The B.I.T.E. Model

0These days I love psychology— the science of mind and behavior, the mental or behavioral characteristics of an individual or group, and the study of mind and behavior in relation to a particular field of knowledge or activity. The single most helpful resource for me the past several years has been something called the BITE model. This model of control was developed by Steven Hassan, the author of Freedom of Mind.

Overview of BITE

The model contains four elements: Behavior control, Information control, Thought control and Emotional control. Based on his own and other’s experience with the Korean religous group called the Moon organiaztion, Hassan developed a structure to help identify excessive control over people’s lives. BITE provides a framework for distinguishing between helpful mentoring and harmful “lording over” control.

Many people think of mind control as an ambiguous, mystical process that cannot be defined in concrete terms. In reality, mind control refers to a specific set of methods and techniques, such as hypnosis or thought- stopping, that influence how a person thinks, feels, and acts. Like many bodies of knowledge, it is not inherently good or evil. If mind control techniques are used to empower an individual to have more choice, and authority for his life remains within himself, the effects can be beneficial. For example, benevolent mind control can be used to help people quit smoking without affecting any other behavior.

Reference: Steve Hassan’s BITE model

The Bible and BITE

Someone may claim that BITE control is what Jesus did to his followers, and that such control is both normal and necessary in order to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples. Rev. Robert Pardon disagrees. Below are some excerpts from his article explaining why Jesus’ methods of discipleship are very different from BITE control.

Those who seek to defend their allegiance to an aberrational Christian group will often claim that Jesus utilized “thought reform/mind control” techniques (as traditionally understood) upon His followers. What is troubling in these  assertions is that they do not arise from those who reject Christianity and the claims of Christ, but rather from those whose devotion to Christianity is often misguided, extreme or dangerous.

Jesus sought to empower His followers to be all that God intended them to be, not enslave them to a group or system. A person’s ability to make decisions is always encouraged. The issue is following Him, not some group. He also constantly admonished His disciples to “count the cost” of their discipleship to Him that they might persevere in adverse circumstances (Luke 14:28). However, He never said to his disciples, “Follow me, and together we will conquer the world.” Rather He said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19).

According to Scripture, Jesus never sought to promote Himself for his own glorification, but rather for His Father’s. And He always encouraged His disciples to think for themselves (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27).

Source:  Biblical Discipleship Versus A Totalistic Environment

Some questions to consider

If you are part of a disciple-making ministry, how do you avoid BITE control? What are helpful ways of mentoring? What steps can you take to keep your personal freedom?

In his own words

I conclude with a video where Steve Hassan shares an overview of BITE in his own words.

Reference: Steve Hassan’s BITE model


  1. It is sobering to realize how easy it is to default to controlling others in those 4 ways. I know that I love Jesus and believe his Word, and that I also wanted others to experience what I did as a Christian. So I would do whatever I could to help others to believe.

    My favorite was probably to “threaten” others, that God would give them a brain tumor, or that God would AID them, or that God would give them a spouse who looks like a fat cow. (I can’t blame UBF for this; for this was clearly just my own creative mischief or genius!) Only by God’s grace, I believe that God has helped me to no longer do such things, but to allow the Holy Spirit to work in each person’s heart with as little interference from me as possible.

    • Ben, I still insist that the idea of “threatening” other was not just your own idea. Samuel Lee clearly threatened others by claiming that car accidents, horrible illness, poverty and death could be the consequence of not obeying him. The idea of maximum interference into the life of others (ordering marriages, names, hairstyle, eye-lid surgery and even abortion) was also the idea of Samuel Lee. And you were clearly a disciple of Lee. I understand that because Samuel Lee was your shepherd and you still feel indebted to him, you want to somehow cover up for his bad teachings by claiming these were your own ideas, and Samuel Lee taught you only good stuff. But that’s just not the truth.

      You basically claim that “somehow” you started to control others, and that this was your own idea and that “somehow” God (and only God) helped you to abandon that idea. I’m pretty sure that you started controlling others simply because you became a Christian in a controlling group, i.e. a group where controlling others (lower in rank) and letting others (higher in rank) control you was considered normal. If you became Christian in a healthy church, you would not have developed such a controlling mind so easily. And I’m also sure that a lot of people (not only God’s grace) helped you to see the wrongness of controlling people. These people include book authors, your family or friends. If you give credit to Samuel Lee you should give credit to them as well. Personally, I’m very thankful to people like Steven Hassan, and also to the people on the Internet like former members of the ICC who helped me open my eyes by frankly writing about their experience without trying to whitewash their former teachings and leaders.

  2. By the way, if you go to the Amazon page of the book “Freedom of Mind” and scroll down to “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” you will find a couple more books. I have read at least the first 6 of them and highly recommend them all. Some of the authors (Hassan and Franz) have been members of cults themselves, so they know very well what they are writing about. But all of these books are really good.

  3. Hi Chris, I have repeatedly stated before that I agree with the serious issues that you and many others have raised about the authoritarian, abusive and cult-like aspects of UBF and Lee. But no matter how bad, evil or horrible you think Lee and UBF is, all people, including Lee and UBF are both good and evil. When I say this, I am not justifying the bad done by them, but am simply stating an obvious fact.

    UBFriends commenters have accused UBF websites of only writing good things while ignoring the bad things. But arn’t UBFriends now doing the same thing, by only blasting away their bad, while ignoring that there can be any good at all in UBF, even among the abusive leaders?

