2 Timothy 3:1-5, 8-9 ESV
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
“Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.”
Jude 1:12-13, 16-19 ESV
“These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.”
“These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.
“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.’ It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.”
I believe the Lord Jesus wants me to talk about something today which is called “gaslighting,” (1) which is abuse, and which is cruel. And, it fits right in with these descriptions of certain kinds of people in these two (above) passages of Scripture.
“Gaslighting” is one form of abuse which users and abusers will use to attempt to control others. And, it may be in retaliation against someone if he/she is getting too close to the truth, and for the purpose to try to silence that person, to shut him/her up.
So, first there is the “set-up,” where the abuser sets the stage for a particular scenario which he is certain is going to accomplish what he desires. He knows enough about his intended target (a person or group of people) that he can fairly predict how that person will react. So, he creates a false narrative to get his target to believe him and to take the bait, and then the play begins. And, then he begins to reel the person in.
Now, this type of situation may happen just between two people, or it may be something done on a much larger scale, such as nationally or globally or in the church. But the scenario is faked, or if it is real, it is then manipulated to the abuser’s advantage to catch his target in his snare.
These abusers are not godly people. They are not mature individuals. They are irresponsible, self-indulgent, lovers of self, proud, without self-control, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, etc. For, they are following their sinful nature, doing what they do by instinct, habitually.
Once they have set the bait on the hook, and they see their target coming, they immediately move into action and the performance begins. They begin to operate (utilize their abusive and manipulative tactic). And, then the evil scheme begins rolling. And, what takes place next is dishonorable, corrupt, and immoral, because it is about taking advantage of others for personal gain.
So, when the target takes the bait, and the target believes the abuser, and he does or says what is predictable, then the abuser really gets into the act. He says things, but then denies that he said them. And this is to try to convince his target that he is “hearing things” or that he is misinterpreting things. And, then he begins to twist the words of his target to try to make it sound like the target is saying something different than he is saying.
Then the abuser attacks his target verbally by accusing his target of things the target (person) did not do or did not say, i.e. this is where the character assassinations begin, and the shifting of blame to the target rather than the abuser taking responsibility for his own actions. The whole thing is to try to get his target confused and believing the lies so that the abuser has gained control over the target.
And, its purpose is to get the target doubting himself or his own beliefs or his own sanity or ability to hear things correctly. It is largely about confusion, but the purpose of the confusion is to gain control over the other person. Sometimes it can also be to distract or to just get the other person upset, or to just take up time, sucking up that other person’s time with stuff that is meaningless, that has no value whatsoever. For, the abuser loves to play mind games with other people just to see how they will react.
And, the thing of it is, none of this is provable, and the abuser knows it. For it is all a mind game. And, the abuser’s goal is often, as well, to turn other people against his intended target, and to make his target look bad, or to accuse his target of being crazy and of imagining things, because abusers are often likeable, charming, and manipulative people.
So, just like the Scripture (above) says, we need to understand this. We need to be aware that there are people out there who may appear fairly innocuous outwardly, but who may be like lions waiting for their prey to appear, so that they can attack. Outwardly they may appear harmless and even believable, but they have many tricks up their sleeves.
So, we need to pray for discernment to know when we are being lured into a trap or when we are being played, or when someone is just playing mind games with us, either one on one, or on a much larger scale, too. And, these mind games or traps are not always that easy to spot. Believe me! It may begin innocent looking and then all of a sudden turn ugly.
2 Timothy 3:12-14 ESV
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.”
Jude 1:20-23 ESV
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”
So, what is the counsel to us here? We can’t go around mistrusting everyone and their motives. That isn’t healthy. If we are going to love people with Jesus’ love, to a certain extent we are going to make ourselves vulnerable to being abused (persecuted). These types of situations, too, may seem on the up and up, but we need discernment to see when it isn’t what it appears.
So, what are we to do when we realize what is going on? We need to reject the lies and we need to combat the lies with the truth. We must hold firmly to what we believe and to what we know to be the truth and to not let anyone try to convince us of anything we know is a lie. And, we need to verbally expose the lies for what they are and we need to verbally proclaim the truth, much like Jesus did when Satan was tempting him or when the Pharisees were trying to trip him up.
And, we must realize that Satan is the one attacking us through these abusers, and that he obviously has control over their lives. So we must speak the truth firmly, and strongly oppose the lies in order to snatch people from the fire, and so that we do not get pulled down with it all and get discouraged and want to give up the fight for people’s souls. So, we must stand strong against the devil’s tactics, hating sin, while still showing mercy to people.