Found: Independence From Oppression

As America prepares to celebrate Independence Day, we need to remember that the people who gave us this holiday openly (and, thankfully) rebelled against and rejected the serial and unrelenting oppression they were victimized by for decades.

How is it that “the church” so easily forgets that Jesus came to “set the captives [oppressed] free”?

As I’ve mentioned before, God speaks condemningly about oppression and oppressors 84 times! Why, then, do those who claim to speak for Him refuse to follow His mandate to intervene and put a stop to it when it is happening among their own congregations?

Today, in honor of Independence Day and with permission of the author, I am sharing another letter from another adopted-daughter of The Most High who escaped her oppressor in spite of Christ’s Under-Shepherds who failed at their obligations…

Dear Friends:

Over these past years since I learned my marriage was an illusion I have had to heal both from the trauma of the profound betrayal by my ex-husband, and also from kindly-spoken words by many close to me in my church community who took an indifferent stance toward the rightness and the wrongness of what had actually happened. I heard, “We’re not on either side. We’re on the side of the marriage.”  “I’m not taking sides.  I have sin issues too.”  “We’re not taking sides. I will support you and my husband will support your husband.”

Each instance of hearing these words from beloved friends and Christ-followers dealt a blow so harsh to me that I remember every detail about the conversation. There was a victim and a perpetrator in my marriage. A crime was committed and it continued for years. The collateral damage was great. And yet, Christians could respond as though this was simply another case of marriage being difficult and no one really being right or wrong.  I lived the pain of these words of indifference many times over.

My Biblically-oriented church was inept at counseling us. Since I was desperate to save my marriage, and my ex-husband would settle for nothing less than keeping a toehold in his sin patterns, I was the one expected to acquiesce, accept empty words as evidence of repentance and change. This attitude taught by pastors inevitably influences those hearing their teaching. I too used to take a black and white attitude toward divorce and always believed there was something either party could do to save a marriage until I was confronted with my own situation in which I could do nothing outside of enabling sin to save my marriage.

One day I read God’s directive for what the church was to do in this instance. It is one of the clearest directives in the Bible. It’s right there in 1 Corinthians 5:11. “But I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality.”  Read on. This is harsh in order to give the offender every reason to turn away from recurring sin patterns that lead to death. It’s why we would scream harshly at a child who was about to run in front of a moving car. The Lord wants us to take these ongoing sins that seriously.

This journey started five years ago for me. I have learned and grown in the Lord. He has taught me to listen to Him and to take no human’s teaching as accurate without checking it against the whole of His word. There is only one source of truth. I know the myth of God valuing marriage above human beings continues. It is not true. Friends and families and pastors who are misguided and continue to counsel for saving a marriage above all are doing tremendous damage to people who are already victimized. What needs to be done is to follow the Lord’s direction regarding the immoral within the church and to enforce church discipline “for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 5:5).

When I read the following from Gary Thomas my soul was warmed by the truth of it.

http://foreverymom.com/marriage/enough-enough-church-stop-enabling-abusive-men-gary-thomas/

May the Lord bless you in your service to Him.

Sandra

Blessed Independence Day.

Speak out against oppression everywhere, and especially in the church!

Sioli Deo Gloria

 

Buried in Shame: Not Mine to Sing “Jesus Loves Me”

With permission of the author, I am posting a piece of homework shared with me during our counseling together.

People say that “intent” matters. Perhaps.

In my experience, “effect” matters more.

See, we are unable to fully judge our own motives and intent. Oh, we can mature in our understanding, but the effect of that is usually seeing how tainted by narcissistic self-interest even the most basic of our motives can be.

I sit here daunted by the task of writing this letter.

How does one carefully and genuinely unhook the barbs of shame embedded in one’s soul without damaging the underlying tissue, the heart?

I’m wounded.

It’s as if over the past year someone has swung a blacklight over my brain and the studs of shame stand out stark and glowing.  Signposts advertising that sin and abuse have lived there, grown and become comfortable. Developing deep root systems; small rumbles here and there belying their depth.

