Manipulation, Part 1 – Gaslighting


“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


Fed Up. Weary. Jesus is Lord.

Fed Up. Weary. Jesus is Lord..

via Fed Up. Weary. Jesus is Lord..

A blog worth reading by a young man whose love for the Lord and love of folks trapped in brokenness is inspiring…

World Vision: The Decision, Reactions, and Implications

Worthy of consideration – well written, Julie. You have summarized the situation quite well!


Warning Signs of Sex Trafficking in Hotels

Warning Signs of Sex Trafficking in Hotels.

For the many who are traveling to the Super Bowl or even whenever you  travel, these are warning signs to watch for sex trafficking. Hotel and motel industry workers are being trained to watch for these warning signs, especially during this weekend for the Super Bowl where massive numbers are expected. Authorities are asking that everyone, including hotel/motel guests be aware of these warning signs and report any suspicious activity to hotel authorities who will contact police. These young girls are victims and need your help…

A trafficker or pimp may:
• Pay in cash
• Escort various men into his room and linger or watch the door until they leave
• Remove himself from operations by having adult females request rooms or pay the bills
• Not leave the victim alone
• Control all or most of the money and identification
• Speaks for the victim
• Requests rooms with access to exits
• Is seen with many young women, who exhibit signs of trafficking
• Uses inappropriate nicknames with the victim
• Waits while other men frequent the room
• Is distrustful of security personnel
• Does not let victim move freely on the property
Trafficking/victim interaction could include: 
• Victim refers to trafficker as “Daddy”
• Trafficker uses derogatory slang
• Trafficker has openly threatens or physically assaults the victim
• Trafficker has inconsistencies in his stories
• Trafficker orders adjacent rooms
• Trafficker keeps late or unusual hours
• Little or no luggage or clothing
• Seems disoriented
• Does not speak freely
• Dresses inappropriately for their age or the weather
• Uses inappropriate sexual language for their age
• Is seen with many older men
• Wears clothing that is revealing or consists primarily of undergarments

Words to listen for: 
• The Life
• The Game
• Bottom B****
• Bottom Girl
• Daddy
• John
• Track
• Turnout
• Square
• Trick

Any of the above warning signs that should immediately be reported to hotel management.



To Be Such a Man

To Be Such a Man

This story was shared with me by a pastor several years ago and I wanted to share it with you all this evening. One of the elders in his church told him this story and said that it had changed his whole outlook on being a believer ad on his response to people that God brings across his path. Here is what he said:

“I sat, with two friends, looking out of the picture window of a quaint restaurant just off the corner of the town-square. The food and the company were both especially good that day.

As we talked, my attention was drawn outside, across the street. There, walking into town, was a man who appeared to be carrying all his worldly goods on his back. He was carrying a well-worn sign that read, ‘I will work for food.’ My heart sank.

I brought him to the attention of my friends and noticed that others around us had stopped eating to focus on him. Heads moved in a mixture of sadness and cynicism.

The stranger continued through the square and out of sight and we continued with our meal. The image of the stranger lingered in my mind and I wasn’t as attentive to the conversation or the food as I had been.

We finished our meal and went our separate ways. I had errands to do and quickly set out to accomplish them. I glanced toward the town square, looking somewhat halfheartedly for the strange visitor. I was a bit fearful, though, because I knew that seeing him again would call some kind of response on my part. I drove through town but saw nothing of him.

I made a couple of stops, made some purchases at a store and then got back in my car and headed for my office.Deep within me, the Spirit of God kept speaking to me: ‘Don’t go back to the office until you’ve driven at least once more around the square…Don’t go back to the office until you’ve driven at least once more around the square.’

After a little hesitancy, I headed back into town. As I turned the third corner of the square, I saw him. He was standing on the steps of the store-front church, going through his sack.

I stopped and looked; I felt compelled to do two things: I felt compelled to speak to him, yet I also felt compelled just to drive on to my office. The empty parking space on the corner by where the man stood seemed to be a sign from God – like an invitation to park. I pulled in, got out and approached the town’s newest visitor.

‘Looking for the pastor?’ I asked.

‘Not really,’ he replied, ‘just resting.’

‘Have you eaten today?’

‘Oh, I ate something early this morning, thank you.’

‘Would you like to have lunch with me?’

