“Manipulation” is a logically untenable sin. Think about it: if I tell you I like ice cream, I am trying to make you believe I like ice cream. In short, I am trying to manipulate you. All social interaction is attempted manipulation.
If you wish to say that it’s a matter of degree, then consider this: if someone falls off of a cliff, and I use my spider-powers to catch them safely in a net, I am physically forcing them to do what I want them to do – survive – without first asking them. Extreme manipulation indeed, and yet I will be praised rather than cursed for it. If I write a novel, I am trying to manipulate the emotions of my readers as much as possible, and that is what they are paying me to do. They want me to force them to laugh and cry. If I bring my wife flowers and poems, I am trying to make her feel happy and affectionate, and yet she does not object.
Alright, you say. It’s a matter of intent.
I agree. And there’s the rub:
Every act of evil manipulation that exists exists because it is also an act of hate, or lust, or covetousness. In fact, there is always in action another sin entirely, perhaps several. But then why bother accusing someone of manipulation? Instead, accuse him of hate, or lust, or covetousness. The motive is evil, but the actions themselves are, well, just normal social interaction.
You will find no injunctions against manipulation in the Scripture. In fact, God is a shameless master of manipulation.
We call manipulation evil because by doing so, we do not have to face the question of whether the manipulator’s motives are evil or good, or if someone is attempting to push us towards something that is evil or good. In short, the sin of manipulation is an imaginary construct that exists solely to justify cowardice.