    Also, Chris, since I can safely say that you do not know me, as I do not know you beyond what you write, your assessment that all of my behavior is the result of the bad influences of UBF is quite presumptuous in my opinion. The fact of the matter is that my life story is filled with mischievous, annoying and irritating things I intentionally did from the time I was a toddler to my pre-Christian days and even to this day. I provoke people. That’s part of my DNA and my disposition. I might even provoke some people on UBFriends. But I have no ill will in doing so.

    In fact, Samuel Lee often counseled me to “go easy” on my sheep, because he and others felt I was “too hard” and too impatient and harsh with them, which I know is true.

    So for you, or anyone else to simply blame Lee and UBF for my sins and threatening behavior, is quite short-sighted and excessive, if not uncalled for.

    • Hi my name is Andrew

      I’ve sent you guys an email through the contact us page

      I also sent Dr. Joe Schafer emails.

      I would like to establish conversation with you guys

      I’m from Sydney UBF.

      Please let me know if you receive either of my initial correspondence

      Kind Regards


    • “your assessment that all of my behavior is the result of the bad influences of UBF is quite presumptuous”

      I know UBF (and the BITE mechanisms) well enough to understand how much influence it has on the behavior of people. Agreed, not all of our behavior was influenced by it, we still had each our individual sins and issues, but the UBF system and indoctrination in it influenced our view of God, our view of mission, our view of salvation, our view of how to deal with other people etc. I don’t need to know you closely to understand that. It’s not presumptuous to believe that a person who has been under the indoctrination and influence of Samuel Lee and UBF for many years has got bad influence by them and adopted their bad teachings and ideas. I have seen this happening with hundreds of people. So I’m really not jumping to conclusions here, but speaking from evidence and experience.

    • Also, I fully believe that SL told you to “go easy” on your sheep. I never claimed that SL only bullied people around. That simply does not work. It’s the mixture of “love bombing” alternated with concerted, targeted demands of obedience that works. My experience in UBF was that of an emotional rollercoaster. Sometimes you are praised and loved and flattered and supported, and then you’re rebuked and threatened and shamed and left alone again. That’s how it works. We all were a “toddlers” in our abilities to manipulate people. But SL and some of the leaders like Peter Chang in Germany knew it very well, maybe intuitively, maybe learned over years. And I understand that it must be tempting for people with such powers and abilities to rally (ab)use them on others.

  4. Hi ybw89, I didn’t see any admin email, but you are free to contact me any time if you want: contact

  5. This B.I.T.E. model reminded me of a documentary I just saw called, “The Red Chapel.” It is by a Danish man who takes two boys of Korean origin but adopted by Danish families into North Korea. The boys are comedians; it is supposed to be a “cultural exchange.” The film was made in 2009, only four years ago. What shocked me is how people live in North Korea. I think that is something very interesting psychologically. What struck me most was that even peoples’ emotions are controlled. They cry on cue at the mention of the past dictator. They love and adore their leader, despite all he has done. It is shocking. How can this love that looks so genuine be based on a lie? Can all parts of humans be programmed, even feelings? I can’t imagine what goes on in their minds. Even children in schools clap in front of the camera until they are told to stop. There is fear in their eyes. In one scene the Danish talks about nuclear weapons in a positive way to protect themselves. In any other country that kind of talk would not be supported, but in NK it was praised. It is a scary society, but people are living there and the government cannot control everything. I want to do reading on those who have escaped from North Korea. How was it possible for them to overcome this B.I.T.E. model? Or even have hope to one day break from it/ be aware of it?

  6. MJ, the two most fascinating and surprisingly relevant studies for me the past 3 years has been studying North Korea escapees and the beginnings of Nazi Germany. In terms of scale, ubf is a mini version of these things, but still I see so many resemblences. My life in ubf was regimented on a daily basis, often on an hourly basis at times.

    The “way out” is really one or more reality checks. That’s one common theme of “escapees” from such control systems. What has to happen, often, is some shock of reality. For ex-ubers the reality checks are often described as a “divorce” from ubf.

    There are not many stories of escapees from North Korea, most are killed in the process.

    Here is one:

    And some quotes about the reality shocks:

    “Hyeonseo’s illusions were shattered, however, when she was just 15 years old.”

    “Her mother came home with a letter her co-worker had received from her (the co-worker’s) sister. The sister and all her family members were starving to death during the famine of the late 1990s.”

    “When Hyeonseo heard her mother read the letter, it was a “huge shock” — the first time she realized she wasn’t actually living in paradise (although she had seen her first public execution at age seven), and it would eventually set her on a course for defection.”

    • Side note to ubfers to highlight the secret language used in ubf circles. This sentence is NOT referring to a letter recevied by the mother’s husband: “Her mother came home with a letter her co-worker had received…”

    • Thanks for the link to that article. Reading it makes me think of the Hunger Games, with Pyongyang representing the capitol district while the outer districts are starving. You’d think those stories would only be fiction, but reality can be harsher than fiction. Just as the Soviet Union fell, I pray for the iron curtain in North Korea to fall. I think life pre-USSR and post-USSR is an also interesting topic. My friends who have lived through both sides see the pros and cons of either side. I, as an American have my own views, which differ from theirs. I cannot see the positive influences of the USSR, but they can.