Emotional Blackmail

This is one of my pet peeves, and social media is rampant with it. Let’s shine a light on this tactic and expose it for what it really is. Then the truth will set us free.
Evolving Methods, Same Junk

Years ago, there was this thing called a chain letter. If you received one in the mail, you were supposed to follow its instructions precisely to avoid bad luck. Basically, you had to write a number of copies of the letter and mail them out to other people. When home computers and the internet came along, the chain letter was replaced quickly by chain email.

The content varied, but the instructions always told readers to forward the email to at least 10 other people in order to receive good fortune. The penalty for not forwarding was the promise of bad luck. Superstitious malarkey, of course. But scores of people felt compelled to obey, lest something awful befall them.

Today’s version of this comes in the form of social media posts. “Copy this to your page,” or “re-tweet,” or “share,” is now what you’re told to do. But it’s not just about good and bad luck anymore. Now, you’re goaded into doing it to prove that you’re a good person or whatever. They often use reverse psychology to get people to comply. “Only 1% of people will share this,” or “Bet you won’t repost this,” for example. And they also tend to make use of conditional statements.

If You Really Love Me…

Conditional statements are recognizable by the “If/then” clauses they contain. They are used in many ways, and they’re not inherently bad. Even the Bible has instances of conditional statements. Jesus Himself told His disciples: “If you love me, then keep my commands.” Of course, He was indicating the evidence of love for a savior – obedience. Obeying the Lord is how we show not only our love for Him, but also our respect and faith in who He is, as well as our appreciation for all He’s done for us.

When these types of statements are misused, it’s usually obvious. A child may tell his parents, “If you really love me, then buy me this toy.” Do you see how this is different from the previous example? Rather than acknowledging the ways his parents love him, the child is placing a selfish condition on that love. The only goal is to get a toy he wants. And yes, adults use this kind of tactic on one another as well.

Origin of Manipulation

This is called manipulation, and that is never a tactic of God. His goal is always to benefit us. But someone who manipulates you is only doing so for their own benefit. This is nothing to be taken lightly, either. Manipulation is a devious act, and its origins are evil.

Think about it… When was the first recorded instance of manipulation in the Bible? Yep, in the Garden of Eden when the serpent (the devil) manipulated Adam and Eve into sinning. Even though God definitely warned them NOT to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, this conniving serpent said the opposite to them. “You won’t die if you eat from it! No, if you eat this fruit, then you will become like God yourselves! He just doesn’t want you becoming like Him.”

And they fell for it. Literally. This became known as “The Fall of Man.” That certainly wasn’t to their benefit, as the serpent led them to believe, but to their detriment – as well as the detriment of all mankind. See, the devil’s goals are always contrary to God’s. So it is dangerous to engage in tactics that are used by the evil one. Such an act cannot be beneficial to us OR to the kingdom of God.

Social Manipulation

My spiritual red flag goes up every time I see one of these posts on social media that insists that you like or repost it to show your love for Jesus. It implies that you don’t love Him if you ignore it and keep scrolling. This is an example of what I call Emotional Blackmail. It uses your own emotions, feelings, and beliefs to manipulate you. Talk about devious!

Of course, emotional blackmail is also used to manipulate people to supposedly prove their friendship, their patriotism, their desire to save the planet, or any number of other things, simply by reading “all the way to the end” and then reposting or forwarding to others. In the end, it’s all the same garbage. But I’m gonna focus on the emotional blackmail of believers.

Do you think that liking or sharing some post will prove to Jesus that you love Him? Or would “keeping His commandments” be the better choice? Do you believe God is going to say to you, “Well, the blood of my Son had your sins covered until you failed to like and repost that thing on Facebook”? No, that’s ridiculous.

More likely, on judgment day, people may stand before Him and say, “Lord, didn’t we like that post about loving Jesus? Didn’t we share that post with others to demonstrate our sincerity?” And He will say to them, “Depart from me, for I never knew you.” Because to KNOW God is to have a close personal relationship with Him, not to like and share some manipulative post.

What Does the Bible Say?

Is there anything in scripture that would lead you to believe that we can prove our faith through something as coerced as a post shared out of misplaced guilt? Does it say, “Faith comes from liking, and sharing through the world wide web”? No! It says:

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Romans 10:17 [ESV]

More to the point, the Word tells us:

“If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.”

Deuteronomy 30:16 [ESV]

Now THIS is a conditional statement I can get on board with. It demonstrates how obeying the Lord is beneficial to me. It’s not a devious attempt to make me do something meaningless like sharing some tweet or Facebook post or email. Instead, it is instructive on how to do something meaningful which will both display my love for God and be good for me.

Consider this scripture where Jesus answered the question about the greatest commandments…

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Luke 10:27 [ESV]

How do we fulfill these greatest commandments? Hitting LIKE or SHARE on some social media post does nothing really. It certainly doesn’t fulfill our requirement to God. We can’t just tap a screen and be absolved of any other responsibility to Him. Indeed, we love God by doing actual things that benefit His kingdom. And we love others by placing their needs before our own. No amount of liking and reposting will ever replace that.

Share-Worthy

Certainly, there are some things that definitely ARE worth sharing with others. Examine the content and the spirit of the message you’re being asked to share. If it is pure, not manipulative, and likely to truly benefit others, then share it at your own discretion. The message of Jesus is share-worthy, your own positive experiences with God are worth sharing, as is anything that benefits the kingdom.

But if it is making you feel like you have to share it to prove something, then you’re better off disregarding it entirely. God knows your heart, and that’s what matters to Him. The Bible is our guidebook to pleasing Him, and Christ is our example. The Lord doesn’t use pressure tactics or trickery.

Final Thoughts

Remember, God is not in the manipulation business. Even a supposedly well-meaning post that requires you to do something as petty as liking and sharing in order to somehow prove that you are a Christian or that you love Jesus – nope, that’s not coming from a legitimately Godly place. Don’t be manipulated by emotional blackmail.

Likewise, no one is going to LIKE and/or SHARE their way into heaven. There is but one door, only one way to get into the presence of God the Father – that’s through His Son.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6 [ESV]

Further, we should not be so concerned with the approval of man, but rather with the approval of God. Many people feel pressured to LIKE or SHARE one of these manipulative posts in order to seek the approval of their peers or “friends” online. But that shouldn’t be our motivation at all.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Ephesians 5:1-2

Our goal should be to do what is pleasing to God, not man. The best way to do that is to imitate Jesus and follow in His example to the best of our ability. Do these things with sincerity, and God is sure to LIKE what He sees in us, and He will also SHARE eternity with us. See what I did there?

Author: stacemassengill

I'm just a nobody tryin' to tell ev'rybody all about Somebody who saved my soul! Well, I am a blood-bought saint of God - a sinner saved by His amazing Grace! God called me to start Great Commission Ministries online in June of 2011, and that began as a video series called "The GC." After 7 seasons of that web-series, I felt led to expand the ministry to blogs as well as a new video series I call "67 seconds of Encouragement." This site is home to my blogs, and my prayer is that it ministers to everyone who reads it. Please share this ministry with others and help spread the Good News of Christ!

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