A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Gaslighters in the Bible

Any of this sound familiar?

Dathan and Abiram

Numbers 16:12-13  And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and they said, “We will not come up. Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also make yourself a prince over us?

So Moses, who was used as God’s deliverer, who rescued them from slavery and despair, is being told that he dragged them out of Utopia and into the wilderness so he could kill them and then be a prince over their dead bodies. Dathan and Abiram are making out that Egypt was a land flowing in milk and honey! ? And they’re saying that not only is Moses killing them in the wilderness, but he also wants to make himself prince over them! ?

Like most abuserese, it doesn’t even make sense. We all know that the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt; they were under the lash, trying to make bricks without straw. And while they were in the wilderness, God protected and provided for them (except those who most defiantly rebelled whom He killed or had stoned, and even then, the deaths of those rebels could be said to be protective for the group as a whole, because it cleaned out the bad apples). And rather than Moses wanting to rule over them as a prince, he found the task of leading them burndensome; indeed, he had begged God not to impose it on him. Like all abusers, these gaslighters Dathan and Abiram were the ones who were after power, and in their fleshly small mindedness and bid for power, they asserted that Moses had the same base motives they had.

I don’t even know how often this was the scenario in my marriage. X and his allies twisted events and accused me of ruining everyone’s bliss because I wanted power.  The abusers’ playbook is limited. This has been going on from the beginning of time. But we can learn from the Scriptures and our experiences. We can be wise to these tactics. I don’t think (or even hope) that the ground will open up and swallow X and his allies, but I am confident that God will use this all for His glory.

Jezebel

Another example of a gaslighter in the Bible is Jezebel. She is a treasure trove of sermon examples, but right now I am thinking of her last words. Let me pause to promote the history books of First and Second Kings and First and Second Chronicles. Man, I love those books and the amazing stories in them! There are fantastic heroes and villains, miracles, prophecies that make your hair stand on end and all kinds of greatness. I listen to the audio Bible all the time and I get so excited when we get to the history books. If you’re not familiar with the background to this story let me give you the abbreviated version. Jezebel and Ahab were in power over Israel. They were bad news in all kinds of ways, but one day Ahab had a tantrum because he wanted Naboth’s field for a home improvement project and he couldn’t get it. Jezebel had Naboth killed in order to get the field for Ahab. So she’s a murderer in addition to all of her other horrible deeds that are detailed in the history books. And as God sends Jehu to execute His judgement on her, she tries to make Jehu change his tack, implying that he will regret it if he harms her:

2 Kings 9:31-33  And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said, Had Zimri peace, who slew his master? And he lifted up his face to the window, and said, Who is on my side? who? And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs. And he said, Throw her down.

This part of the audio Bible is just AWESOME! It’s dramatized and Jehu sounds so fierce and growly. “THROW HER DOWN!” I just want to cheer!

So Jezebel, who had an innocent man murdered in order to get her wicked husband to quit throwing a fit, is daring to tell Jehu that he’s up to no good? Gah! These gaslighters are so full of it! They always try to make the righteous people feel guilty, or at least make them doubt their own minds. Thankfully Jehu didn’t even pause to answer Jezebel’s question/accusation. He just had her tossed out the window. Love that.

And I think the way Jehu ignores Jezebel’s question provides a good model to us when a gaslighter is attempting to get us off course. Because we’re good little neurotics, we feel the nice thing to do is answer a question that’s been asked. After all, perhaps Jezebel has forgotten that she’s a murderer and her acts demand God’s judgement and we ought to pause to help her, to explain things to her so she has just one more chance to repent. Oh, their questions used to be so confusing. Questions DO NOT require an answer. Jezebel wasn’t confused or forgetful. She was trying to keep a hold on her power. That’s all.

If the abusers/gaslighters in our lives want answers, really want answers, let them fall on their face before the throne of God and ask Him. Let them humble themselves and beg God to change them. They have no business asking us to help them change. Go change with the help of God and a therapist and come back without demands, without questions/blame/accusations and stay changed for a LOOONNNGG time (I have yet to see this happen). But don’t accuse me of disturbing the peace for speaking truth.

18 Comments

  1. Joe Pote

    “Questions DO NOT require an answer.”

    Exactly! The innocent party does not owe a response to a question intended to imply guilt. This type of question is not asked for the purpose of learning the truth, but rather for the purpose of causing dissension and stirring up strife.

    Good post!

  2. “Because we’re good little neurotics, we feel the nice thing to do is answer a question that’s been asked. After all, perhaps Jezebel has forgotten that she’s a murderer and her acts demand God’s judgement and we ought to pause to help her, to explain things to her so she has just one more chance to repent. Oh, their questions used to be so confusing. Questions DO NOT require an answer. Jezebel wasn’t confused or forgetful. She was trying to keep a hold on her power. That’s all.”

    That’s my favorite paragraph here. “Maybe she forgot she’s a murderer. Maybe we have to help out like the sweet little stupid Christians they demand because, otherwise, they are going to whine like girly babies.” These guys really don’t like a Jehu marching around now do they?