Time after time I’ve patted out the ripples, smoothed over the glinting barbs. Both consciously and not I’ve smothered them down in the dark out of habit, out of self-deception, self-preservation. Time and nature habitually worked their magic in the grooves of my grey matter. Thought pathways, synapses firing so second nature so deceptively normal, you would have thought I was born this broken way. Imprinted on my identity. Worthless.

The thing about shoving down pain and burying barbs is that they don’t dissolve and disappear. They fester. They build pressure and like a dormant volcano they bide their time to erupt through the fissures.

Swinging wildly between extremes, I found myself displaying daily, illogical anger to no purpose. A vague discontentment and unease colored even my happiest days. My patterns of thought and response continually turned darker. Whispers of worthlessness, stupidity, pointlessness.  Emptiness.

I prayed. Oh, how I prayed. I sobbed. I pleaded. I self-medicated. I ignored. Most of all I practically thought myself to death. Shame shapeshifted from guilt to helplessness to hopelessness and then to apathy and deadness.

I’m writing this letter to disavow the shame I’ve taken in and owned as my own. This toxic shame is not mine to carry and so I begin to give it back to you. I’m shoving it all in a box and dropping it at your front door. At your failure to sign for this package I’m nailing it to that old rugged cross.

My earliest memories are tainted with inadequacy. I always failed to move you. Like waves breaking themselves over the seaside cliffs, I’ve broken myself against the walls around you. I’ve shattered myself trying to please you, interest you, captivate you.

You set yourself up as supreme ruler. You exercised such power over my day to day life and yet cared so little for my nurturing. It takes more than caring for a child’s physical needs to really love them. To see them and respect them as an individual.

I give you back the shame that seeped into me for being a girl, a child, a convert, a sexual being. I give you back the hours spent in lectures, tears ending in worry and insecurity. The nights spent crying myself to sleep- I give them to you. I give you back the inappropriate conversations, the weird sexual obsessions with pristine purity, the pressure to believe absolutely without doubts. I give you back the crushing weight to obey in mind, body and soul, to submit myself to ignore my instincts. I give back to you the shame of continually feeling like I couldn’t and wouldn’t add up. The sickness. The aches and pains of continually trying to fit a skin I wasn’t made for. I give you back the sideways glances, the harsh words and rebukes and outright glares. I give you back the haphazard criticisms and the resulting awkwardness.

You take back the shame of your overactive, sexual drive and obsessions you grew around your own barbs of shame and they have twisted your soul. You take back your unhealthy views of women and men, and smothering views of authority. You take back the shame and embarrassment that colored years of my life. Most of all you take back the shame you brought on me and yourself for invoking God’s name and sullying His words and intent. That millstone is tightening.

I will not carry this shame anymore. I cannot. It isn’t in my true nature and it is not who I am.

You see, I have a great Physician God. Yes, His words are sharp, yet they are life giving. They have done surgery on my brain and heart. His words are like a double-edged sword, able to separate soul from spirit. They do wound; but only to ultimately heal. They disinfect. They bring the dead to life. His words have rescued me from the pit.

Never in my life have I felt this way. My numbness is slowing receding and a tingling has started in my extremities. Until now I’ve never had the confidence to bask in my Father’s love; in the past, I’ve always looked for the catch, the trick, the reminder of my inferiority. I’m learning to bask and to feel at peace. Sometimes it feels like I’m learning an entirely new language. Exhilarating.

Let me tell you, coming back to life has not been easy; it doesn’t happen overnight. The work is long and slow. It takes time to rewire a brain and the embedded heart responses. It takes time to recognize and uncover shame in all its shapeshifting forms. I do have a soul helper and He is doing most of the heavy lifting. Mostly, my job is to rest in Him.

I’ve been created to be loved by God. I am worthy of His love despite my inadequacies; in spite of my sin and humanness. I know this because He has told me. He has created me anew in Christ Jesus and I am His masterpiece. He has good things planned for me and He has planted hope in my soul. Hope is tenacious. It clings and stretches and grows deep. It is almost frightening how I’ve wholly lashed myself to this Hope. It is the only path left to me. Now that I know my rightful place in this world, and I truly know it, down in my bones- I can now walk away from the lies. I can sing and praise without feeling like a fraud or like I don’t belong. Of course I belong: I’m a daughter of the King!

