Joe Clark ~~ Nov 28, 2004

So I had an eventful weekend, involving sleeping in an immobile car under the stars several miles from Clear Lake, Iowa. I wanna tell the story, but I feel the need to talk about something else tonight, something even more annoying than being stuck in the middle of nowhere without a car that runs.

So, many of you are aware that given the right mood and the right inspiration, I have this habit of writing longwinded "honest" emails at choice points in my path of life, or starting "honest" conversations about difficult topics. I wrote one such email tonight. Not terrible, but I saw it (and with it my life) laced with a badness that I'm only beginning to realize: manipulation.

I don't remember at the moment where this idea came from in my mind, but I've been thinking for the last week or so about how honesty (my form of it anyway) can and IS manipulative. I'm all about saying what I think. I'm all about wanting other people to know me. When pressured, I suppose I do hold back some, but I try to be as transparent as possible. But with this honesty comes some amount of manipulation I think, some expectation that people will respond to honesty in the way that I think they should. And in my high-minded idealism I have this expectation (ie how people should respond, not necessarily how I think they will) that people should respond to honesty in kind with honesty, and I have the expectation (again the opinion of how people should respond) that people will agree with me or at least understand what I'm saying and not chastise me for thinking completely wrongly.

So, I am ready to admit that I'm a manipulator. I think it has a good deal to do with why people enjoy my company but keep me at arms' length. I am, I think, seen as an interesting person, and a useful person at least in some ways (computers bleh), but someone to be careful with at least on some level. And if I am a manipulator, they have every right to be so careful. I am saddened that in all my attempts to be honest and all that that it really might just be a selfish attempt to make people agree with me or like me or whatever. If this is confirmed more, it will be an opportunity for me to say LIFYSO (Lord I fail you so often) and think that my whole paradigm is wrong. Now having said that, I don't expect to go crazy searching for a new paradigm. But what I would need to do is try to reconstruct my paradigm in a non-manipulative way. You know, "speak the truth in love" where the love is not tainted by selfishness and manipulation. I feel a potential New Year's resolution coming on.

So, the baddest badness is that this manipulation is self-reinforcing. I want to figure out more about it, so what do I do? I talk to select people about it, all the while thinking that my talks and emails and wise thoughts may be just as manipulative as I always am. Clue for me! But I send my emails anyway, and write my wise thoughts, and say what I think. Am I exercising my joy of honesty, or am I exercising my skills of manipulation? I really don't know for sure, but I have my suspicions now. I await some more clear confirmation I guess, but I'm afraid of what the answer will be if people really told me the truth. I am afraid of how I live now, and I'm afraid because any attempt to solve the problem with help from anyone except God would seem to only be emphasizing the problem even more. I've seen this problem before (it's in another wise thought somewhere I think), but never labeled it as manipulation before.

Some days the thoughts are just cruddy. Bleh.