Dealing with the Wolf by Arryn Groom

Have you found yourself surrounded by drama you didn’t create? Immersed in someone’s judgmental condemnation of your actions? The victim of implication subtly suggested which undermines your success? Have you thought "I hate myself"? These are red flags that you are being controlled.

I've had a long journey learning how to cope with controllers or "covert aggressives" and I want to give you the insight and tools I've gained on how to take back control over your own happiness and how to cope with these people. I will be using Dr. Simon’s book, In Sheep’s Clothing, and website as my foundation for explaining covert aggressives, their tactics and how to "survive" them.

A covert aggressive is defined by Dr. George Simon as someone who exemplifies this sort of behavior:

"Slickly trying to get at someone, trying to get the better of them or trying to dominate or control them while keeping your aggressive intentions concealed or intentionally misrepresented is almost always self-advancing and generally at the other person’s expense. Make no mistake, as I insist in all my writings, covert-aggression is very active (as opposed to passive) albeit concealed or disguised aggression, which is just one reason why erroneously labeling it passive-aggression distorts the reality of things. And the person on the receiving end of covert-aggression has usually been directly targeted as well." (

"Covert-aggression is at the heart of most interpersonal manipulation. What the artful, subtle fighter knows is that if they can get you to doubt yourself, feel like you have to explain yourself, and question your perceptions and judgment, there’s a good chance they can get you to back down, back-off, or better still, cave-in. Covert fighters count on the fact that you won’t trust your gut instincts or pass simple judgment on their character or the true character of their actions. They count on you being far too conscientious for that. And they know that if they don't come across as openly out to defy the generally accepted rules for civil behavior, exploit your good nature, and get the better of you, you'll ignore that feeling in your gut that tells you you're simply being played." (

I grew up in an extrovert family, seventh child (read peon), went to a private high school (which had many issues and where I learned about bureaucracy ) followed by a Christian college which was layered with judgmental black and white views of everything and then had more experiences as an adult which led me to uncover what/ who had just happened to us. I had a choice, be beaten down or fight back. My experiences as a teen taught me two things:

  1. With God, I can make it.
  2. Just "taking it" destroys a person's will to thrive.

My experiences as an adult have given me a deeper appreciation of exactly how to understand and fight back according to Jesus' admonition in Matthew 10:16-20:

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Matthew 10:16-20

Before my recent experiences I thought this verse was basically telling me to turn the other cheek, cover others' sins and that eventually I would be persecuted for my religious beliefs. Wow, now that I have been in the trenches I can understand this verse so much deeper and I want to bring it to you like a beautiful comforting quilt made by your loving Big Brother Jesus, unfolded so that you can see and experience its comfort and wisdom.

Matthew 10:16-20 actually gives us a formula for dealing with the trouble makers in our lives. He tells us that we are going to be like sheep in a pack of wolves. Wolves will decimate a herd, not killing for food but just for the kill. THAT’S how dangerous it is – not only physically but more importantly SPIRITUALLY. How do we survive?

First, you have to identify "the wolves". Wolves are beautiful and look very similar to loyal protecting loving dogs. However there is a difference in their predatory nature. Let's follow Jesus' journey and look at the attributes of the Pharisees and Saducees who were the wolves in sheep's clothing of His time.

The Pharisees:

  • Were concerned more with social status and rank than with serving.
  • Had to always be "right".
  • Had to be in control, have power over the situation.
  • Were liars, if not by commission then by omission.
  • Were covert agressives, or manipulators with the intention to undermine and advance their own agendas.
  • Did not show evidence of having the fruits of the spirit, God's Litmus test for telling if someone is righteous. Galatians 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
  • Were good at making you believe that they are interested in your success (or religious well-being.)

Every psychology reference I have read says to listen to your gut instinct. Is what the person saying sound too good to be true? Probably is. These people are master liars and sales people. They are GOOD at what they do and that is to suck you in and make you believe in their fairy tale.

It is very possible these wolves are your bosses, friends, religious leader, mother, father, brother, sister, coworker, child…. The key is to identify them, see how they work and take control of the situation. Here are some classic manipulation tactics used by covert aggressives :

  • Shame and guilting
  • Isolating you from family and friends
  • Creating doubt in your own judgment and abilities
  • Attempting to control or use your priorities for their guilting and shaming.
  • Use your weakness to make you feel useless, insignificant and therefore "wrong".
  • Assert their own "righteousness" as their position of obviously being "right".
  • Bullying. They use your hatred of confrontation to beat you down so that you just give up.

Shrewd As Snakes And As Innocent As Doves

Now that you have identified them, what do you do? My past understanding of what to do was to "turn the other cheek" and "cover their sins". This is NOT how Jesus Christ tells us to handle manipulative people, the wolves. Here is what he says:

Be "shrewd as snakes." This means to perceive and avoid danger. Be patient, thoughtful and use your defenses.

