huge birthday party and his stepdaughter danced for him. Herod, probably between the alcohol and lust, promised the girl he would give here anything. She talked Herod's proposition over with her mother and decided they wanted the head of John the Baptist on a platter. They got what they wanted. Controlling and manipulative people are dangerous. My point is all through the Bible we meet manipulative and controlling people just as all through life we encounter CONTROLLING AND MANIPULATIVE PEOPLE. We learn from our Genesis beginning to our Revelation ending, we constantly encounter controlling manipulative people.

Let's notice a few things from all those examples I mentioned. There truly are controlling and manipulating predators, but USUALLY, THE MANIPULATOR WAS/IS A VERY CLOSE ACQUAINTANCE. Sometimes it's a spouse – Adam/Eve. Sometimes it's a superior/boss – Sarah/Hagar. Sometimes it's a relative – Laban/Jacob, Miriam, Aaron/Moses. Sometimes it's a ministry – Eli's sons/people. Sometimes it's a lover – Delilah/Samson. People who try to manipulate us are usually close acquaintances.

Flip this. The people we manipulate and control, or attempt to, are usually close to us. Most often, the people who succeed in manipulating us are people we care about and maybe love and the people we manipulate are usually the people who care about or love us the most. So, when we are HANDLING CONTROLLING AND MANIPULATING PEOPLE, we are usually talking about handling people we likely care greatly about.



Let's talk about threats first. Controllers and manipulators love to use threats. There is a threatening feeling you should recognize when being manipulated. There is a feeling that if you do not do what the person wants, they will "punish" you. There is a fear of saying, "No" to them. At home, the threat might be, "If you do not do what I want you to do, I will not give you what you want." At work, it could be a promotion or termination threat. To a young girl in a relationship, the threat might come in the back seat of a car, "If you don't do this, I will break up with you." That person is manipulating you.  

The use of guilt works similarly. Delilah used guilt on Samson. "If you really loved me, you would tell me." Or, it could be something like, "After all I've done for you…" For example, many children whose parents have suffered divorce feel guilt from a manipulating parent(s). The child already feels they should have done something to keep the parents together. Both parents want the child's loyalty. Often a parent will make a child feel disloyal and guilty if they so much as visit the "X." The controlling parent will threaten not to do something for the child. Preachers are great with guilt manipulation. "If you really loved Jesus, you would pay tithes, or be at church every day, etc." Then, of course, there is the silent treatment. The controller/manipulator will not tell you what is wrong. They simply do not talk, you feel guilty, and wonder what you did wrong.  

How many of us have people in our lives who try, and probably succeed at controlling and manipulating us using threats and guilt? Now, how many of us use guilt and threats to control and manipulate?

(2) You must RECOGNIZE YOU ARE BEING CONTROLLED AND MANIPULATED. It sounds a little silly to say recognize you are being controlled and manipulated, but you would be surprised at how many people do not realize it. They have been controlled and manipulated for such a long time the "doormat" life is normal. They have settled into this lifestyle. You must recognize you are being controlled and manipulated. Once Jesus was explaining to the disciples how he would be arrested, beaten, and crucified. This brought out control and manipulation in Peter. Imagine the picture as you read.

Matthew 16:22-23  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Jesus TURNED and SAID to Peter, "GET BEHIND ME, SATAN! YOU ARE A STUMBLING BLOCK TO ME; YOU DO NOT HAVE IN MIND THE THINGS OF GOD, BUT THE THINGS OF MEN."

Jesus TURNED. He recognized Peter's attempt to manipulate. Notice how Peter took Jesus off away from people. Most manipulating people do their controlling and manipulating in private. They do not want others to know they are CONTROLLING AND MANIPULATING and it is easier to CONTROL AND MANIPULATE a person in private. Most controlling husbands and wives are much more controlling/manipulative at home than in public.

Some people would say, "Well, what is so bad about this? If I am accustomed to it, what is so bad?" The bad thing is this. Please hear this. Control and manipulation stops you from doing what God sent you to do and you are only doing what "Peter" wants you to do. Peter loved Jesus, no doubt, but what Peter was trying to manipulate Jesus into doing was not what God needed Jesus to do. Peter was not a bad person and neither are most controlling and manipulating people we have to HANDLE in life. They simply want us to do what they think we should do and not what God wants us to do. As was Peter, they are stumbling blocks.

(3) The third thing we learn in HANDLING CONTROLLING AND MANIPULATING PEOPLE is, after recognizing you are being controlled and manipulated, VERBALIZE IT AND PHYSICALLY EXPRESS IT. Say something like, "This is not going to work on me." You need to do it with a little attitude. The Bible says, "Jesus turned and said to Peter…" This is attitude. He called Peter Satan and told Peter to get out of his face! Get behind me Satan! Is it accurate to say controlling and manipulating is satanic? Jesus looked at Peter eye to eye and told Peter he was Satan.

