The User: A Primer

Have you ever been used? Can you spot a user?

The user is a clever creature who uses your good nature in order to get you to do what he wants when you might choose not to do the same if asked honestly.

It is beyond my expertise to attribute these behaviors to mental conditions or to personality types. This person could be acting on the impulse of any of several pathologies, or none. Our purpose is, first, to recognize the user; and second, to avoid being a user.

You thought I was going to tell you how to avoid being used.

As a follower of Christ, I probably ought to be ashamed of my perspective about this.  I’ll be transparent with you:  I haven’t figured out how to deal with people like this yet. But I do believe that in order to intentionally love all people as we are called to do, we must begin with realistic assessment.

Here is my handy Red Flags and Characteristics of the User Guide:

He imposes his will on other people.

While imposing, he seems all the while like an innocent snowflake.  Seeming not to impose is essential to his method. He wants what he wants, and will get it.

She expects you to conform to her plans. She may lie or manipulate to get you to go along.

The user may have several different personas handy. He dons and discards personalities intuitively and seamlessly according to situation.

The user will drop your name if he thinks the connection is to his advantage. Your name is used as an endorsement of his character or social standing. Accept the compliment but beware.

To some users, the victim card is indispensable. Beware: this is a desperate user.

The user seems to lack an adequate amount of respect for other human beings.

While he seeks to have control over the situation, the important factor is not the control itself, but to get what he wants. Well, some users like the control too.

How to Get Used

How do you get used? Some of us, the saying goes, have signs on our backs. We tend to find ourselves in this situation over and over. This person is able to value other human beings based on how well they serve his desires. Most people expect others to relate to them at face value.

You, the used, do not recognize what’s happening until it’s too late. This is because the situation looks so innocuous at first…who could object? But after you’ve made the commitment, the conditions change.
You agree to do X and after third parties are included you find that by agreeing to X, you must also do Y, Z, A, B, and C. You agree to drive someone to a party and find out as you go out the door that you’re picking up three people on the way who can’t go if you don’t. You must host the party with the flu because several guests have nowhere else to go on a holiday.  It’s inconvenient for the user to do it. You’ve been supportive and friendly only to find you’ve been drafted onto one side of a family war.

And here is the real genius of the user. This person will anticipate your attempts to do as you had planned, and even your attempts to resist her control. You will be unwilling to anticipate her manipulation as too cynical. She is way ahead of you. You will find that, before you suspect anything, you have been maneuvered into a position, and the only escape open to you is to be a big fat jerk.

In order to not be used, you will have to make a big fuss and insist on not giving an old man Christmas dinner, or some such awful thing. You want to stand your ground. But here’s your choice at that point: be petty, or be used.

She will be cool as a cucumber and ask what you’re excited about.

So, unwilling to be petty, you retreat, and get used. The real pro user will use you even while you know you’re being used, and they know you know you’re being used, and you can’t do a thing about it. No matter your defenses, you will end up playing  on his terms.

And it’s a real pro who will manage to make you feel used even while you are doing a good thing which you would gladly have done anyway.

 

Don’t Be a User

At this point, I ought to say that many users don’t know they’re users. They’ve been living this way all their lives. It’s as natural to them as breathing and it works. They just think they’re unusually charming.

Here’s the bad news. You might have creeping userism. Don’t be a user. Here’s why.

1. It is un-Christlike to be a user. If you are a professing Christian of any kind, this should matter.

Phil 2: 3-8: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Matthew 20:28:…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

John 6: 38: For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.

John 12:49: For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak.

2. The people you love will not be able to trust you. This is important. The people you love may be guarded with you because they are looking out for the next time you try to take advantage. It will create distance in your relationships.

3. You are training yourself to be selfish. The longer you go along with your user habits, the harder it will be to change. Start fighting it now!

4. You will never really be happy this way. You are designing a life defined by dissatisfaction. Otherwise why would you be trying to change things? Instead, decide to live a life marked by contentment. It takes a lot of energy to control other people; it’s stressful. Go easy on yourself.

 

How Not to Be a User

1. Have respect for other human beings. Everyone’s time is as valuable as yours. Everyone’s efforts are as costly as yours are to you. Value other people’s time, energy and hospitality.

2. Don’t impose your will on others. Don’t include someone in your plans without his prior consent.

3. Ask for the help that you want or need. Understand that you are asking and not demanding. Understand that the askee is entirely free to say “no.” There should be no negative repercussions for his choice to opt out; he is a human with free will and self-determination.

4. Ask for what you honestly want. The askee has the right to know all details that pertain to her participation, so that she can make a truly informed decision. There must be no surprises.

5. Neither emotional manipulation or social pressure should ever be used in order to get another person to do as you wish. This includes hinting, pouting and stories of victimhood.

6. Live honestly. Portray yourself as best you can as you really are.

7. Respect relationship statuses. A breakup is a breakup. You lose all rights to your ex. Call someone else for a ride, emotionally lean on someone else.
Also, honor your family as your family; don’t invent new parents/brothers/sisters out of friends and acquaintances because your real ones have been used up.

8. Learn to be humble. In humility you will appreciate the value of other people.

9. Be selfless. Look for ways to do things for other people in ways that don’t benefit you.

10. Develop an appreciation for the kindness of other people. It feels good when you understand that others have been helpful and caring to you out of the kindness of their hearts.

 

How to Avoid Being Used

Alas. Don’t be useful. Let me know if you figure it out.

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