‘Do you have some work I could do for you?’

‘No work,’ I replied. ‘I have a small one-man office on the outskirts of town, but I would like to take you to lunch.’

‘Sure,’ he replied with a smile.

As he began to gather his things, I asked some surface questions. ‘Where you headed?’

‘St. Louis .’

‘Where you from?’

‘Oh, all over; mostly Florida.’

‘How long you been walking?’

‘Fourteen years,’ came the reply.

I was stunned and I knew I had met someone unusual. He was gentle and well spoken – not at all what a “professional” homeless person seemed like they would be to me.

We sat across from each other in the same restaurant I had left earlier. His face was weathered somewhat beyond his 38 years. His eyes were dark yet clear, and he spoke with an eloquence and articulation that was startling. He removed his jacket to reveal a bright red T-shirt that said, ‘Jesus Is The Never Ending Story.’

Daniel – the name of my new friend – began to unfold his story. He had seen some very rough times early in his life. He’d made some wrong and bad choices and had reaped the consequences. Fourteen years earlier while backpacking across the country, trying to make some sense out of his life, he had stopped on the beach in Daytona, Florida. He had tried to hire on with some men who were putting up a large tent and some equipment. A concert, he thought.

He was hired to help for the day, but the tent would not be housing a concert that evening. It would be housing revival services that evening and over the next several days. Daniel stuck around. And it was during those services that he heard some things he had never heard before, felt some things he had never felt before and thought some things that he had never thought before. He began to see his life a whole lot more clearly. On the third night of the revival, he gave his life over to God.

‘Nothing’s been the same since,’ he said, ‘I felt the Lord telling me to keep walking, and so I did – some 14 years now.’

‘Ever think of stopping?’ I asked.

‘Oh, once in a while, when things seem to get the best of me   But, God has given me this calling. I give out Bibles and talk to people about Jesus Christ. That’s what’s in my sack. I work to buy food and Bibles, and I give them out whenever and to whomever His Spirit leads me to.’

I sat there amazed at what I was hearing. My homeless friend was not really homeless. He was on a mission and he lived this way by choice. The question burned inside for a moment and then I asked: ‘What is it like?’


‘To walk into a town carrying all your belongings on your back and to show your sign?’

‘Oh, it was humiliating at first. People would stare and make comments. Once someone tossed a piece of half-eaten bread and made a rude gesture that certainly didn’t make me feel welcome. But then it became humbling to realize that God was using me to touch lives and change people’s concepts of Him and of other folks like me.’

My perceptions were changing, too. We finished our dessert and he gathered his things. Just outside the door, he paused. He turned to me and said, ‘Come Ye blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom I’ve prepared for you. For when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger and you took me in.’

I felt as if we were standing on holy ground. ‘Could you use another Bible?’ I asked.

He said he preferred a certain translation. It traveled well, was not too heavy and was easy for people to understand. It was also his personal favorite. ‘I’ve read through it 14 times,’ he said.

‘I’m not sure we’ve got one of those, but let’s stop by our church and see.’  I was able to find my new friend a Bible that would do well, and he seemed very grateful.

‘Where are you headed from here?’ I asked.

‘Well, I found this little map on the back of this amusement park coupon,’ he said, pulling out a folded and well-worn flyer from his hip pocket.

‘Are you hoping to hire on there for awhile?’

‘No, I just figure I should go there. I figure someone under that star right there needs a Bible, so that’s where I’m going next.’

He smiled, and the warmth of his spirit radiated with the peace from His relationship with Christ and with the sincerity of his mission. I drove him back to the town-square where we’d met two hours earlier, and as we drove, it started raining. We parked and he unloaded his things.

‘Would you sign my autograph book?’ he asked. ‘I like to keep messages from folks I meet.’

I wrote in his little book that his commitment to his calling had touched my life I encouraged him to stay strong. And I left him with a verse of scripture from Jeremiah, ‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declared the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you; Plans to give you a future and a hope.’

‘Thanks, man,’ he said. ‘I know we just met and we’re really just strangers, but I love you.’

‘I know,’ I said, ‘I love you, too.’

‘The Lord is good!’

‘Yes, He is. How long has it been since someone hugged you?’ I asked.

‘A long time,’ he replied.