I can now sing with utter confidence the song forbidden as a child:

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…”

Hopefully, this served to gently confront you with the truth in a way that will draw you closer and help reconcile you to Him – either as the harm-er or the harmed.

Soli Deo Gloria

Not Your Usual Father’s Day Cheer

Overheard:

“Happy Father’s Day, I guess.”

There are many a meme on Facebook, many sermons from pulpits, innumerable blogs on the internet, and gazillions of cards stuffed into envelopes that will be sharing wonderfully affirming and loving words about fathers today.

And that is a wonderful thing…for many. Congratulations to all those with terrific dads – truy delighted for you, I am

But there are others among us who despise and detest Father’s Day. There are those among us whose memories of dear ol’ dad are a less than wonderful.

You see, for them, the word “dad” means “terrorist.” The memories of dad still cause deep feelings of shame, self-contempt, and of being “less than.”

Memories of words used as hatchets on a soul. Memories of hands (and feet) that were harsh and cruel instead of gentle and strong.

Memories of a mother or a sister treated more like an object most foul than a person to be cherished and loved.

There are memories so painful that the mental video causes the heart to cringe still today.

No apologies, no heart contrite over the evil inflicted, no repentance for the death of the relationship, no authentic remorse over abandoning the role of father as God intended it to be from the beginning.

Thank God, that isn’t the end of the story!

Praise God that He is a better father than even the best human father could possibly be!

Rejoice to the heavens that the Heavenly Father is personally invested in His beloved children, even when they are at their worst!

And place your deepest trust in the love of the One who intentionally and purposefully made you to fill a specific place in His plans and His Kingdom!

In God’s divine and infinite “beingness”, there is nothing unintentional, nothing insignificant, nothing unplanned for, and nothing unknown.

When I look back at the gross mistreatment my family and I suffered, I stand with Joseph in Egypt and proclaim, “You meant fully to do me evil; BUT GOD intended it for good!”

God has brought me out of that darkness, and He has poured deep healing and comfort into my life. As a result, He has used me almost daily to pour that same comfort and healing into the lives of multiple hundreds who have suffered as we did.

God did not cause what I suffered anymore than He caused you to lie the last time you did, or wronged the last person you wronged.

Instead, God knew what He had made me of, and He knew what He was going to need me for, and He knew that I had what it takes to get to the other side of the darkness and into the light.

And it is standing and reflecting the Light of the World that gives my life meaning.

So, for those who have cherished memories and learned important lessons and shared precious times with the fathers, I am delighted for you.

For those of us whose experience was otherwise, there is a Father in Heaven whose delight in each of us is as if we were each His favorite.

And that’s the kind of Father love that only God Himself is capable of.

Soli Deo Gloria

Blessed Father’s Day

Hyper-Headship and the Scandal of Domestic Abuse in the Church

(Reblogged from The Gospel Coalition Blog)

by Jared C. Wilson

 

(NOTE: This is the kind of thing I have been praying for – no, BEGGING for – to see happen in the church for a VERY long time. His word-picture about the 3 doors parallels what I have often said: “When it comes to abuse, there is no ‘Switzerland’ – you either side with the abuser or the abused; there is no third choice.”)

Jason Meyer, pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, gave a powerful and important sermon this past Sunday.

In it, he defined things like “hyper-headship”:

Hyper-headship is a satanic distortion of male leadership, but it can fly under the radar of discernment because it is disguised as strong male leadership. Make no mistake—it is harsh, oppressive, and controlling. In other words, hyper-headship becomes a breeding ground for domestic abuse.

Meyer also addressed the issue of domestic abuse, highlighting three lessons in particular they had learned:

  1. Not all abuse cases are the same, even though they may share certain things in common. If you have seen one abuse case, you have seen one abuse case.
  2. We need to distinguish between two types of marital sinfulness: normative sinfulness and abusive sinfulness.
  3. There are spectrums and varieties of domestic abuse. A good working definition of domestic abuse is “a godless pattern of abusive behavior among spouses involving physical, psychological, and/or emotional means to exert and obtain power and control over a spouse for the achievement of selfish ends” (John Henderson).

