An anonymous, personal reflection on the experience of sexual exploitation in childhood. The reflection also draws in the biblical story of Amnon’s rape of Tamar (2 Samuel 13). On the one hand this is a declaration reminiscent of #MeToo but it is also an expression of defiant and articulate silence and a reminder that there isn’t a single, let […]
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:
- 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.
- We need to distinguish between two types of marital sinfulness: normative sinfulness and abusive sinfulness.
- 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.”
For some resources on abuse, see Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s resources:
- Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault
- Rid of My Disgrace: Small Group Discussion Guide
- Is It My Fault? Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence
- God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies (forthcoming in September)
- Edward Welch, Living with an Angry Spouse: Help for Victims of Abuse
- David Powlison, Recovering from Child Abuse: Healing and Hope for Victims
- John Henderson, Abuse: Finding Hope in Christ
- Deepak Reju, On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church
- Paul Tripp, David Powlison, Ed Welch, Domestic Abuse: How to Help
- Diane Langberg, Bringing Christ to Abused Women: Learning to See and Respond
“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 to 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