Breaking the 8th commandment: gaslighting

The Judeo-Christian tradition has another name for gaslighting. It’s called breaking the Eighth Commandment. “You shall not bear false witness” is the commandment that involves what Martin Luther called “sins of the tongue … lying and evil-speaking.” People of faith and nonreligious people of goodwill need to understand what is happening and how to counteract the effects of gaslighting.

Clergy have a particular obligation to educate and support their congregants who are being subjected to the psychological trauma of gaslighting (even if people don’t recognize it as such, or are unwittingly assenting to it).

How do we counter gaslighting? First, we must call it what it is, call it to accountability, and be counter-models of radical integrity.

Second, when someone is brave enough to share their feelings about what’s happening in our nation, don’t belittle them, or think of them as “snowflakes.” Show compassion, because it’s likely that this is dredging up experiences and emotions from their past or exacerbating what they’re already subjected to in their lives. Reassure them that they are not the problem, that they are a good person, and that they are strong enough psychologically to resist what is happening.

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