Gaslighting is when someone tells you something totally different from what you know to be true, in spite of what you have seen, heard, or otherwise experienced. Over time, you begin to question yourself, even though you know what you experienced. Finally, you doubt yourself in favor of what the other person tries to convince you of, even though you know you have tangible proof to the contrary. You convince yourself that you misunderstood what you saw or heard, and that there is something wrong with you. And the person gaslighting you will be more than eager to encourage you to think that it’s you. So, does the Bible say anything about gaslighting?
The Bible actually has quite a bit to say about gaslighting. But the Bible doesn’t use the word gaslighting. Instead, it refers to gaslighting as lying or deceit. When you combine those words with the Biblical words for narcissists (insolent pride, folly, foolishness, whitewashed tombs, arrogant, boastful, proud, hypocrites), we have a really good picture of what the Bible says about gaslighting. It talks about why it is so inherently evil, what kind of people treat others in this way, and even how victims of gaslighting should react.
Let’s take a look at the specifics!
Table of Contents
What the Bible Says About Gaslighting
The word gaslighting came from the movie, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer in 1944. So, then, obviously the Bible, written millennia before this movie will not use the term gaslighting. Here are some of the words they do use to describe gaslighting: deceit, slander, abuse, crooked, corrupt, stirring up strife, detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good work. There are more, but you get the idea. The point is that gaslighting is intentionally destroying someone else in mean and cruel ways. So virtually any verse in the Bible that talks about these things would be applicable to the subject of gaslighting. Let’s look at some particular verses.
2 Timothy 3:1-9 is probably the most “famous” Scripture regarding narcissism. Here is what it says:
1“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,
4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions,
7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.
9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.”
These verses cover many more issues than narcissism. But they represent many of the characteristics of narcissism really well. I underlined those words that specifically address narcissism so you can see how much they relate. Every descriptive word emphasizes some aspect of narcissism. The only thing missing is the word narcissism itself!
As for the reference to Jannes and Jambres in the final verse, they are mentioned in Exodus when they try to match the power of God and convince the people that they were the same as their God of the Bible. In the end, God proved otherwise when Aaron’s rod that turned into a snake ate their rods-turned-snakes.
This passage also goes above and beyond when it talks about what narcissistic behavior does. Men use it to trick women into marrying them. My own husband was “saving me” from my abusive childhood home. What I didn’t realize was I left one abusive home and went right into another one.
It also talks about how they are always learning but never arrive at knowledge of the truth. My ex knew so much about the Bible. He was always discussing what the Bible says about whatever he was talking about. But he never truly took the Bible to heart. It was merely to exert power over everyone around him and appear to be the smartest in the room. He has never come to a true knowledge of God, the Bible or salvation.
There are literally hundreds of verses that speak about narcissism. I put more of the most prominent ones in the following chart. They are largely self explanatory.
What Kind of People Gaslight Others?
According to Psychology Today, gaslighting is “a pattern of manipulation tactics used by abusers, narcissists, dictators, and cult leaders to gain control over a person or people. The goal is to make the victim or victims question their own reality and depend on the gaslighter.”
And, believe it or not, even normal people can gaslight from time to time. We all want to believe something that isn’t true sometimes. And we also all want people to agree with us and see things our way. While this is always wrong to do, nobody is perfect. But when it becomes a pattern of behavior, then it is really a problem.
Let’s see what the Bible says about those who gaslight others.
Titus 1:16 says, “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” This is particularly true of the spiritual (or religious) narcissist. They know exactly which words to use to make people think they are the greatest Christian in the room. And they are very careful not to let anyone get too close to them, lest they see that it is just a mask they wear and not a life they live.
Proverbs 26:24-26 says, “Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.” This speaks to all the hallmarks of gaslighting: sweet words that are actually full of hatred and deceit. But even when the narcissist gaslighter fools many around him and destroys those closest to him, God truly does see. And he will not get away with it if he does not repent.
2 Corinthians 11:13 says, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” This verse actually shows the insidious nature of religious or spiritual narcissists. They are not Christians. But they will show the world that they are the best Christian because that is how they trick people into trusting and believing them. And that is how they will get their narcissistic supply. Until people catch on to them. Then they will move on to another life and start the same thing all over again. All while playing victim from the life where they wreaked havoc and walked away.
There are so many more verses that talk about what kind of people gaslight others. Check the chart above for more. And when you get a chance, read the books of Psalms and Proverbs in your Bible or online. You will be surprised at how many times God speaks to tactics like gaslighting. He is not fooled.
