It’s important to distinguish between healthy persuasion and psychological manipulation. Healthy persuasion seeks to influence someone to do or believe something that’s for their benefit. Manipulation seeks to influence someone to do or believe something that’s not for their benefit, but for the benefit of the manipulator.
Was Paul of Tarsus a manipulator? Not at all. He was certainly persuasive and employed savvy, socio-rhetorical methods in his letters to influence his readers. The motivation, however, was always for their benefit.
Consider Paul’s letter to Philemon. It’s one massive hint. Read it in a contemporary translation and watch his method. It’s a piece of savvy persuasion, not manipulation. When Jesus told His disciples to be “as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves,” He was talking about savvy persuasion, not manipulation.
Manipulation influences people to make decisions they’ll regret. Healthy persuasion influences people to make decisions they won’t regret. Get clear on the difference, and learn the art of healthy, savvy persuasion. As a follower of Jesus, you are called to influence others to know Him — both the lost and the saved.
Frank Viola is a best-selling author, A-list blogger, speaker, and consultant to authors and writers. His mission is to help serious followers of Jesus know their Lord more deeply so they can experience real transformation and make a lasting impact. See his About page for more information.