Calling it a “draw-a-line-in-the-sand kind of moment” for the church, Meyer read a statement from the elders about domestic abuse:

We, the council of elders at Bethlehem Baptist Church, are resolved to root out all forms of domestic abuse (mental, emotional, physical, and sexual) in our midst. This destructive way of relating to a spouse is a satanic distortion of Christ-like male leadership because it defaces the depiction of Christ’s love for his bride. The shepherds of Bethlehem stand at the ready to protect the abused, call abusers to repentance, discipline the unrepentant, and hold up high the stunning picture of how much Christ loves his church.

The statement goes on to give information about whom to contact when abuse is occurring.

Meyer addressed abusers:

If you are an abuser, I call you right now to repent and bear fruit in keeping with repentance. The only hope is on the other side of repentance—getting out of denial so you can own your sin. That is the only hope because if you confess it as sin, there is a sacrifice for sin. There is no sacrifice for denial.

He addressed victims:

If you are being abused, the bulletin gives information on next steps. Please let us help. God hates abuse, and so do we. We are committed to help. If you have come to us for help before and have been disappointed, please give us another chance. We believe that the tide of awareness has risen on all three campuses and that positive changes are happening.

And he addressed children:

If you are a child and have seen one of your parents abuse the other, it is not right, and it is not your fault. You are not to blame. We want to get you help as well. You may think telling someone will tear your family apart, but it may be the only thing that can bring your family back together. If you are a child and you are being abused, let us help. Don’t walk this road alone. Tell someone. Please tell the children’s pastor or your youth pastor or a Sunday school worker.

He then closed with an address to men in particular:

Men of Bethlehem, let me address you. I will lay it on the line. At first glance, it looks like there are three possible doors the men of this church can take.

  • Door 1: side with the abusersm
  • Door 2: take no side, or
  • Door 3: side with the abused and stand up to the abusers.

If you are tempted to open Door 2, please know that it is a slide that just takes you to the same place as Door 1. Doing nothing is doing something: it is looking the other way so the abusers can do their thing without worrying who is watching. Saying nothing is saying something—it’s saying, “Go ahead, we don’t care enough to do anything.”

I would strongly encourage you to read the entire sermon, which contains careful definitions of the various kinds of abuse and various principles about abuse. You can listen to the audio here.

For some resources on abuse, see Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s resources:

See also:

How Do You Know You’re Repentant? – Reblog

(Reblogged from Gospel Coalition Blog)

Jared C. Wilson

How do you know when someone is repentant? In his helpful little book Church Discipline, Jonathan Leeman offers some guidance:

“A few verses before Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18 about church discipline, he provides us with help for determining whether an individual is characteristically repentant: would the person be willing to cut off a hand or tear out an eye rather than repeat the sin (Matt. 18:8-9)? That is to say, is he or she willing to do whatever it takes to fight against the sin? Repenting people, typically, are zealous about casting off their sin. That’s what God’s Spirit does inside of them. When this happens, one can expect to see a willingness to accept outside counsel. A willingness to inconvenience their schedules. A willingness to confess embarrassing things. A willingness to make financial sacrifices or lose friends or end relationships.” (p. 72)

These are good indicators, and I believe we can add a few more.

Here are 12 signs we have a genuinely repentant heart:

1. We name our sin as sin and do not spin it or excuse it, and further, we demonstrate “godly sorrow,” which is to say, a grief chiefly about the sin itself, not just a grief about being caught or having to deal with the consequences of sin.

2. We actually confessed before we were caught or the circumstantial consequences of our sin caught up with us.

3. If found out, we confess immediately or very soon after and “come clean,” rather than having to have the full truth coaxed out of us. Real repentance is typically accompanied by transparency.

4. We have a willingness and eagerness to make amends. We will do whatever it takes to make things right and to demonstrate we have changed.

5. We are patient with those we’ve hurt or victimized, spending as much time as is required listening to them without jumping to defend ourselves.

6. We are patient with those we’ve hurt or victimized as they process their hurt, and we don’t pressure them or “guilt” them into forgiving us.

