Jan 24, 2011

If you’re my friend, you won’t play with Alicia anymore.” “If you don’t give me your bubble gum, I won’t invite you to my birthday party.” These were the conversations of my childhood. My little girlfriends and I put conditions on our friendships. These were early plays of power and loyalty and struggles for pack order. Even then, when I received those ultimatums or gave them, I felt nauseous. I knew there was something not quite right about manipulation in friendship.

Verbal manipulations are not just child’s play. I hear them all the time from adults. I’ve even said them on occasion. “If you really loved me you’d know what I want for Christmas.” “If you really love your father and me, you won’t date that boy anymore.” Statements like these make me cringe. It’s manipulation and shaming under the guise of love. Whenever I make a statement like that I know I need to get on my knees and repent. I’m trying to get love and run someone else’s life by fear and power.

The most recent version of this kind of manipulation is in some chain e-mail letters I’ve received. They’re full of gushy, greeting-card sentimentality about friendship and then end with statements like “If you don’t forward this to 10 women, you don’t deserve any friends and you’ll rot in hell.” There’s no way I’m going to pass such an e-mail along. But a little nudge of superstition and fear creeps in and makes me wonder if I’m worthy of friendship and where I’ll spend eternity.

One of the most troubling lines in the Bible for me is from John15:14 : “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” My mother warned me about guys who said that to girls. It doesn’t even sound like Jesus. I think John might have misheard or the translators mistranslated. I don’t think of Jesus as an “If, then” kind of a guy. The Jesus I know says, “You are my Friend.” Period. “I Love you.” Period. No shaming. And because Jesus loves me and calls me friend, I want to do what he commands.


  1. Hi Sybil, Your right about Jesus statement in John 15:14,
    Jesus loved us enough to lay down his life for us, our best
    gift to him is our lives lived in sacrifical service. Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethern, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice,
    acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. We love him because He first loved us.
    Thanks for your encouragement. Blessings to you. Lael

  2. Great post. I laughed aloud at several points–and read parts to my teenage daughter. Thanks.

  3. Wow, are you sure you want to put your judgement about what Jesus said above John who walked with Jesus for at least three years, who certainly appears to be the disciple whom Jesus loved more than the others, and who meticulously and beautifully crafted his gospel which was written in defense of Jesus’ gospel message which was being distorted by people who thought they knew better than the twelve who were chosen and trained by Jesus to found the church and propagate his message. I don’t know, I am not an absolute literalist, but we have to be desperately cautious when we go about dismissing portions of God’s word, thinking we now better, trying to recreate God in our own image.

    Also, an if-then-else statement is not necessarily manipulative, if it is true. I can think of one if-then-else statement from Jesus concerning those who teach others falsely.

    • Thanks for your comment, Steve. I’m really not judging John or Jesus, just saying that it’s a difficult statement for me because of its “if-then” form. I agree that it’s not manipulative if it’s true. And if anyone has the right to make those kind of statements it’s Jesus. Too often “if-then” statements are about manipulation. I was just being honest about how the words hit me because too many people with less authority and less good intention and love employ “if-then” statements to scare people into submission for their own unloving purposes. The bottom line for me is I try to obey because I trust Jesus. Just because the words of Scripture irritate or trouble doesn’t mean I don’t comply. I appreciate your time in responding. God’s Peace,


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