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  • World Women’s Wholeness Summit: I will be one of the speakers at Dr. Barbara’s summit in March 2022. She will be offering a live and a virtual option. You can find all the details here.

What is Gaslighting?

by Leslie Vernick

October is Domestic Violence awareness month. When a woman shows up with a black eye or broken arm at the hands of her spouse, abuse is obvious. When she lives with a broken spirit, the effects of abuse are just as real, but less obvious. God tells us a broken spirit is damaging and hard to live with (Proverbs 18:14).

Gaslighting is a form of covert abuse. It’s become a kind of buzz-word lately so you may have heard the term but what is gaslighting? How do you deal with it in your personal relationships?

The word actually comes from a famous movie released in the 40’s called “Gaslight.” It’s about an accomplished opera singer named Paula who falls in love with and marries a man named Gregory Anton. Gregory begins to torture his wife, not physically but psychologically. He manipulates things around the house. For instance, he would dim the lights in the house. When Paula mentioned it, Gregory would say it’s her imagination. He hides things that Paula puts in a certain place, and when she can’t find them puts them back. He accuses her of going crazy and, with his manipulations, she begins to believe him.

When you hear the term “gaslighting” it means a very intentional form of psychological manipulation. It’s a way of confusing, controlling, and intimidating someone to the point that she begins to doubt her memory and her own reality. This leads to believing that marital problems are her fault.

The ultimate goal of gaslighting is to destroy a person’s self-confidence so she can’t function independently. She stops trusting her own judgement and becomes unable to make decisions. Realize…this can happen over time without anyone so much as raising their voice. This type of covert abuser often appears like the “good guy” because his cruel behavior is hidden from those around him.

It’s important to understand the stages of gaslighting. There are three of them:

Stage one: Create Confusion

In this stage your words are often twisted into something you never said. If you try to explain, it’s common to be labeled a liar. Realize that this is not a communication problem. It’s intentional. Your partner knows what you said and what you meant.

Stage Two: Defensiveness

Even the most mundane and normal of concerns have you being called controlling, judgmental, self-righteous. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter what he’s done…you’re the nag, the abusive one and he is the victim. Defending yourself usually leads to a huge argument and goes nowhere. Enough experiences in this stage and you’ll start to doubt yourself and believe the labels he puts on you.

Stage 3: Depression and Emptiness

You’ve changed. Before you knew your own mind. Now you doubt yourself. Before you were confident in your abilities. Now you don’t even know who you are. You’ve accepted the things your husband has said about you as truth. His opinion of you is gospel and you find yourself in a pattern of apologizing as well as feeling insecure and self-conscious. Your reality is one of depression and emptiness.

But a little clarity could go a long way here. So let’s shed some light on what’s really going on:

Covert “Crazymaking.”

1. Information is distorted or outright withheld but he swears you were told everything. You “must have forgotten.” You misunderstood. That didn’t happen. Soon you’re doubting your version of reality.

2. He says something hurtful. Something he knows will make you feel insecure. When you object he accuses you of overreacting or being too sensitive. He “didn’t mean it” or you “misunderstood.” Ultimately, you’re the one who is apologizing!

3. Minimizing is an almost daily occurrence. “It’s not that big a deal.”

4. Excuses are another major pastime for the gaslighter. His actions are always someone else’s fault. (Usually yours.)

5. Deflecting your concerns or feelings or confrontations as crazy, ridiculous, unimportant, or ungodly. You’re bad, he’s good. You’re wrong, he’s right.

So, how do you deal with gaslighting?

1. When you’re having a conversation, record it or write down what’s being said. You can simply say, “I’m tired of being told I don’t remember what you said.” This puts him on notice that his tactic of purposely leaving out information and accusing you of forgetfulness will not work anymore.

2. When he says something cruel, write down his exact words. This way he cannot edit his words to be a watered-down version of the truth.