7. We are willing to confess our sin even in the face of serious consequences (including undergoing church discipline, having to go to jail, or having a spouse leave us).

8. We may grieve the consequences of our sin but we do not bristle under them or resent them. We understand that sometimes our sin causes great damage to others that is not healed in the short term (or perhaps ever this side of heaven).

9. If our sin involves addiction or a pattern of behavior, we do not neglect to seek help with a counselor, a solid twelve-step program, or even a rehabilitation center.

10. We don’t resent gracious accountability, pastoral rebuke, or church discipline.

11. We seek our comfort in the grace of God in Jesus Christ, not simply in being free of the consequences of our sin.

12. We are humble and teachable.

As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.– 2 Corinthians 7:9-11

(I have put my signs in the first person plural not because it is always inappropriate to seek to gauge someone’s repentance, but because we should always be gauging our own first, and because the truly forgiving heart is interested in an offender’s repentance but isn’t inordinately set on holding up measuring sticks but holding out grace.)

Depression and the Christian

Overheard:

“I feel depressed, but believers aren’t SUPPOSED to be depressed, are they?”

Depression isn’t simply a matter of being a sin problem, or being a spiritual problem, or being an emotional problem, or being a physiological problem – it is a combination of many things working together that brings depression.

We are synergistic wholes – our minds, our emotions, our bodies, and everything that comprises us impacts every other aspect of us – all the time.

The physiological part is easy to address, so we will start there.

There are several studies that have been done around the world that show one of the most common physiological contributors to depression is “leaky gut.” (Normally the digestive system is surrounded by an impermeable wall of cells. Certain behaviors and medical conditions can compromise this wall, allowing toxic substances and bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Lots of things can cause leaky gut.)

Being tired and run down can contribute to depression. So can long-term anxiety. So can severe crisis (and this is subjective to the individual – there is no objective standard of what “should” or “shouldn’t” constitute a crisis).

The emotional/spiritual part are interwoven.

So, what is depression?

Simply put, depression is “silent rage”; it is bitterness turned inward. At base, bitterness is deep-seated, long-term unforgiveness.

The sow-and-reap principle of life expressed in Galatians 6:7 is ever-present and universal. And it has great significance when discussing depression.

Let’s look at bitterness first.

When we allow unforgiveness to take root in our heart, bitterness sprouts up and permeates every aspect of our lives. The person we are embittered toward gets to live rent-free in our head, and we suffer far more than they do. In fact, they often have little if any idea that we are holding a grudge against them or that we think they owe us something.

Often that person has gone their own way, never knowing or caring that we are bitter or, in other cases, fully aware of our bitterness and actually enjoying our misery. While the person we despise is often unaware of the fact, we are slowly but quite certainly destroying ourselves and everything good in our lives.

Let’s look at how we end up in a place of bitterness.

Bitterness

Unmet Expectations: Expectations are like the ceiling; people can jump up and touch it, but they can’t live up there. So it is with the expectations we have of others. Often our expectations are rooted in a sense of entitlement (we believe we are entitled to have our wants and needs met when we want, the way we want). When our expectations go unmet, we experience

Disappointment: Our hopes are dashed on the rocks and we feel sad that things didn’t go as we expected. Holding on to that disappointment quickly leads us down lower and into

Disillusionment: Now we aren’t just disappointed about a situation or with a person, now the shiny picture we had of that person and the relationship is dark and dingy; we are losing hope. Remaining there long drops us even lower and we fall into

Despondency: This we call the “Eeyore Level.” This is where we are pessimistic not only about relationships, we are pessimistic about our own worth and value.

“I’m leaving (if anybody cares)”

“Of course this fell apart—I’m stuck with the same idiots I’m always stuck with?!”

“What did I expect? That things would magically be different than they always are?”

We don’t have to live here long before our unrelenting anger about how long we have been mistreated this way results in

Bitterness: Bitterness is rooted in deep-seated, long-term unforgiveness—usually, unforgiveness over someone (or multiple someone’s) not living up to our expectations.

The only difference between Bitterness and Depression is the direction the anger is turned. Bitterness has an outward focus; Depression has an inward focus.