I have faced CONTROLLING AND MANIPULATING PEOPLE my entire ministry. I now recognize them. People threaten me with all sorts of things from not giving money to leaving the church. They are not bad people, but instead of causing me to bow down to their control, an attitude rises inside of me and I basically say, "Get out of my face!" If you have been around me much, you know it does not matter how much money a person gives or what ministry they do, if you attempt to CONTROL and MANIPULATE me/Life Gate, it's over. I develop an attitude. I am better and more controlled now than I used to be about it, but it is in there.


Exodus 20:3-5  You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them…

When you are doing the will of someone else and not doing the will of God, it is idolatry. You are bowing down to their will instead of God's will. You cannot do God's will when you allow people to control and manipulate you. You are actually dysfunctional for God and for yourself. You are a puppet waiting for your master to pull your strings.

What happens when you refuse to allow people to control and manipulate you? CONTROLLING AND MANIPULATING PEOPLE do not like to be "handled." This is especially true when you have been their doormat for a long time. They squeeze harder when you reveal their satanic attempts. They are used to getting their way, so when you get an attitude, sparks fly. They pull out their tools – threats and guilt – and go to work on you. They yell, scream, curse, threaten, and put guilt on you. You are tempted to bow to the idol because this is what you have always done. If you say, "This is not going to work this time," be ready, because things will get worse before they get better, but they will get better.

(4) The fourth thing needed to HANDLE CONTROLLING AND MANIPULATING PEOPLE is REDEFINE THE RELATIONSHIP. Jesus told Peter he, Peter, was not going to be a "stumbling block" to Jesus. Concerning the things of God, Jesus said, "get behind me." Jesus said let me redefine our relationship. Do not interfere with my purpose. If you are not going to walk with me to accomplish this then get behind me. Oh, and by the way Peter, I am the leader, not you.


Galatians 1:10  Obviously, I'm not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to PLEASE GOD. If I were still trying to please people, I would not be CHRIST'S SERVANT.

Oh my! When I allow a controlling/manipulative person to handle me, I am not a servant of Christ. I honestly feel if I bow to controlling and manipulating people I am not a good pastor and teacher of God's Word. I admit, sometimes the sparks fly, but I refuse to bow. I love people to walk with me and me with them to accomplish what we both are to do, but I cannot allow them to be, or them to allow me to be, a "stumbling block." We must please God.

I want to talk to those of us who are CONTROLLING AND MANIPULATING PEOPLE. You know you are controlling and manipulative just as I know I used to be this way. It does not mean you are a bad person no more than it meant I was a bad person. Let me tell you from where control and manipulation comes. It comes from fear and insecurity. You are a control freak and you fear you will not get your way. You have absolute confidence in your ability to get things done and get what you want by control. Your confidence in your ability is good, but your lack of faith to trust God is not good. I had to learn this. I trained in corporate management where the strong and controlling survived. I tried to run a church the way I was trained, but found all I did was be a stumbling block to many. One day, I was in a situation I could not control. I had to sit back and have faith in God, not myself. Amazingly, it worked way better. If you were here in the "early years" of Life Gate, you know I am not the control freak I once was. I know I am the leader and accept the responsibility, but I do not freak when things do not go exactly the way I want. I simply know God is doing something good.

Let's bow our heads for prayer. I want first to ask you if you feel you are allowing someone to control and manipulate you. Be honest. The person might be sitting beside you. It's fearful for you to say no to them. You experience feelings of guilt around them. They may not have malicious intent, but you feel controlled and manipulated. You want to break free and not commit the sin of idolatry. Your first step is acknowledging it now. If you say, "Yes. I feel someone is trying to control me. I've allowed it and I want to break free," would you raise your hands right now and let me pray for you?

Secondly, you are a controller and a manipulator. (This is where I would need to raise my hand.) You know you are because you have great confidence in your ability. You become very upset when you do not get your way. You get angry. You yell, curse, pout, throw things, etc. You know what you can do. I do not need to tell you. You fear not being in control. Those of you who would say, "Yes Delbert, I can be a manipulator. I can be a control freak. I can control. I try to control situations." Would you raise your hand right now? Be honest with God. Break free of this. Control is controlling you more than you are controlling situations. Let me pray for you.

There are two more groups to which I need to speak. Some of you see God as a control freak and you have never received him as your savior. You think he wants to control you. No. He has a plan for your life so you can have abundance and he will never control you. He will guide you and love you, but never control you. If this is you, or if you have gotten away from the Lord or never received him, will you raise your hand and receive the Lord as savior right now?

Lastly, there are those who are control freaks, but you know you cannot control God. Therefore, you never let him be God in your life. You are correct. You cannot control God, but be happy, for a day will come, I promise you, when you cannot control and need a God who can control. I want to pray for you. Would you raise your hands and acknowledge that you struggle there. Let's all pray.

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