Excuses as a Form of Manipulation

Excuses as a Form of Manipulation

Students of Shaykh Jason- a very popular and charming teacher- are confused by how he preaches the importance of good character, but treats them so poorly, expecting them to run errands until 2 am, mocking them if they made small mistakes, not accepting any excuses, and always demanding service.

When they bring it up to him, he says “I just invest so much in my students, it hurts when they take offense to every little thing I say.” Or telling the target “I thought we were close and I was like an older brother so I could joke around with you.” These rationalizations are used to draw sympathy from the apath or the target and change the dynamic of predatory behavior to one of misunderstanding. They begin to feel bad and doubt their own instincts.

“Well he doesn’t see himself as a shaykh, he just wants to be like a brother.” Some victims even told me that they were floored by how humble the shaykh could be when he would just refer to himself as an older brother. But they admit feeling confused because when it comes to demanding rides or service, “he is quick to remind us that we are students and he is our shaykh.”

Others that volunteer in Shaykh Jason’ organization mentioned that they approached Shaykh Jason and were successful in their conversations. They noted that he accepted everything they said, took notes, and even cried. “He told us that he has a lot of pain and is working on himself. He told us he has a long way to go spiritually and hopes we can bear with him.”

Things went well for a week, “and then he went back to his exact same ways, constantly putting us down, screaming at the top of his lungs in front of other volunteers, and using us for personal service.” This isn’t because Shaykh Jason is unaware of his behavior being inappropriate. It’s because he doesn’t care and doesn’t see others as equals. He is very charming around donors and general audiences that adulate over him.

When a shaykh admits faults it appeals to most Muslims. They see it as humble and a recognition of imperfection. Imperfection and faults however become euphemisms for the most callous behavior.

Just like Shaykh Jason did, when the narcissist isn’t able to shift blame or equalize a conflict, he often breaks to crocodile tears or goes on about the remorse he feels, or even blames himself for his fault and acknowledges his faults.

‘But he admits he makes mistakes’ is the most common justification I have heard from victims about their own abusers. This admission appeases the pointless question many victims have of ‘is the abuse intentional or not.’ As I stated before, not everyone is a target, of course selective bullies know they are bullying.

My advice is to not care for words or appeals to your empathy.  Focus on behavior. Behavior is the only indicator for whether an apology is sincere or not. In the case of past wrongs, the shaykh should seek to right them.

As in the case of Shaykh Jason, many abusive shaykhs have had their aggressive behaviors pointed out. They know people don’t like it, but every new victim thinks that he or she has a unique conflict with the shaykh. We have to move past thinking that the aggressor just doesn’t know any better.  Many of these manipulative shaykhs play the same game over years with just a new batch of people and use the same tactics. They blame others as much as they can, then strategically apologize and blame themselves. The whole game actually takes advantage of people’s goodness and mercy.

For more on apologies, read this article by Dr. George Simon.