Depression

Again, we need to remember that bitterness harms us far more than it harms the one we are embittered toward.

Let’s look at the devastating consequences of bitterness in our lives:

  1. It will harm us physically.
  2. We become enslaved to our bitterness.
  3. Bitterness flavors every relationship in our lives.
  4. It is a sin that will keep us from God’s forgiveness.

FIRST, bitterness harms us physically. The negative health effects of bitterness/unforgiveness have been well-documented, with research showing a link between prolonged anger or resentment and a host of heightened medical risks. Because of the ways in which resentment and unforgiveness interact with the brain, the body’s reactions can lead to chronic—and sometimes serious—physical ailments. In fact, prolonged bitterness can make people 500% more likely to die before the age of 50. And, over time, we even show the effects of this stress in our faces: We begin to look “hard.”

SECOND, we become slaves. We are enslaved by our bitterness. We are emotionally tied to the person we are bitter toward. Everything they do or don’t do affects us, whether we want it to or not. We spend so much time nursing our animosity that we hinder our ability to have a useful and productive life. Someone said that “unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

THIRD, bitterness flavors every relationship in our lives. Read carefully Hebrews 12:15 (and its referent, Deuteronomy 29:18). In both places, it speaks about a “root of bitterness.” A bitter spirit toward one person will contaminate every other relationship in our lives. It is like the rotten apple that spoils the whole barrel; like a cancer that, unchecked, destroys us from within.

FOURTH, unforgiveness is sin and it keeps us from having God’s forgiveness. Read carefully Jesus’ instruction on prayer in Matthew 6:9-15. Especially note versus 14 and 15. An unforgiving spirit keeps us from God’s forgiveness. After all, why would God forgive us if we are unwilling to forgive someone else? It would also serve well here if you study Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18:21-35.

Several earlier posts discuss forgiveness in-depth (Forgiveness – Part 1, Forgiveness – Part 2, Forgiveness – Part 3, Forgiveness – Part 4).

Here is an overview on forgiveness from a Biblical perspective:

Forgiveness is poorly understood and even more poorly taught in much of Christian circles today. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which are poor hermeneutics (breaking the rules of proper Bible interpretation), bad logic, and weaving together ideas that don’t really go together. The following section is intended to help us understand forgiveness from God’s perspective. We trust it will be a help.

Three Kinds of Forgiveness

There are three kinds of forgiveness described in the Bible. One is completely up to God, one is up to us, and one cannot and should not happen without a certain amount of work on the part of the offending party.

  1. Judicial Forgiveness: This is the complete [pardon of all sin granted by God that only He can provide to a person when they confess their need for and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, then repent of their sin. There are many instances in the Bible where, even though God forgave the sins of a person or of the people, He did not remove the consequences of their sin (David, 2 Samuel 12:7-13; Children of Israel, Numbers 14:20-23).
  2. Internal Forgiveness: This is where we extend mercy to the person who has wronged us to the degree that we completely forsake retaliation and revenge, leaving that person in the hands of God. Our best plans for revenge will fall far short of what God has planned. He does have a plan (See Genesis 50:20). This does not mean, however, that the person is not held accountable for their actions, nor does it mean that we stuff our emotions about what happened and ignore them. That set us on a downward spiral into the same destructive lies we have been working on becoming free of.
  3. Relational Forgiveness: God does not forgive without confession and repentance on our part, and he does not require or allow us to do so either (1 John 1:9; Luke 3:8). They not only are in full agreement on the exact nature and character of their wrong (the meaning of the Biblical word “confess”), but they also invest much energy and effort to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8; Ephesians 4:22, 24, 28).

True repentance is a grieving over sins one has committed, an open acceptance of responsibility for the evil suffered by those we have wronged, a complete forsaking of those sins and anything that makes that sin easy to recommit, and a replacing the sinful attitude and behavior with the opposite righteous attitude and behavior for the sake of God and others (See Ephesians 4:28).

Summary:

The Bible teaches us that knowing the truth will set us free. It is hard for us to practice good until we know what is good. Once we have recognized and accepted the truth, we are free to practice the truth. A person who does not know the truth is like someone blind in a strange place. That person stumbles around, never sure of himself and always lost.

