At one point or another in your life you will encounter someone who will seek to manipulate you emotionally. What I mean by this is that they will use their life issues and problems in an attempt to cause you to react in a way that is favorable toward them.
Below are a few common examples of how people attention seek. I want to help you to be ready to see and biblically address people who attempt to manipulate you in this way. Not everyone who tells you their problems is seeking to manipulate you, but you should be aware that some people do not understand how to function apart from this kind of behavior.
A young woman makes an appointment to see another doctor in the hopes that this one will find out what is “really wrong” with her. When the tests all come back normal (again) she will head to alternative medicine next and is close to bankrupting her family with the expense. She tells everyone who will listen about her medical maladies.
Tired of “being ignored”, a wife holds a knife to her wrist while crying to her husband that he has made her do this to get his attention. This time, he pays attention.
Some people just seem to suffer, don’t they? They are always suffering from something! This kind of person seems to have one calamity after the next and they never seem to be on the positive side of life. They are willing to tell their story of woe to anyone who will listen and gain much sympathy and attention from those around them.
Typically, emotional manipulators will use dramatic or exaggerated circumstances in an attempt to gain your attention or sympathy. This is not to say they have no problems, because they do; just not the ones they may think!
Those who seek attention do so to feel significant or to be noticed; they want to matter to someone. Often they see themselves as invisible or inadequate in comparison to those around them and they don’t know how else to get the attention they crave. They may also believe they have what is commonly known as low self-esteem. This behavior can be learned from family members or other adults in their life who function this way.
Biblically we can determine that the attention seeker is focused on themselves; they are not thinking of others and how their actions are affecting other people. Jesus counseled us to love others as much as we love ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). He knew that being riddled with sin as we are that it is part of the natural man to be self-focused. He wanted us to know that being others oriented takes work! The attention seeker has not learned or has forgotten the importance of regarding others as more important than self.
nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one
another as more important than yourselves.. Phil 2:3 (NASB)
This may be difficult initially, because for many this is a life-long pattern of behavior to overcome. Pride in the heart, not low self-esteem must be addressed before real change will take place in their life. Pride is evident because their thoughts are focused on gaining attention for themselves versus giving attention to the needs of others. Pride is evident because they want time spent on their perceived problems and woes and are in many cases willing to sin to get what they want.
The counselor/discipler can help them to see this through the use of specific questions on the heart level that will help them conclude they are self-focused and prideful.
As the counselee begins to see their actions for what they are they may have a great deal of fear. They may think attention seeking is the only means they have to get attention or to “be somebody” and if these behaviors go away, then who will notice them? It is important that they understand who they are in Christ and a thorough reading of Ephesians and Colossians in the first person is highly recommended as a part of the biblical counseling process.
Be patient with persons such as these; they may have many years of these kinds of thinking patterns and a default belief system in place that will take time to change. Be diligent, and love them enough to call them out when you see them repeating sinful actions and attitudes.