Spiritual Manipulation: When They Use Religion and Cultural Beliefs to Manipulate You

Spiritual Manipulation: When They Use Religion and Cultural Beliefs to Manipulate You spiritual manipulation: when they use religion and cultural beliefs to manipulate you
Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

Today I’ll be talking about a very interesting topic, which is spiritual manipulation. I’ll be using mostly Christian religious connotations because that’s mostly what I understand. This is not meant to discredit your beliefs, but for you to be aware that the things you really believe, the things you look up to, the things you don’t want to challenge, are the same things that could be used against you.

I’m going to explain this from a personal perspective because I’ve worked with someone in the past year who was really stuck and was being spiritually and culturally manipulated by her mom for more than 30 years.

Let me start with an instance from last year. I worked with someone undergoing a lot of spiritual abuse or manipulation from someone close to her, particularly from the church and her parent. All her life she had believed and seen her mom as the second God because her extremely manipulative mom had indoctrinated her since she was young that she was to listen to her without question. It’s quite sad but I am glad she’s free now but her mom had basically ruined her life from her carrying, embezzling funds meant to fund her university education, destroying any attempts of her finding a life of freedom to the extent where she had started to even controlling her child.

When you’ve been brought up in a household where you’re no taught to think for yourself, you develop ‘blind’ obedience. With blind obedience, there is an unquestioning compliance without critical thinking or moral consideration. When you see your parent as the second God, you will have no option but to listen to them because you see them as the gateway to ‘pleasing’ the lord.

“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” — Colossians 3:20 (NIV)

In addition, the parent leveraged the African cultural aspect by asserting that failure to obey one’s mother would result in being cursed. Consider living with the constant fear of being cursed, not just for yourself but for all the generations that follow. In many African cultures, the weight of curses, particularly from parents or those who carried you in their belly for nine months, holds profound significance. Growing up in an atmosphere dominated by the fear of curses and the fear of hell, you may unknowingly subject yourself to various forms of abuse — be it verbal, sexual, physical, spiritual, or emotional — imposed by those who instilled these fears in you.

And as long as they’ve really manipulated you, it doesn’t matter if you have a huge physique, they will still control you. It’s just one instance of many but I am pretty sure, there are a lot of people who are going through this and they can’t really see a way out.

“So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” — Matthew 19:6 (NIV)

Now, let me explain the instances of how spiritual and cultural manipulation happens. I will also explain how you can start challenging or pulling yourself out of that hurtful environments without necessarily ‘questioning your faith’ but within the confines of the same faith or culture. I will also be using Bible verses they can easily twist to suit their agenda and why you should be wary and always be curious.

Fear and Guilt

The first thing they do is use fear and guilt. They make you really scared to stand up for yourself or challenge them or if you don’t obey them. They instill fears in you, like saying you’ll go to hell or be cursed. When they talk about “curses,” they mean punishments. They make you believe that if you resist, bad things will happen to you, like getting sick. All these negative thoughts in your head make you give in to their demands. You listen to them even when you realize the person manipulating you is mean and hurtful. You might see their jealousy and vengefulness, but because you’re afraid of being cursed or punished, you won’t stand up to them. That’s how they use fear to control you.

For example,

“Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” — Romans 13:2

We often see our parents, partner or our religious leaders from the point of authority and that means they can use a verse like that to assert that questioning or resisting authority (them), is similar to rebelling against God. This can create a sense of fear and guilt, discouraging you from challenging the established authority or challenging some of their actions even when you logically know that their actions are hurtful.

Isolation & Control of Information

The other aspect is isolation and control of information. Isolation, in this context, means that they will not allow you to meet other people or interact with individuals from different religions or even with other Christians who hold diverse perspectives. They will also not challenge you to ponder or study these things for yourself. They present themselves as the only key to salvation, asserting that you only have to listen to them. Thinking for yourself is not highly encouraged. The reason behind this is that when you engage with Christians or believers from different walks of life, it opens your mind and exposes you to alternative viewpoints even within the same religion.

They can also isolate you from other churches or believers by convincing you that theirs is the only right church or the only right religion. They assert things like, “This is the true Church,” to solidify the idea that they are the right authority. Once you are indoctrinated to believe that this is the only correct church or that they are the second God, you won’t even consider listening to someone else. You remain confined to that particular church because stepping out and exploring other churches might lead you to realize that your parents or priests were not entirely truthful. This deliberate isolation aims to keep you unquestioningly loyal to their teachings.

For example:

“And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” — 2 Corinthians 11:14

In a manipulative context, this verse could be twisted to suggest that alternative perspectives, differing beliefs within the church, or connections with individuals outside the church are deceptive and harmful. Manipulators may use this interpretation to isolate you from external influences, reinforcing their control over your beliefs and actions.

Challenging Isolation: Have you ever wondered why some Christians are in healthy relationships while others find themselves in abusive ones?

If you surround yourself with Christians in healthy relationships, you might begin to notice discrepancies and question the teachings of your parents or of your religious leaders. This is when you might start thinking that perhaps they are manipulating or using you. Does that make sense?

