A gas lamp sits on a table, ligthing up the night

In this blog post, I’m going to introduce the discussion of the harmful effects of gaslighting in religious contexts, sharing personal experiences with pat answers and assumptions made by church leaders and fellow believers.

Gaslighting can manifest in various forms, including unspoken criticisms, judgments, and manipulations, leading to a distorted understanding of God and one’s relationship with Him.

It is important to emphasize the need for authenticity in mentoring and discipleship, encouraging listeners to check their hearts, assumptions, and traditions in their communication with others.

Throughout my life, I’ve often referred to them as “pat answers.” However, as I delved deeper into the patterns of speech prevalent in the spiritual belief systems and cultural norms that many of us were raised in, I began to realize that what I had dismissed as “pat answers” were actually gaslighting phrases. These responses, which were accepted without question, always left me feeling like something was missing.

As a young believer, woman, mother, church leader, and later a pastor’s wife, I found myself frustrated by these seemingly simple answers. The frustration stemmed from the underlying assumptions, criticisms, judgments, and manipulations that accompanied these phrases. Statements like “you must not have had enough faith” or “have you prayed about it?” carried with them an unspoken sense of guilt and shame, making me feel inadequate.

I came to understand that the irritation caused by these pat answers was due to the subtle implications and expectations they carried. They implied that you should already know what they meant, creating a culture of assumptions and unspoken rules. Questions like “Have you prayed about it?” assumed a certain level of understanding and adherence to specific norms, which often led to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

As I continued on my spiritual journey, I encountered various patterns of speech that puzzled me. It wasn’t until later that I began to recognize the underlying motives and manipulations behind these phrases. The pressure to conform to rigid beliefs and behaviors within the church community only served to deepen my sense of identity crisis and disconnect from my true self.

Gaslighting phrases disguised as spiritual guidance further compounded my inner turmoil. Being told that my joy and humor were inappropriate in a religious setting made me question my worth and authenticity. These subtle forms of manipulation eroded my confidence and hindered my spiritual growth.

Reflecting on these experiences, I’ve learned to discern the intentions behind commonly used phrases and to be more mindful of the impact of my words on others. By fostering authentic communication rooted in compassion and understanding, we can create spaces where individuals feel validated and supported on their spiritual journeys. Let’s strive to cultivate relationships based on mutual respect, trust, and a shared commitment to personal growth and understanding.

3 Potential Gaslighting Phrases


“The term; “I was led” … can hide a dangerous lie, when used improperly. 

The immediate assumption is that God is leading. (not flesh, not lust, not demonic)

When we precede our thoughts with this, it sets up others to receive it as “gospel”. A bit presumptuous, perhaps?

A more truthful introduction to a new thought, idea, action, etc. is “I believe I was being led by the Lord when a thought, idea, or inspiration came to me.” (own it! This is your belief and this is your thought.) If it is of God, the people will recognize the fruit. (IF they know and recognize God over the pastor’s voice) If it is flesh, or from lust – the fruit will be evident, and the harvest a mess, “not an attack from the enemy” which is often used to gaslight others from seeing the truth.

If it is demonic, the people will recognize that too. Or they should … unless they’ve been confused by who is saying what, because they don’t know … or have been gaslighted to the point that they no longer know what is their voice, the Father’s voice, their parents’ or friend’s voice, or the enemy’s. NOTE: This very issue was the most often asked question I received while I was in active church ministry. Wish I’d known then what I know now!


This term has often been used whenever anyone dared to question the status quo. By stating that there was a “rebellious spirit” in the house, the individual and those who hear such a statement immediately stop questioning what has been questioned, and start questioning the motive behind the question as to whether or not it’s “of the enemy”.

A statement like this deflects the issue at hand and concludes that it is only to create division in the church. 

A person’s integrity immediately comes into question because a sentence or judgment was just passed by an authority figure that whatever behavior is being presented, is of the devil.

If you hear or experience this mindset, stop to recognize the knee-jerk assumption (pat answer) and notice who’s ego is involved.

Jesus beautifully modeled for us, the better approach. Ask a question to clarify where someone is coming from before responding.



Years ago, a pastor I knew spent a whole Sunday morning berating a bumper sticker that was becoming popular. The sticker stated simply, “Question Authority”

He made sure we understood how demonic this phrase was because we should never question authority, especially God’s authority.

The funny thing, it never occurred to me to question his authority, because, after all, he was the “Man of God” who was in authority over us and behind the pulpit.

His passionate message never left me, and unfortunately took me too many years to understand why this particular issue never left my memory. What I had failed to do was continue to clarify, “Who’s authority.”, “How was that authority being questioned?” “What was being brought into question?”

A blanket statement such as “Don’t ever question me” leads to serious distrust toward motives and coverups. This is even worse when a human being dares to stand in the place of God by saying they should never be questioned.

What are some phrases you're familiar with that might pass as gaslighting statements?

What statement came to your mind as you read, and what is the story behind it? What have you learned since then, or are you learning or seeing now?