Mentoring Helps

8 Tactics of a Tyrant

MW Editor’s Note: Mentoring is not always a walk in the park. If you are not anchored in an ongoing relationship with Jesus, it’s easy to let arrogance and pride derail your mentoring efforts into a controlling relationship. Your warrior will suffer because of it. Take this article to heart and ask God to do a Psalm 139:23-24 search of your soul. 

Regardless of where you look, there is an obsession with control: Power-hungry politicians who manipulate their constituents through mandates and lockdowns. Corporate leaders who care more about the bottom line than their employees. Church leaders who control the narrative so that the congregation fits an image they want instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to work. Husbands who control their wives and kids, posing as a nice Christian family when the reality is dysfunctions galore rage at home. Or, a mentor who plays mind games with those he is to supposedly lead.

There are eight tactics a tyrant takes to control people under their leadership. Each tactic is a sin. For a person to claim they follow Jesus and practice any or all of these should be a red flag to anyone under their leadership.


1. Conflating. 

To take multiple ideas that are not necessarily compatible, and create a narrative that benefits the leader. One example comes from something everyone has experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mixing science with mandates. Cell biology and epidemiology are one thing. Mandating an entire population to lockdown or be vaccinated is another. Conflating takes two ideas and attempts to merge them for one’s advantage.  

2. Whisper Campaigns.

Rumor mills, gossip that tries to sway you via threats and non-verifiable consequences. “You know, if you speak up about that concern, the vice-president of HR is going to tag your file.” Or, “Did you know that if you post that on Facebook, the police will come knocking at your door?”

Whisper campaigns try to sway you via things that might never happen, all in an effort to deter you from actions they don’t want you to take.

3. Stonewalling.

This is when the tyrant knows he has opposition. Your point of view threatens him. Instead of talking with you to understand and work things out, they rely on third-party communications. As if they know exactly what you, the other party, are thinking when they haven’t even met with you.  This happens in a lot of churches. Making false assumptions does not build unity.

4. Taking the Moral High Ground

Similar to stonewalling, taking the high moral ground means the tyrant distances himself from you by claiming his position is far better, without scrutiny; that his is totally innocent and has no blame in how he leads (control) relationships.

This is when the tyrant uses derogatory name-calling to denigrate you, his opponent.  “You imbecile. You terrorist. You moron. You anti-vaxxer”; instead of treating those, he leads with respect and by their actual name. Respect and actual names humanize us. Name-calling dehumanizes. 

5. Third-Party Operatives.

Tyrants often use third parties to do their dirty work. If they are not getting their way, they will use a third party to intervene and do what they should be doing. In some cases, they send in plants to secretly find out what you are up to, or create a scene that casts a bad light on you or your group.

6. Exemption from the Rules.

The tyrant imposes rules on you but does not abide by them. Related to taking the moral high ground, a tyrant who exempts himself from the rules sends the message that you are to pay the price for obedience, while he can do as he pleases. For example, during the lockdown mandates in Canada, political officials would travel out of the country, when the rest of the citizens were prohibited. 

7. Injunctions.

This is when people in power who are not getting their way, appeal to a “higher power” (not God), to force their followers to obey. Case in point; a schoolyard bully terrorizes the other students, day in and out. Finally, the victims get tired of being bullied, so they push back. The bully realizes he’s met his match, so he runs to his dad to intervene, posing as if he is the victim. 

8. Pity Tripping.

This is when allies to the one in power will cast you in a bad light; that there is much sorrow over you and how you are treating your own. “One can only imagine how their kids are handling such treatment, don’t you think?” It’s a total fabrication of assumed detriments you are causing, none of which are true, and yet they use these methods to win even more people to their side and in the process oppose you and your position. 

There is no reason for a person who claims to follow Jesus to use any of these tactics. None. Jesus never promoted or condoned such and there is no way he calls us to practice them. These tactics are demonic and they work against the very Gospel you and I claim to live by.

What does this have to do with mentoring?

Everything. Mentoring has nothing to do with manipulating or coercing a young man to do things your way.  Mentoring is all about speaking Kingdom truth and wisdom into the lives of others.  As Paul says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

Controllers are Insecure

The more one controls, the more one reveals their insecurities.  The best way to address insecurities is to find one’s identity in Christ. Life is not about manipulation or control. It’s all about living under the lordship of Jesus Christ and allowing Him to live His life through you, as you lead others.

Jesus, if I ever display any of these tactics in my relationships, call me out, and lead me to godly repentance.

Warrior On!

This post is based upon a podcast by Leadership Now from February 10, 2022.

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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