    I seriously need to remember this until I can get that beast blocked and deleted 🙂

    • MeganC

      I love this part, too, Ellie. I wish that I had known that an answer was not required of me when I was hounded by questions by people who were “investigating” me. Confusion abounded and they were only out to condemn me, anyway. But, I made things worse by answering. Now, when people ask me questions, a little red flag goes up (whether right or wrong, I don’t know . . . ). If a person has not earned my trust (or has broken it before), they don’t usually get an answer! I am also trying to teach my children to say things like, “I am not comfortable answering that . . . you can ask my parents.” We even practice! Ha!

      • Jeff Crippen

        Megan-

        You can also ask them the classic no-win question instead of answering theirs: “So, are you still beating your wife?”

      • Brenda R

        That’s a great ? Jeff C. I can just imagine the expressions on some faces. That would make a great caricature, or at least in my head anyways.

      • MeganC

        Ha! Writing that down . . . . 😉

      • Joe Pote

        I love it, Megan! What a great idea, training your children to establish and defend personal boundaries!

      • Joe Pote

        Jeff – I kind of like the answer-a-question-with-a-question approach (although I’m never quick enough to do that). It occurs to me that Jesus used this approach to deflect a question from people trying to stir up trouble, who had no real interest in the truth. From Matthew 21:

        23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”

        24 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”

        And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.”

        And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

  3. I love the history books too!
    those books are riddled with examples of abusers, seems so obvious now!

  4. fiftyandfree

    I LOVE your advice. Simply do not answer these abusers’ questions. And you are so right about how we want to do the polite thing and answer a question when we are asked, but we don’t have to answer them and the abuser doesn’t really want the truth anyway. They are just trying to trip you up, get you to admit something that’s not true, twist your words and use them against you, etc. I wish I had been wise enough to ignore his questions. IT would have saved me a lot of grief.

  5. Joy V.

    WOW!!! This is a powerful reminder. Agreed that questions don’t require an answer. I have to tell myself this often. They do need to seek answers from God and a GOOD therapist.

  6. Brenda R

    I love it when people speak truth…speak on. Questions, do not require an answer. You mean I have repeating myself senseless for nothing…..I already knew that, but can’t seem to stop. I believe I will keep this post very handy.

  7. Ellie

    I think that asking the same questions over and over is another sign of an abuser or an abuser’s ally. I have noticed that X would ask the same question, seeming humble, like he just didn’t understand and needed my help, and I’d answer, and he’d seem to understand and maybe even say something that made sense in relation to the answer, only to completely “forget” and ask the same question again.

    His father does this as well. I realized he was doing it long before I realized XH was. XFIL would do it about mundane things, or about politics, or just anything he wanted to talk about. Once he repeatedly asked about my family member’s decision. After I gave him the family member’s number and asked him to direct his question to my relative, he quit asking me. But when I was trying to plan my escape and MIL and FIL seemed to be supportive, FIL kept asking the same questions and I kept answering and offering more and more in depth explanations. We were trying to coordinate logistics (or so I thought, FIL was trying to get out of having to confront anyone). But what it turned out to be (in my opinion) is that FIL is a coward and he was trying desperately to avoid having to stand up to XH.

    A lady at church uses the repetitive questions thing also. She’s not in a position to abuse me and her persistent repetitive questions have triggered my spidey sense. So I will avoid getting in a position where she could abuse me. She is not a kind person anyway, but she was asking me friendly questions. We have some things in common and I thought, like a good little neurotic, that I could help her see how it would be better to be nice to people… So I answered her and we had a pleasant enough conversation. The following week we chatted and at some point she interrupted me to finish my sentence. No big deal, I figured that maybe she had been listening to me the previous week. Great. Until she followed her interruption with a question that had been asked and answered. She’s out.

  8. fiftyandfree

    Accusatory questions are another tactic. “So, you’ve never lied?”

  9. Finding Answers

    Fiftyandfree commented ….And you are so right about how we want to do the polite thing and answer a question when we are asked, but we don’t have to answer them and the abuser doesn’t really want the truth anyway. …..

    Hopefully my coding displays correctly – I am attempting to show strikethrough on the word “abuser” in the comment quoted.

    The intent is to say this comment can apply to anyone.

    • Yes, your coding worked! And you are right, it’s not only the abusers who don’t really want the truth. Many other people don’t want the truth – bystanders, professionals (e.g. if they are overworked, or morally corrupt), plus victim-survivors who are still in the fog and for whatever reason can’t bear the pain of processing more truth at the moment.

      • Finding Answers

        I was struggling to understand the Holy Spirit’s leading…

        Today is one of those farther-down-the-pit-wall days, and all I could think of were lists of examples from my own life – which I would have had to omit for my protection. On the other hand, many points had already been stated.

        When I read Fiftyandfree’s comment, I realized coding the comment covered all the bases. On days like today, the structure of coding is simpler to cope with than finding the “right” turn of phrase.

      • 🙂 🙂 🙂

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