3. When he minimizes by saying something isn’t a big deal it’s okay to tell him you disagree. You can calmly say, “I do think it’s a big deal and I’m going to discuss it with our pastor.” This sends a message that his words and actions will no longer be a secret and you are no longer going to defend yourself to him.

4. Stick with the facts and stick with his actions. When he tries to blame you or someone else, simply says, “No. There are plenty of people who have been in a similar situation and made different decisions. You are responsible for your own choices.” Then stop. Don’t ask for an apology. Don’t ask him to acknowledge the truth. Just stop. You’ve made it clear you will not be manipulated.

Healthy people work on their shortcomings. They acknowledge their sinful nature and work to change. You can’t do that for your husband but, with God’s help, you can work on yourself so that he no longer has the power to rob you of your reality, your confidence, and your self-respect.


How to Find Selfless Joy in a Me-First World

by Leslie Vernick

Do You Need Greater Self-Esteem–Or Something Else Entirely? Western culture increasingly emphasizes the importance of self-love and self-esteem. Many of us believe we must “find” ourselves–and feel good about what we see–before we can experience significant spiritual growth. Focusing so much on ourselves, however, distracts us from pursuing the only source of true fulfillment. Do we, as God’s people, really need to love ourselves more? Or is there a wiser, biblical path that can lead us to joy that is not self-centered and fleeting, but God-focused and lasting? Challenging the current fascination with self esteem, Leslie Vernick answers these questions and others that trip up Christians today. Offering surprising insights and practical helps that can make a real difference in your life, she shows how you can experience greater personal, relational, and spiritual growth while humbly adoring and glorifying your God.

Two winners will be selected in our next newsletter! (Giveaway only available to U.S. residents)

If you would like to enter to win, you can click here to provide name and email address.

The winners of “Lord, I Just Want to be Happy” by Leslie Vernick are Lois H. and Heather H.



Want to have Leslie speak at your event?
Click here to find out more information.

The Village Church
December 2nd
Flowermound, TX

Center for Christian Counseling
Date TBA
Madison, WI

The Next Right Thing

By Deena Wilson

Mary and the other women are quiet as they measure out the burial spices. There are other things to be done today. Why take this time, this expense now, to do these spices for Jesus? What a waste, a foolishness, if they can’t even get into the tomb. Still, they are doing what they can—the next right thing.

Their eyes are red and swollen, their steps and hearts like lead on the way to the tomb. They can’t awaken from this nightmare. Jesus is dead. There is nothing more to be said or done except this. Shattered and mute, they trudge on—doing the next right thing.

Mary stands stock-still, her mouth agape, at the unexpected. The little band of women huddle behind her, staring. The stone stands rolled aside like a massive open door of welcome. What they lacked the strength to do has been somehow done for them. They hesitate, then slowly file forward into the tomb—to do the next right thing.

They gasp, shocked by what they do not find, do not expect.

What People Are Saying About Leslie’s Empowered To Change Group

“I joined E2C to become stronger in my CORE, so that I'm healthier in all my relationships. I have focused waaaaay more on others' problems, rather than seeing my problem with their problem. I avoided doing my own work by “working” on their problems. It IS empowering to stop throwing away so much energy on efforts to change others, rather than exerting the productive energy of changing myself! I love connection and community, and in my delight of serving others I am growing more and more loyal to Jesus so that others are not idols to me, that I let control me. Having a literal script to practice before having hard conversations was VERY helpful. I love the wheel of emotions :). It helped me clarify my feelings, thoughts, needs, so that I could plug those into the script. I love participating in the zoom calls and hearing my coach help us process real time situations.”

~ Graduate of Empowered To Change


Leslie wants to help you grow in your personal and relational effectiveness. Please submit your questions by clicking here.

Then, visit Leslie's Blog as she posts her responses to one question per week.

Note: Due to the volume of questions that Leslie receives, she is unable to respond to every question.


Leslie Vernick PO Box 5312 Sun City West, Arizona 85376 United States