Prophecies and Predictions

Prophecies and predictions are other tools that your religious leader or parents may use to manipulate you. They might claim to have received a message from God, suggesting that certain events will unfold if you take specific actions. However, these prophecies often carry a negative connotation, emphasizing potential harm or undesirable outcomes. While occasionally they may present positive predictions, the underlying motive is to assert control. For instance, they may suggest that returning home will secure you a job or obeying them will bring your good fortune, playing on your desire for positive outcomes. This prophetic language is a manipulation tactic, making you believe that they possess special knowledge, leading you to trust and listen to them more.

When it comes to these prophecies, it’s a hit-and-miss situation. Sometimes, the predictions may seemingly ‘come’ true. However, due to confirmation bias, your mind tends to focus on the prophecies that align with reality, while those that do not materialize are often interpreted as a result of your repentance. Confirmation bias is a cognitive tendency to favor information that supports one’s existing beliefs or actions, reinforcing the notion that the prophecies are accurate and strengthening the influence of those making the predictions.

“But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true.” — Jeremiah 28:9

Manipulators might twist this verse to suggest that their prophecies should be trusted and followed because, according to the verse, a true prophet’s predictions come true.

How Do You Break Free from This?

Breaking free from cultural and religious beliefs or manipulative influences can be an immensely challenging endeavor as these elements often feel deeply ingrained, similar to being a part of one’s DNA. The ultimate mindset is of course the point where you start thinking for yourself or questioning everything. But that may really way above or way beyond especially when you’re deeply afraid of what will happen or when you’re really deep in it.

Think For Yourself

So, the best place to start is to think for yourself within the same-same religion or culture. For example, if you are a Christian, you can ask why some Christians are in healthy relationships while you may be in an unhealthy one. Start small by challenging these thoughts. When you’re dealing with someone who is verbally or emotionally abusive and you can’t see beyond them or beyond that box, open your bible and find verses that counter their hurtful ways. There are a number of verses which encourage you to walk away from spiritual manipulators and spiritual narcissists and encourage you to take care of yourself. You’ve not paid keen attention because the manipulator has always been the sole proprietor of religious information and they never encourage you to read for yourself. Some good examples are:-

“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.” — Proverbs 22:24–25

This simple verse suggests the importance of avoiding harmful associations to protect oneself from negative influences.

“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’’ — 1 Corinthians 15:33

This is another verse underscores the influence of the company we keep. If a parent’s behavior or your partner’s behavior, in particular, is consistently harmful, distancing oneself might be a necessary step to preserve one’s well-being.

Those are just a few, I am sure you can find thousands of verses which encourage you to take care of yourself, keep healthy boundaries. Once you challenge or find these, use them as your counter-references especially when someone wants to use your religion to manipulate you or to basically harm you.

Expose Yourself To Different Churches/Cultures/Religions

The other thing you can do is expose yourself to different churches, cultures, or even different religions, and interact with non-believers. Spiritual manipulators often thrive on isolating you within a narrow belief system, controlling the flow of information, and instilling fear of exploring alternatives. However, when you interact with different people who are still human beings like you, you will get to understand or see life from a different perspective, away from the box you’re confined in.

This may allow you to critically evaluate your deeply-held beliefs and discern if they are supportive or manipulative. You will meet Christians who’ve left abusive relationships and are still believers, and probably their faith has even deepened. You will meet people from the same culture who are not afraid of cultural beliefs and have even been ostracized by their community, but they are still leading happy lives. You will encounter atheists who have never prayed a single day in their lives, yet they are successful, and they have not been plagued by significant misfortune, despite being non-believers. When you expose yourself to diverse cultures and different people, you’re able to see what’s possible for you, and it’s not the end of the world if you challenge that which is holding you back. It’s actually the best antidote to spiritual manipulation and the gateway to opening your heart to probably ‘true’ spirituality.

Conclusion

Spiritual manipulation limits your ability to think for yourself. The danger is in accepting these things as facts without questioning them. As long as your thinking is limited to a specific box, there’s a high chance you are being manipulated or you’ll be prone to manipulation. Break free by questioning and challenging everything. Challenge the fear and guilt they instill in you. Challenge the isolation they impose. Challenge the prophetic messages they claim to receive. And challenge the controlled information they feed you.

It’s challenging, but you have to break free from that box to live a more authentic life. Your God would not want you to suffer or be in tears. Your God would probably want you to explore and live a fulfilling life. So, think outside the box, challenge everything, and explore different perspectives. Visit different churches if you feel stuck. Break out of the monotony and realize that maybe no one knows it all. It’s challenging, but you have to get rid of that box for you to truly live.

Finally, it’s crucial to recognize that the messenger’s true nature influences how a message is conveyed. If the messenger is selfish, hateful, or vengeful, their message will likely reflect those qualities. Moreover, if the interpreter (you) carries deep-seated pain or harbors feelings of vengeance and resentment due to past experiences, you may absorb more of the negative aspects from the scriptures or interpret your religious teachings with cynicism. However, when your heart is pure and free from such burdens, you will find joy in your beliefs. The key lies in cleansing yourself by letting go of past pain, enabling you to move away from those who seek to manipulate you through your beliefs.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns, then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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