If Christians have confronted a leader on sinful behavior and they've been gaslighted, there are certain things they can do to protect themselves and others from this behavior.
Often, this takes the form of not taking responsibility, lying, or denying behavior. However, this gives the victim a lot of pain when it comes to healing from wounds and trauma in leadership. Although there is a learning curve in terms of knowing whether the action was truly right or wrong, if the Christian has confronted a leader on sinful behavior and they've been gaslighted, there are certain things they can do to protect themselves and others from this behavior. Here are some ways to respond when Christian leaders gaslight other Christians:
Although this sounds simplistic, prayer is the best way to handle gaslighting. Bring the offense to God. Sometimes, a leader does not need to be confronted if the offense is minor and if the victim can forgive the offender. There is no Scripture that suggests we need to confront people for every single behavior, but we are required to forgive. Even if the leader has repeated bad behavior, they still need to be forgiven. If the victim has truly forgiven the offender and confronted the leader, the leader can then deny and not take responsibility for the offense. Ask God to speak and change their heart on the situation. Help them to see the situation from your perspective. Sometimes, a perspective switch is all that's needed to make sure a person is not gaslighted.
Seek Wise Counsel
Is there anyone in the church who can help you just discern what your next step might be? Find someone you can tell the situation to. Make sure to give the facts as honestly and as accurately as possible. Follow what they say to do. People who have attended church for a long time may understand a bit more about the inner workings of the church. There may be a myriad of reasons why a victim is not being confronted. Is it because they're a long-standing member of the church? Is it because they give a lot of money? The first step in resolving the issue is getting to the heart of the offense, as well as the offender. People are human, and just like any organization, politics can sometimes get involved. Why are the leaders gaslighting in the first place? Is that person a friend? Use discernment from the counsel you seek and figure out whether it's worth pursuing.
Matthew 18 gives us a good skeleton of what should happen in a situation where conflict arises. First, the person should go to the person and confront them directly. If the person sees the error of his ways and repents, reconciliation results. If the person still doesn’t agree, a leader should accompany the victim and meet with them to win them over. If still nothing is settled, the offender should be put up in front of the church. This is the model in this verse: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church, and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Having said this, a further problem is posed when the leader doesn’t see their offense, or takes the offender’s side. If this is the case, and all leaders have been notified of the offense, take it to the denomination head and ask them to mediate a meeting where the leaders, victim, and offender can all meet and air their grievances. Sometimes, that’s what it takes for someone to repent, and it will give additional accountability to the church if the leadership tries to sweep issues under the rug rather than deal with the issue directly.
When the nature and accuracy of the offense have been confirmed, it may be important to set firm boundaries. Limit your interactions with the leaders in question. Just because they choose to use that behavior doesn't mean you have to affirm that that is OK. Furthermore, just because they chose to gaslight someone else doesn't mean they can do the same to you. Avoid gossip, and don't talk to others about the offense either. It only breeds dissension and division.
Scripture does express the need for people to submit to the leadership above them. After all, in the end, the leaders are accountable to God for what they do—and fail –to do. Submission takes great courage, but it is what the Lord wants from his people. Christ submitted to his father and did only what he saw his father doing. God is the ultimate authority and will be the judge of the situation. He knows the big picture. We often only get a one-sided view of a situation. But God knows all and sees the situation from both sides, knowing people’s hearts and intentions as well.
Encourage the Victim
Seek to encourage the victim. If the victim is feeling down about a situation, offer an encouraging word, write a card, or take them out to dinner. Be a listening ear and simply listen to this situation. Allow them to speak their minds but then encourage them to let it go and allow God to be the ultimate judge. God promises he is the ultimate seeker of vengeance. If the person is truly at fault, God will see fit to punish. If you are the victim, seek the word of God and find encouragement through the scriptures. Think of the characters who went through great trials to be obedient to God's calling. In what ways did God avenge their offenders and elevate them to a higher position? Grab a hold of that promise. Write those verses on index cards and place them all over your home. Remind yourself often that God “resists the proud but give grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
Be the Bigger Person
Although your feelings are valid, it doesn't mean you can use your body language and tone to communicate your disagreement with the situation. Treat every person with respect and love. Be kind in your interactions with others. Scripture talks about Christians not being a stumbling block to others. Assume you are the more mature person in the relationship and allow grace to abound. God will be honored by your deeds because you are trusting that God will ultimately control and handle the situation.
Leaders who fail to take responsibility for their actions are difficult. However, they are human, just like everyone else. Allow this situation to be an opportunity for you to grow in maturity and Christlike character. Emulate Christ through this situation by doing the right thing. Act in a way that is worthy of being a Christian. Don't allow Satan to divide you or the leaders in question in the church. Promote unity and be a peacemaker rather than a pot stirrer. In the end, you'll be better for it, and people will see an example of Christ they can emulate.
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Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.
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You can read Rhonda's full article here.
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