This is a two-part post. It behooves you to read part one first. (And, no, I don’t know what “behoove” means).
I wish this weren’t true, but toxic people are everywhere. You will encounter one at some point. Chances are high you already have. While you can’t choose when toxic people enter your life, you can choose how you respond.
And make no mistake, how you respond matters, especially if you follow Jesus. Tolerating toxic people is bad for you. Flippantly cutting ties and writing them off doesn’t help either. Though toxic people choose to find core needs through unhealthy behaviors, they aren’t evil or beyond God’s grace. Respecting ourselves while also respecting the other person gives you the best opportunity to be an instrument of God’s power to heal and overcome.
When a toxic person enters your life, here are a few helpful responses.
1. Recognize the traits that make you an easy target.
Toxic people don’t attach to everyone. They pick and choose wisely. I had to come to grips with my passive tendencies. I allowed Dallas (if you don’t know who Dallas is, you should read the previous post) to call the shots because I was reluctant to tell him how I really felt.
Toxic people love passive people. They also love insecure ones.
2. Establish clear boundaries.
If you can’t avoid a toxic person, a co-worker or church member, for example, you must establish clear, strong emotional and physical boundaries. You owe it to yourself, your family and even the toxic person. It’s much easier to help a toxic person once these boundaries are in place.
Verbalize your boundaries. Be direct. Stand firm. Let them know what’s acceptable and what’s not.
3. Avoid playing by their rules.
It’s important that you avoid become reactive. You’re no help to a toxic person if you play their game. Cynicism won’t overcome with cynicism. You can’t beat manipulation with manipulation. Does that make sense? Great.
Practice emotional awareness. Know when you’re being bullied or manipulated. Walk away if you must. Live to fight another day.
4. Focus on solutions.
Toxic people are resistant to solutions. Solutions require change, taking responsibility for your own choices. If you follow Jesus, the greatest gift you can give a toxic person is letting them know you love them too much to allow them to remain as they are.
So, when a toxic person rants about their issues, continue pushing them towards action steps.
5. Use your community.
In my experience, you’re highly unlikely to make any progress with a toxic person by yourself. After a couple of exhausting months with Dallas, I needed help. So, I called a few leaders at my church. They encouraged me and agreed to meet with him. They also gave me peace about letting go.
Know this. Toxic people don’t like group meetings. But it’s exactly what they need. Meeting with a group of people forces their hand.
I want to say this one more time: toxic people are people. They’re not evil or bad. They just choose to find love and security using unhealthy behaviors. Toxic people are created in God’s image, just like you. At the same time, you shouldn’t allow toxic people to drain your life and energy.
Love them. Show them compassion. But show yourself love and compassion as well.
Do you have some helpful, Christ-honoring responses to toxic people? Leave a comment below.
Grace and peace, friends.
Frank is lead writer and editor for the blog at Bayside church. He is also a husband, father and Jesus-follower. Occasionally he plays golf. Often he drinks coffee.