For some reason I’ve been seeing a lot of kidnap-themed movies lately.  It isn’t by design, it’s just something I’ve noticed, like when you suddenly realize you’ve been seeing a lot of Nazi movies, or Westerns, or comedies.

While movies about kidnappings bear no resemblance to reality, they do get us thinking, and speculating about what we’d do in that situation.  And I’ve learned the perfect escape plan, from—of all people–Satan.  Well, he’s not really a person in the strictest sense, but he has a couple of tricks that would come in handy if ever you find yourself tied up in an empty warehouse.

Granted, most kidnappers do not own large pieces of commercial property, let alone an empty warehouse generating no income for its owners, but then perhaps that’s what makes folks turn to kidnapping in the first place: Bad business sense.

Suspending belief because it’s a movie, we won’t belabor the inefficiency of an empty warehouse.  We’ll go straight to the kidnappers.  They’re usually the goons for someone who’s the brains of the operation—guys who look like bouncers but cannot actually find employment as bouncers.

And, like Cruella De Vil’s bumbling cohorts, they sit around eating sandwiches and watching TV while guarding the tied up victim.

Here’s where you put Satan’s plan into motion.

You wait until they temporarily untie you so you can eat, use the restroom, whatever.  “So which one of you guys is the smart one?” you ask.

No one will speak right up.  They’ll glance nervously at one another, to see what the others are going to say.  But make no mistake—each guy thinks he’s the smartest.  At least he’s smarter than these other two dopes, right?

And your work is finished.  An argument will ensue.  If there’s a pecking order and one of them is in charge, there might not be an actual argument, but there will be a lot of thinking, resenting, and mental competition going on.  Each guy will question why one of the other guys is favored, or thinks he’s smarter, or didn’t pick him.  There’ll be some glaring, some sniping comments, and soon some threats and shoving.

The infighting you have now created will divert all attention from you, and you can quietly slip away.

Destroying the unity of any group is as easy as blinking.  It would work just as well to ask, “So which one of you guys is Big Louie’s main man?”  Again, pride will engulf your captors and in no time you’ll be relaxing down at the precinct with your feet propped up, answering questions and enjoying something from the soft drink machine.

And, while in real life it might not be so easy, it is nonetheless a great model for how to use strife to your advantage.

Satan wants this same thing to happen in our marriages and families.  If he can split up the unity, poison the cohesiveness, and drive wedges into our relationships, he’s done.  He can go laugh it up in the Bahamas if he wants, because we’ll take it from there and finish the demolition job for him.

All he has to do is to get us to compete for superiority.

Who is always right, but no one ever listens? You?  That’s right again!  Like the time you wanted the hotel downtown but your husband picked the motel where the pool was closed?  And the time you didn’t want to go boating but you did and one of the kids got a concussion?  Remember that?  And how about the time…

The minute he can get us to draw a line between us, he has a “me versus them” moment:  A perfect way to undo the vows of marriage.  Instead of seeing events as happening to us, they happen because of that spouse.  Decisions that should be made as a couple become power grabs for individuals.  One person begins to feel they’re never heard, never valued, never consulted.  Soon the unity is gone and the marriage has become a constant battle for control.

Unwittingly, parents do this to their children by labeling one of them “the smart one,” “the pretty one,” “the reliable one,” “the hard worker,” and so on.  It slams the door on the rest of the kids and makes resentment inevitable.

Even worse are questions like, “Why can’t you keep your room clean like your sister does?” or “Why can you just obey the rules like your brother does?”  You may as well ask, “Which one of you is Big Louie’s main man?”  No wonder kids argue for decades about which one was mom’s or dad’s favorite.

Fighting will escalate, service will come to a screeching halt and charity will evaporate.  If you happen to be kidnappers, your victims will slip out the nearest window, and Big Louie will not be happy.

Getting people to argue is tragically simple.  The formula always includes a healthy dose of pride, and a well placed question that pits one person against another.  It works in classrooms, wards, schools, and workplaces.  And Satan is not picky; he’ll take disruption and destruction anywhere he can get it.

So, knowing this is how to destroy families—or any other groups— can we assum that doing the opposite will unite them?

Just as if it’s a movie.  Helping people find a common cause, to feel good about themselves, and to cheer one another on, is exactly how to create bonds of love and friendship.  Eliminate competition for prominence and teach, as Christ did, that the greatest of all will be a servant to the rest.  Forget about yourself and think of bringing joy to others, and you’ll model exactly the attitude you want your kids to have in order to succeed in their own marriages someday, at work, and in life in general.

Make your home not about what you can get, but what you can give.  At dinnertime ask your kids whom they helped today.  On vacations don’t ask if something was fun; ask if they found a chance to serve someone.  Flip selfishness inside out.  Get them to perform secret acts of kindness for their brothers and sisters.  Let them feel the joy of pure giving.

Unite behind a common goal—helping a child master his multiplication tables, earn money, learn a musical number, or make cookies for a neighbor—there are dozens of ways kids can work side by side in a united family effort.

Meanwhile, save those “divide and conquer” techniques in case you ever find yourself locked in a trunk and then dragged into an empty warehouse.  Or, you can always avoid that fate by remembering a slogan on my favorite fridge magnet: “Fat people are harder to kidnap.”

You’ve got to admit, it’s undoubtedly true.

Cruise with Joni and her husband, Bob, to Spain, Italy, and France May 12-19, 2012.  Double occupancy starting at only $659.00 per person!  See jonihilton.com for more information

Joni Hilton has written 17 books, three award-winning plays, and is a frequent public speaker and a former TV talk show host. Her latest book, “Funeral Potatoes– The Novel,” has just been scheduled for publication by Covenant Communications. She is also the author of the “As the Ward Turns” series, “The Ten-Cow Wives’ Club,” and “The Power of Prayer.” Hilton is a frequent writer for “Music & The Spoken Word,” many national magazines, and can be reached at her website, <a href="http://jonihilton.


<hr class=’system-pagebreak’ ></a><hr class=’system-pagebreak’ ></a>com/” target=”_blank” title=”http://jonihilton.com/”>jonihilton.com. She is married to TV personality Bob Hilton, is the mother of four, and currently serves as Relief Society President in her ward in northern California