For most of us, the first step to God has to be a willingness to internally forgive those who have wronged us. We must not continue in unforgiveness, knowing that this is a path to self-destruction.

Manipulation, Part 1 – Gaslighting

Overheard:

“That’s not what I said and not how I meant what I said!”

This piece on “Gaslighting” is the first in a series about the oppressive manipulations tactics many of the folks I counsel experience on a regular basis.

What we will discuss in this series happens in homes, churches, businesses, friendships – all kinds of environments where hurt people hurt other people.

I pray you will find it useful.

*********

Gaslighting is a sophisticated manipulation tactic employing a specific kind of lying that people with certain character and personality defects use to create doubt in the minds of others.

The goal is togaslight make the target person doubt their own judgment and perceptions, and to create doubt in the minds of others about the believability of the targeted person.

Here’s where the term comes from, how it works, and what to be on the alert for.

In the classic suspense thriller, Gaslight (MGM, 1944), Paula (Ingrid Bergman) marries the villainous Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), not realizing that he is the one who murdered her aunt and is now searching for her missing jewels.

To cover up his treachery, he tries to persuade Paula that she is going mad, so he can search the attic for the jewels without her interference.

He plants missing objects on her person in order to make her believe that she has no recollection of reality.

He tries to isolate her, not allowing her to have visitors or to leave the house.

He tries to make her think she is losing her mind by making subtle changes in her environment, including slowly and steadily dimming the flame on a gas lamp.

If this sounds somehow familiar, you have probably encountered the form of psychological abuse known as “Gaslighting.”

Essentially, it describes methods of manipulation that are designed to make the victim lose their grip on the truth or doubt their perception of reality, in order to gain power and control over them.

Effective gaslighting can be accomplished in several different ways.

Sometimes, a person can assert something with such an apparent intensity of conviction that the other person begins to doubt their own perspective – like someone stealing something that belongs to you and being so unwaveringly insistent that it really belongs to them that you give up.

Other times, vigorous and unwavering denial coupled with a display of righteous indignation can accomplish the same task – like being aggressive toward you and, when you stand up for yourself, vehemently accusing you of being abusive.

Bringing up historical facts that seem largely accurate but contain minute, hard-to-prove distortions and using them to “prove” they are right – like rewording things you or they said so that there are too many little lies to try and fight that you don’t know where to begin.

Gaslighting is particularly effective when coupled with other tactics such as shaming and guilting.

Anything that aids in getting another person to doubt their judgment and back down will work for the gaslighter. One of the scary parts of Gaslighting is that, oftentimes, the gaslighter seems to believe that what they are saying is true.

Gaslighting can be a terrifying experience. It can quickly put you on the defensive, manipulate you in to trying to justify your own actions or behaviors, when what you started out to do was challenge someone else’s wrong behavior.

A gaslighter’s prevarications may be presented so convincingly and with such conviction, that you not only doubt your own memories and sense of judgment, you also start to fear that other’s (who don’t know the truth and don’t see things from your perspective) will become persuaded to believe the gaslighter instead of you.

This leaves you feeling even more trapped, more confused, more powerless, and feeds a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.

What To Do

  • ALWAYS keep yourself (and any children) safe FIRST!
  • Avoid arguing the “facts” with the gaslighter – they will not surrender to your view of things unless it serves their purpose (we will discuss this more when we look at “Assenting in Order to Manipulate”).
  • Remember that you are not responsible for the other person’s feelings or behaviors
  • Keep a journal (if you can do so safely) of these kinds of conversations when they occur. You will find the running record a powerful tool in reassuring yourself that you aren’t the crazy one.
  • Consider recording (again, if you can do so SAFELY) some of the interactions.
  • Have safe and perceptive people with whom you can discuss these things. A dialog with a trusted counselor, pastor, family member, or friend so they are aware of what you are dealing with can be very helpful.
  • Do the healthy best-practices you need to do to get out from under this kind of oppressive behavior. Calmly refuse to accept it, and absent yourself from the conversation when it starts.

There will be more coming in the days ahead.

Soli Deo Gloria