And so on the busy street corner in the drizzling rain, my new friend and I embraced, and I felt deep inside that I had been changed. He put his things on his back, smiled his winning smile and said, ‘See you in the New Jerusalem!’

‘I’ll be there!’ was my reply.

And so he set out on his journey again. He headed away with his sign dangling from his bedroll and pack of Bibles. He stopped, turned and said, ‘When you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?’

‘You can count on it!’ I shouted back. ‘God bless you!’

‘God bless you, man!’ And that was the last I ever saw of him.

Late that evening as I left my office, the wind was blowing strong. The cold front had settled hard over our town. I bundled up and hurried to my car. As I sat back and reached for the emergency brake, I saw them… a pair of well-worn brown work gloves neatly laid over the length of the brake handle. I picked them up and thought of my friend, wondering if his hands would stay warm that night without them.

Then I remembered his words:  ‘If you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?’

Today his gloves lie on my desk in my office. They help me to see the world and its people in a new way, and they help me remember those two hours with my unique friend and to pray for his ministry. ‘See you in the New Jerusalem,’ he had said. Yes, Daniel, I know I will…”


If this story touched you, perhaps you would share with us how it has done so?

‘I shall pass this way but once. Therefore, any good that I can do or any kindness that I can show, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again.’

Prayer is one of the best gifts we receive. There is no cost but a lot of rewards. Let’s continue to pray for one another as often as we think of one another. Pray that the Lord God will bless and keep us in the center of His will that day. We never know when that small prayer could make all the difference in the world for someone.

‘Father, I ask you to bless my friends, relatives and loved ones, and even those with whom I am at odds right now. Bless them right this very moment. Show them a new revelation of Your love and Your power. I pray that the Holy Spirit would minister to their spirit even as I pray this prayer. Where there is pain, bring them Your comfort and give them Your peace and mercy. Where there is self-doubt, release a renewed confidence in and through Your grace. Where there is sin, bring repentance and cleansing though Jesus’ precious blood. In His mighty name I pray. Amen.’

Soli Deo Gloria

Merry Christmas


Confused by Confusion


“I’m always a little confused by my own mind …”

Sitting in abuse healing groups week in and week out over the years, I have heard this said – or some variation of it – hundreds of times.

As a survivor, I’ve experienced it myself, so I get it: sometimes your own mind can be the most confusing place to find yourself.

We seek truth, yet we shy away from it. We want to know, but we feel better off not knowing. We want to understand, but some of the pieces necessary for that seem to be missing.

On top of that, when we are high-functioning in at least one area of our life, the confusion confuses us: “Why am I so confused so often, and why can’t I figure this out? I do so well (in whatever area of life I am high functioning), yet I suck here.”

One of the reasons for this kind of confusion is that there is a part of us that has learned to survive by keeping the deepest truths in the shadows.

If what we believe to be true about ourselves is indeed true, then we are even worse that we believe ourselves to be. That would then means that we are beyond help and there is no hope because all of this evil that happened is about our “being”, and not about somebody’s “doing”.

And the village of “Shame-filled Hopelessness” is the worst place in the world to live.

The remedy to the problem is simple but is also one of the hardest for survivors of abuse: The safest place to be is the scariest place to be, and that is leaning into and walking through the junkyard of the painful memories of your life, seeing them as they truly were and not as what they have come to look like.

What that means is that we learn to re-examine the hurtful things that have happened and, instead of thinking, “When ‘so-and-so’ did ‘such-and-such’ to me, it wasn’t because there was ‘something so wrong with me’, but ‘there was something really wrong with them that they would do this to any child, including me.'”

We get these things into the light where God’s power is activated and released, out of the darkness and the shadows where our Enemy lurks and works. W don;t do this alone, but we pursue the truth because THAT is where our freedom really lies.

Yes, it is scary. The fears we have are real fears. But we have to remember that, while feelings are real, feelings ARE NOT FACT!

Feelings change; facts do not.

When we learn to see things for what they were instead of what they have come to look like, the truth shines through and the confusion clears. We learn to file things in the right folders, put proper names on things, and call things what they are.

Jesus’ promise that, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) is never more true for a survivor than here.


Soli Deo Gloria


Absence of Honor


“Even when I really, really wasn’t happy with my mother, I could never imagine ever speaking to her that way.”

