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LYING LOW - the strategic use of gaslighting

My last blog was triggered by observing Russia's president Putin's blatant lies as he attempted, with little success except toward his own country's people, to gaslight the world about his intentions to make war on a neighbouring nation.

It's difficult to imagine why anyone would think their words could be believed when their actions speak a radically different message. The build up of 130,000 Russian troops and military weapons on the Ukraine border, ostensibly on military exercises (nothing to see here, folks) was belied by the evidence visible to anyone with a screen in front of them. However, such obfuscation, deception, deceit and trickery is a common ploy used by people whose determinatio to get what they want overrules any consciousness of integrity, or concern for the wellbeing of others.

The term gaslighting came into common English language usage via GASLIGHT - a play and then a movie made in 1944 where a husband misleads, manipulates and confuses his wife into thinking she's going mad. He intends to commit her to a mental institution so he can claim her wealth. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation where a bully creates a false narrative, causing others to question their own judgement and ultimately lose the power of self-agency.

Whatever the name we give it now, it's a strategy used from time immemorial by bullies and narcissists to achieve their own ends. It's used as a strategic manoeuvre in relationships, in politics, in organisations, charities, churches, families, in fact, anywhere there are people whose primary focus is themself and their own gain. It is akin to fake news, a term, ironically, brought into common usage by a former American president with a track record of more than 30,000 verifiable lies during his presidency. His moral bankruptcy and lust for power at any cost enabled him to manipulate and win the political support of a people group he despised, convincing them he was their friend and ally. It's an amazing turn of events when Wikipedia reports such evidence of a still-living national leader.

Of course, these two presidents are not the only high profile people for whom cognitive dissonance is the norm as a lifestyle, but they serve to illustrate how lack of truth is a pandemic far more dangerous and potentially life threatening even than the Covid 19 virus which has killed around 6 million people to date.

Which brings us to a more personal arena. We live in fractals. If you don't know what a fractal is, you don't have little kids who watched Frozen on loop. A fractal is a self repeating pattern which occurs in nature on a massive scale. Cauliflowers, snail shells, fir trees, snow flakes, blood vessels, succulents are just a few examples of a fractal. The pattern repeats in scale from microscopic to mega, and once you identify what a fractal is, you can see it everywhere.

Obfuscation, deception, white lies, black lies, fake news, gaslighting, exaggeration for personal benefit, mendacity, double-dealing, two-faced, forked-tongue, duplicity, hood-winking, falsehood... whatever the terminology, these are all fractals of what Putin has attempted to do to the world in his ruthless determination to invade the peaceful country next door, with whom his nation shares a common history.

The truth speaks for itself if we let it, yet even truth tellers are liable to be misled when the direction of the lie suits their world view. Here is where the idea that the end justifies the means cons people into thinking that if the end result is what we want, the way to get there is excusable, even when it flies in the face of decency at every level.

Jesus fronted the Pharisees with their public performance of paying attention to the most minute details of their religious edicts, while at the same time they paid no attention to the greater issues of mercy, justice and faithfulness. He says they could have done both, but instead, they are blind guides to others, polishing the outside but filthy on the inside.

Matthew 23:24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat, but you swallow a camel.

We're quick to label leaders as doing that, but the fractal operates at every level and if you want to deal with the problem in the mega and the meta, each of us must begin at the micro level - me. The Putins of this world were once little kids who learned survival techniques for their future adulthood. The difference between them and us is that their position has magnified their power to destroy beyond all proportion to our ability to do the same, even if we use the same kind of tools.

And therein lies the rub. You can't deal with it on the outside unless you've dealt with it on the inside first. It's not about calling out others, it's about telling yourself the truth about the things that relate to you. When someone does that, they're far more inclined to tell the truth to everyone around them.

A preacher, writer, leadership consultant and mentor, Bev is passionate about justice, about the Church and its leaders, and has a special concern for women in leadership. A church and network leader for four decades, entrepreneurial founder of several international initiatives, and a mother and grandmother, Bev's life experience, coupled with her willingness to look at life from different points of view, have supported and encouraged many leaders across the globe.

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