  • The Greek word pronimos that is here translated "wise" or "shrewd" refers to practical wisdom, prudence, cleverness, and discernment. One who is "wise," in the sense of this term, is a person who shows presence of mind and has the understanding and sound judgment necessary to act prudently.
  • The "serpent" was typical of wisdom and cunning in the ancient world. The wisdom of the serpent is that of keen perception and cleverness both in avoiding its enemies and catching its prey. snake
  • Snakes are patient, camouflage themselves, position themselves for opportune moments and flee from prey (under detritus, rocks, bushes, water) They economize food and water consumption (desert snakes burrow during the day and come out in the cool of the night) and assess a situation before venturing out into it (taste the air, feel the vibrations). Their most common form of self-protection is avoidance. A snake’s first line of defense is to escape to safety among rocks or vegetation. Snakes have to be alert to dangers. Most snakes are not aggressive or want to attack humans. They bite humans only in self-defense and would rather not confront us at all.
  • Proverbs 27:12 in the New International Version: "The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it." ; "The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways" (Proverbs 14:8, NIV).

Be "innocent as a dove". We are to conduct ourselves so that we are without blame, causing no hurt.

  • The Greek word akeraioi translated "harmless" or "innocent" means, literally, "unmixed," and was used to refer to such things as pure gold or unmixed wine. In the New Testament, it is employed figuratively of moral purity and integrity (Rom. 16:19; Phil. 2:15).
  • In the ancient Near East, the dove was symbolic of purity, faithfulness, and guilelessness. dove
  • "To be "harmless as doves" expresses the need of Jesus' disciples to be above reproach in both conduct and speech. They must be clever and shrewd in dealing with their cunning wolf-like adversaries, but they must never stoop to the ethics of their enemies. They must be free from guile and evil. Sin in the life and speech of the disciple gives his foes an easy opening to discredit and neutralize his witness."

Let's put all of the above into a practical response to finding yourself in this situation, the figurative sheep amongst wolves.

  • Assess the situation. Listen to that gut instinct and start analyzing what just happened or is happening.
  • Recognize the manipulation/control. Have you lost control over your own preferences, job direction, interests, time, friend selection, religious conviction?
  • Name it. Believe it. Do something about it. Believing can be the hardest part. Our good nature doesn't want to believe that some people would actually want to make us their puppet for their own convenience or superiority.
  • Get away from the aggression, manipulation. You must distance yourself or aggressively control the manipulation by setting BOUNDARIES. Here are some examples of boundary setting phrases: "You will not disrespect me." "I will continue my hobbies. They give me great satisfaction." "I believe differently than you and that's OK. God is my judge. He is who I need to be right with." And here’s the best one "No." And of course you must have consequences if those boundaries are crossed
  • Create win/win situations. If you find yourself "stuck" in a relationship with a manipulator you must learn the art of coming up with solutions that are beneficial to you BOTH. This way the manipulator feels gratified and you maintain your privileges/ preferences as well.
  • Don't ENABLE. This can be confused with "turning the other cheek". When we do not set boundaries, stand up for ourselves and sympathize too much we end up enabling the "wolf". You think you are being a good Christian by doing nothing or "taking it" when in reality you are only feeding your aggressor with the satisfaction of having that power over your life. 2 Timothy 1:6-7 says:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does NOT make us timid, but gives us POWER, LOVE AND SELF-DISCIPLINE (SOUND MIND).

How do we then find comfort and direction after dealing with malevolent behavior? Our instincts cry out for retaliation and revenge. Mine do anyway. There have been many days that my prayers focused on God's promises of His wrath while at the same time begging Him for help with my hate and patience for His perfect timing. I find Romans 12:9-21 a guide for what I should be doing (instead of obsessing on my anger) and how God will take of me.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21

And finally Paul says to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Romans 13:11-14

These final verses turn our attention back to self-improvement and living a righteous life rather than focusing on revenge or wallowing in misery over having been a victim. Jesus has empowered us with a sound mind and the boldness of the Holy Spirit. Ask God for courage and the peace that surpasses all understanding mentioned in Philippians 4:4-8.

It's humiliating to realize you've been controlled, manipulated and demeaned. The effects can be detrimental if you don't catch what’s happening. Be alert. Be cautious. Be without blame. And finally protect yourself by creating firm boundaries with consequences. Jesus very clearly tells us how to deal with these situations and it's NOT to allow ourselves to be beaten down, humiliated and then come to believe that we are worthless. We are given a sound mind, a bold spirit and wisdom to overcome.

For more information please read In Sheep’s Clothing by Dr. George Simon.

Volume 13 Issue 05 | Notes from Nancy | Women in Christ Commentary | Bible Study Guide | Abundance of the Heart | Exhortation |

Current Issue | Archives |
Custom Search