When did it become not just “okay” but normal and acceptable for children to dishonor their parents?

I’m not talking about a simple LACK of honor . . . I am talking about the active DISHONORING of their parents by children – especially grown children – that has become so commonplace it is now normal.

I have been witnessing this phenomenon of the rampant disregard for and dishonoring of parents in our society for several years now and it was brought home this week while my wife and I were vacationing.

The above “Overheard” statement was made by the lady whose home we stayed in for most of our trip. She is a gentle, soft-spoken woman who has two grown children.

She lost her husband a couple of years ago and has been managing and growing the family business since that time. She has also been nurturing her daughter through her divorce from a man who was abusive.

As I was sitting at the breakfast bar listening to mothers talk about how their daughters have been relating to them in recent days, I could see how big a deal was to them. And how heartbreaking.

Both of them are very confused. And heartbroken. And they are not the only ones these days.

Many parents of grown children have the same heartbroken disbelief over how the children the love can be so quickly and easily dishonoring.

They simply cannot understand what it was they had done that could have caused their daughters to speak to them harshly, to be short and curt to them, to disregard their feelings as if they are a nuisance, and to rise up in angry belligerence when they disagree with them.

These two ladies were talking about how they – two women I respect and admire – were feeling as a result of how they were left feeling by recent interactions with their daughters – young women I also respect and admire.

And it got me thinking about how far we have come from God’s original, exquisite design.

The Bible admonishes children to do two things: first, when they are young, to obey their parents; second, when they are older, to honor their parents.

Both of these are given as commands, not suggestions, and in both instances it is to the children’s advantage that they do so.

It’s pretty easy to figure out what it means for child obey their parents. But, what does it mean for child to honor their parents?

Do you know what honor is, what the word means?

The Hebrew word underlying “honor” in the 5th Commandment proposes a heaviness, a weightiness, a relentlessness, and a richness, all in a long-lasting, continuing sense.

It implies a lifelong responsibility, thus it is used in the sense of honoring, glorifying, imposing, or being weighty.

In English, honor means “to give high regard, respect, and esteem to; give special recognition to; to bring or give respect or credit to; an outward token, sign or act that manifests high regard for.”

Two English words – respect and reverence — help bring into focus the implications of this commandment.

Respect means “to have deferential regard for; to treat with propriety and consideration; to regard as inviolable.” Reverence means “to show deferential respect.”

Honor has a far wider application than obey. Honor is expressed in courtesy, kindness, respectfulness, thoughtfulness, mercy, and generous, affectionate deeds.

Just as surely as God requires parents to care for, love, nourish, defend, support, and tenderly provide for their children their first moments of infancy, so children in their strength should reflect this back to their parents, even in their perceived “weakness.”

God has not provided a disqualifier for this command, the loopholes, no escape clauses. He does not say, “Children, honor your parents as long as they are worthy of honor.”

When a grown child speaks rudely, harshly, angrily, disrespectfully to their parents – no matter what justification they may believe they have – they are in fact dishonoring their parents.

And it’s not so much about the deeds were the words, but about the heart behind them. In God’s economy, dishonoring one’s parents is dishonoring God.

And, on top of that, it breaks the heart of the parent being treated so – especially a mom.

Mom’s are, for the most part, loving, caring, nurturing, self-sacrificial, lovingly devoted to, easily made proud of, and very often heard bragging about their children.

And even if the child is engaged in embarrassing, shameful behaviors, you won’t hear it from mom.

How is it, then, that a grown child could have such blatant disregard for heart and feelings of the one person in their life who has invested more in them than any 10 others?

And heaven forbid anyone were to come against that child — who do you think would be the first to come to that him and him child’s defense? Would it not be Mom?

To hear a grown child say that they are entitled to respect “too”, while it is true to a certain degree, they are not rise up against their parents and demand it from their parents.

To do so would require them to be dishonoring – and that is absolutely not okay with God.

Bottom line: Children — grown children — honor your parents in the Lord. This is your duty, your sacred obligation, and it is honoring and pleasing to God.

You may just find life turning out richer, better, and longer than even you feel entitled to.

Oh — and if you’ve been dishonoring and disrespectful to your parents — get on the phone and apologize. You never know when you will have waited too long and it will be too late.

Soli Deo Gloria