A friend who comes from a family with a long legacy of generational witchcraft once said, “If someone plays mind games with you, it’s completely evil.” His cautionary advice stayed with me as I saw it played out in work situations, extended family relationships, and even the church. Over the years, I came to see that mind games are indeed a form of witchcraft. The apostle Paul said that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12), and many times when we find ourselves perplexed by patterns of behavior in others, it is because we’re coming up against a demonic element that is influencing these mind games.
Mind games are defined as “a series of deliberate actions or responses planned for psychological effect on another.” At the root of playing mind games is manipulation and control. Psychologists distinguish between people who consciously and unconsciously use these tactics to take advantage of or amuse themselves at the expense of other people.
What are some examples of mind games?
- A guy likes you. Or at least, you think he does because he’s given you a lot of attention. But when you see him again, he’s cold and aloof for no apparent reason. Just when you’ve finally given up on him, he suddenly asks you out. You have a wonderful time on the date (or at least you think you do) and then you don’t hear from him for a week.
- A co-worker habitually says sarcastic things to you or misquotes you in front of others so that you sound inept or ridiculous. This happens repeatedly, and when you confront her on the behavior, she responds by saying, “I was only kidding,” or, “Wow, you’re sensitive!”
- A “friend” flatters you by saying how talented you are, and then asks you for a favor. When you don’t act as quickly as she wanted, she says “I’m sorry, I should have asked someone who was interested in helping me.”
- A parent withholds affection and only gives approval at certain times and in connection with certain behavior.
- An ex gives information about a son or daughter’s upcoming school event, then deliberately gives the wrong day or time so that the other parent misses it.
- A church orders its members to sign a covenant, and if they refuse, their salvation is in question.
- An acquaintance has an outburst of anger or criticism, and later acts as though nothing happened.
- Fraternities, sororities, cults, and other secret societies frequently use mind games on pledges and potential members. They might say that this is to weed out uncommitted members and to build relationship rapport, but witchcraft is often the DNA of such tactics.
- The mass media generally relies on phrasing, images, and half-truths to advance sociopolitical agendas and govern mindsets.
People use mind games for many reasons, some of which may be:
- gratification of an emotional need
- personal amusement
- one-upping a rival
- personal advancement
- to make themselves look good
- a desire to control a relationship outcome
- to gain financial benefit and/or custody of children (in divorce)
At the basis of mind games and manipulation is deception and abuse. God “desires truth in the innermost part” (Psalm 51:6). By contrast, the devil is the “father of lies” (John 8:44). The person who plays such games and the person who allows themselves to be played are entangled in half-truths, which are in essence lies.
“Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22)
If someone is using these tactics on you, or if you recognize it as the culture of your home or workplace, it is time to break free of being either the victim or the perpetrator. Depending on the scenario, different people might need to be involved to help you, including trusted authority figures and friends.
How have you witnessed or been part of this kind of manipulation? What is God telling you do to break free?