Toxic People - There's Another Way
"Don't feel guilty about removing toxic people from your life."
"Letting go of toxic people is
an act of self-care."
These Facebook sayings about "toxic" people appear on my newsfeed every so often, and I'm sure you've seen them too. And the idea sounds right, doesn't it? After all, why should we have to deal with people who make our lives miserable? Wouldn't we be so much happier if we cut those folks out of our lives altogether? Then we could live in peace.
Usually a toxic situation arises when a relationship sours. There are times when we're first introduced to someone and immediately we don't see eye-to-eye, but if we think about it, that's actually a rare occurrence. No, a toxic situation began as a relationship--a friend or a family member. As we change and grow through our lives, sometimes we adopt different ways of thinking, ways that begin to separate us from those who don't agree with our new ideas.
Say you become a Christian and your friend does not. Your new beliefs don't jive with theirs. Now you've stopped partying and your friend can't understand what's wrong with you. Eventually, you come to a point where it seems the only way for you to be happy is to stop being their friend.
Or maybe you're a parent who did your best raising your children, but for whatever reason they've rebelled. They leave town the minute they turn 18 and now they never call or text. Maybe you have no idea where they are. They've deemed you "toxic" to their preferred way of life and have cut you out. It hurts. Deeply.
Oh my. What if the people you've cut out of your life are sitting at home feeling just as hurt?
Don't get me wrong. I've done the "dump toxic people" thing myself. There was a woman who just rubbed me the wrong way. Whenever she was around, I'd try to find something else to do. I'd even lie about it. But still, she kept after me. Why wouldn't she leave me alone? Looking back, I realize now that other people treated her the same way and for whatever reason she thought I was different. But rather than talking with her directly, I avoided her at all costs.
When she told me she was dying, I didn't believe it at first. But during the last six months of her life, we talked more than we ever had. I realized she was just trying her best to raise her son and teach him how to be a giving person. She tended to be a bit of a "helicopter" mom (always hovering), but it was only because she loved him so much. As I sat next to her while she lay in her hospice bed, I realized how badly I'd treated her, and yet, she wanted me to be with her. She modeled Christ-like behavior, even though I didn't deserve it.
So I'm pretty sure cutting "toxic" folks out of our lives is not the best idea. As with most things, the ways of the world are in direct contrast to the ways of God. Here are some reminders, straight from the Bible:
"But I say to you, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.'" (Matthew 5:44 NRSV)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well." (Matthew 5:38-40 NRSV)
"Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:32 NLT)
"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18 NIV)
Being human means we are going to mess up. We will definitely rub someone the wrong way at some point in our lives. And others will do it to us. But walking away from a person means allowing a relationship to remain permanently broken. The above verses from God's word (and so many others) show us how God wants us to live peaceful lives with one another.
Boy, it's hard to swim upstream from the advice of the world. But no one said living the Christian life would be easy. Is there a relationship you need to repair? Ask God to help you find a way, and ask others to pray for you as you struggle to make things right.
Until next time,