Psychology of Gaslighting: How to Respond in Faith – Devotional

‘Gaslighting’ is a complex, nuanced term that many have experienced or perpetuated. If you have ever been made to question the validity of your faith, your perception of reality, your lived experiences and feelings; you may have been a victim of gaslighting. In a grace-resistant world full of post-truths, we must learn how to deal with gaslighting by returning to the Truth of God’s Word.

sneak peak at ‘day one’ below

READ: Genesis 2:15-17 Genesis 3:1 – 3:7

What is gaslighting?

“Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation and abuse, whereby seeds of doubt are sown in an individual or members of a targeted group; making them question their memory, perception, and ultimately their sanity” (Spear, 2020). 

Victims are shamed, accused of making things up, ignored, slandered, punished, and oppressed using various tactics. This leads to incredible feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, and distrust. 

Gaslighting takes place in many contexts and the relationship context is the most common. The term was originally coined after a 1944 film ‘Gaslight’ portrayed a controlling marriage in which the husband manipulated his wife into doubting her sanity.

For example, when a woman who has witnessed abuse or experienced emotional abuse from a partner, gathers the courage to share this. A ‘gaslighter’ will deny the existence of abuse or mistreatment. Some will go as far as shifting the ‘cause’ of the abuse onto the victim. This has happened to me, and even though I knew my experience was true, I became insecure, and my confidence was shattered. Another example of gaslighting would be you recalling that someone had physically slapped you, but, they deny it by saying you ‘ran into their palm’! As absurd as it sounds, this is what ‘gaslighters’ do, they will bend the truth to suit their agenda.

Gaslighting in the Bible

It may surprise you that gaslighting took place in the Bible and right at the beginning for that matter!

The Devil is the chief gaslighter. In today’s readings, notice how he did these two things to convince Eve that her perception of God’s instruction to her and her husband was wrong:  

  1. He planted seeds of doubt (‘Did God really say…?’ – Genesis 3:1).  
  2. He convincingly lied to her. (But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die…”- Genesis 3:4).

These are typical behaviours of gaslighters. They make us doubt our memories and our realities. They lie when the narrative we recall, does not fit the one they want us to hold. It takes courage to be vulnerable and share our life experiences, especially the tough ones. It requires even more courage to hold onto our truth when we are confronted by unwarranted questions about the validity of our experiences. 

The rest of this devotional will guide us on how to respond to gaslighting practically in faith. Better still, how to ensure that we do not become ‘gaslighters’ ourselves.

References:

Spear, A.D. Gaslighting, Confabulation, and Epistemic Innocence. Topoi 39, 229–241 (2020).

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