Just to see how many times God addresses issues around gaslighting, try this activity. Print up a copy of a chapter in Psalms or Proverbs daily and highlight or underline every time you see a reference to lying, deceit, control, oppression, manipulation, or any other aspect of gaslighting or narcissism. You will be amazed at how much you find. I think that God truly knows how ingrained in human nature these things are. And He gives us the keys to escape them!
What The Bible Says to do About Gaslighting
Much like the Bible speaks about other forms of abuse, it says plenty about gaslighting as well. Here are a few things the Bible says we can do specifically about gaslighting.
Proverbs 22:24 says, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man.” It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Stay away from them!
2 Corinthians 4:2 says, “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” Not only do we stay away from those who do these things, we also renounce them so that others can be warned to stay away as well.
Unfortunately, there are some who will disregard warnings about these people. They want to believe the lies and gaslighting of the narcissist. This is likely because they want to believe that the narcissist is the Christian they claim to be.
When my ex husband was removed from our home by our church, there were people that, instead of finding out what the story was, decided to stand with my ex. They refused to believe what they were told by nearly 100 different church leaders and counselors who had witnessed the abuse and tried to help him heal. They wanted to believe his lies. Most of those people ended up leaving the church and going to the church that he is now at. While he doesn’t hold any position of authority anymore, they do all “worship” God together. (The narcissist really only worships himself, but if he can appear to worship God, it sure bolsters his Christian reputation.)
At the end of the day, it wasn’t a bad thing. The whole toxic group ended up going to one place and leaving our old church to heal without the continued toxicity of the defense of my ex’s abuse and narcissism.
Ephesians 4:14-15 talks about what happens once we learn and apply the Word of God to our lives. It says, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
If we know what the Bible says regarding these kinds of people, then we will be able to handle them in a way that keeps us and our loved ones healthy. We won’t be fooled by their incredibly cunning and sneaky ways–at least not once we see their patterns of behavior emerge. And we don’t have to stoop to their level to overcome their abuse and oppression. We can speak the truth in love. If they don’t receive it and heal, we move on, just like the verse in Proverbs told us above.
What the Bible Says God Will Do About Gaslighting
Even better than the fact that the Bible tells us what we should do when we are dealing with narcissists who gaslight, it also tells us what God will do for us! I have never been one to look for revenge. It isn’t worth my energy. And in the end, God’s justice is much more than anything I could think or do because His judgment isn’t clouded with ungodly anger. Not that we shouldn’t be angry or that our anger is ungodly. I’m just saying that His justice is perfect. Ours is human and fallible.
Anyway, let’s talk about what the Bible says. For starters, Ephesians 5:6 says, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” The best outcome of narcissism and gaslighting is that the person inflicting that on other people repent and heal. But history, and even God, when He says to walk away from these people, seems to tell us that healing is a rare to nonexistent result. And this verse tells us that in that case, God will see justice done. There are tons of verses in Psalms talking about how it seems the oppressor gets away with their bad behavior while the victim withers away. The oppressor will not get away with it forever. God gives them exactly what their rebellion deserves.
The unfortunate part of this is that while the narcissist gets exactly what they deserve if they never seek restitution for the damage they have done, it really isn’t sweet. It is sad. How much better if the narcissist could get beyond their own extreme hurt from childhood and realize that they don’t have to hide that shame that wasn’t even theirs to bear.
1 Peter 3:7 says, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” It shows us that in the case of a husband who oppresses and demeans his wife, God will not even listen to his prayers. This verse was shared with my husband in counseling AND sessions with our church. His answer was always, “God hears me just fine.” And his tone in saying that was always dripping with contempt.
The rest of the verses are pretty self explanatory so I will just leave them here for you to check out.
Jeremiah 9:8-9 “Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully; with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart he plans an ambush for him. Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord, and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?”
Psalm 119:118 “You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain.”
Galatians 5:21 “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
While this certainly gets you started in what the Bible has to say about gaslighting, there are literally hundreds more verses. I could write a whole book on this!
What Scriptures have you found that helped you to understand gaslighting in God’s terms better? Has it been helpful to you? Has it been helpful as other Christians come alongside you in your suffering? I would love to hear about your experience.
Please feel free to comment below. If you don’t feel safe commenting in a public forum, feel free to contact me here.
Blessings and hugs,