We’ve all had those in our lives. Friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, a co-worker. These are the people that make you feel so special yet at times make you want to rip your hair out!
Lately, I’ve been evaluating my relationships and close friend circle. I have come to realize that not every relationship is fruitful, but this doesn’t mean that you should cut people out. So, what should you do? How do you keep yourself from getting hurt without distancing yourself from them? Simple – Draw Boundaries.
Do you think God intends for us to waste our days trying to make others happy, especially those who choose to never be happy?
In all honesty, it is not up to you. They may want you to think it does; as if you possess the power to improve the value of their existence. But that is not a burden you were meant to carry. God’s greatest desire is to set us free. And sometimes what prompts that change is for some brave soul to be willing to say, “Stop! Not anymore.” One who will choose to set boundaries that will protect and limit the control of an unhealthy person over you.
So how do you identify toxic relationships and how do you draw boundaries? Is it even Biblical to draw boundaries? Didn’t Jesus tell us to love everyone? Yup, I had the same questions. It took a little while before I realized that I can’t please everyone without burning out. I cannot be available everywhere for everyone.
You cannot love effectively if there are people in your inner circle who constantly crave attention only for themselves.
After extensive reading, research and experiences, here is my list of toxic people (DISCLAIMER: The following are not fact-based. These are my opinions, birthed out of my personal experiences)
This person is desperately needy inside and takes it out on you and everyone else around them. Through their own experience of past hurt, they have become angry, vicious, and cruel to those they say they care about most. Instead of looking for help, they constantly look for validation and justification for their actions.
This person is one who tends to feel they are constantly the victim in every situation. All through life, they feel taken advantage of, constantly telling you what another has done to hurt them, or how no one cares. They see themselves constantly as the victim and if you keep lending an ear, you may be the next one they feel victimized by. People who have genuinely been victimized usually don’t throw around pity parties but look for ways to overcome their situation!
The Easily Angered
This person is the one you always feel like you have to tiptoe around. You never know what will set them off and fly into a fit of rage. These people are easily irritated at even the smallest thing, which is a sure sign, there’s a deep-rooted problem inside. They’ve been known to throw things or spout off angry words they can never take back. They yell. They scream. They curse.
This person can be subtle or straight-up offensive in their attempts to bully, but either way, their desire is to dominate and make themselves look powerful. They have a strong need to feel better and look better than those around them, so they choose to bully anyone in their path. They want to push others down and exalt themselves and will stop at nothing to achieve this.
This person is the one who rarely has anything positive to say. They see everything with a negative eye and have no problem telling you why. They tend to be complainers, heavy worriers and constant whiners. They don’t realize what they’re doing, because this behaviour has become a natural part of the way they talk. They tend to suck the energy and life out of you. They walk in defeat and choose to believe the worst about most things – even you. If you’re around them a lot, you will soon find yourself consumed with similar negative thoughts and doubts.
This person is never to blame for. It is always “your fault.” They will blame everything on others, even those close to them. If they’re having a bad day, if they lose something, if they fail at something, if they make a mistake, it will always be “because of someone else”. You will never “win” or find reason with the blamer because their aim is to bring you down through their never-ending blame game.
This person is always talking about someone else. They have a focus on being “in the know”. They pass on the next juicy gossip to anyone who is willing to listen. They can be vicious with their words and can be cruel towards another’s feelings. They have no regard for the other person’s reputation or feelings. It’s even worse if the person they’re talking about is someone they don’t like. They feed on lies, exaggerations, mere hearsay, and half-truths. They tend to feel better while talking about others so they can somehow feel better about themselves.
HOW DO WE PROTECT OURSELVES FROM TOXIC PEOPLE?
1. Recognize the toxicity in others and in ourselves
The first step is to recognize and understand that there is a need. If the problem is with you, then a good start is to admit that you’re at fault and need correction/help. If the issue stems from a family member or close friend, try talking to them in love and honesty. As my husband always says, “It’s not about what you say, it’s about how you say it”. Find a way to convey how you feel by describing how you were affected, rather than confronting them as if you were correcting them. This usually helps them receive the message better.
2. Set boundaries
Setting boundaries is being able to say “Enough!”. Setting boundaries with love says, “I care about you, but I also care about me, and I will not allow you to hurt me or those I love.” This is something I struggle with myself. I feel guilty saying ‘No’ to people or setting boundaries. I always felt I had to say ‘Yes’ to what others expected from me. To me, it seemed selfish or “not nice” to say ‘No’, especially to those who have needs or are hurting. After a lot of burnouts and late night cries, I finally realized that I cannot be the one taking responsibility for people’s emotions.
This week I read 2 Corinthians 9:7 with a new perspective:
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (NIV)2 Corinthians 9:7
We usually read this in terms of monetary giving but then it hit me. What if ‘cheerful giving’ meant in everything we give? Our time, our emotions etc. I realized that I was not a cheerful giver. I gave because I didn’t want to let others down. I wasn’t doing it out of God’s love in me to love others, rather I was relying on my own ability to do more for others.
God places us in peoples lives and brings people into our lives for a reason. It is time we recognize that and value them as God would value them. Instead of trying to please people to gain attention, love and favour, we must work towards sharing God’s love the way He intended it to be.
If you feel you’re in a toxic relationship, don’t argue, fight or blame. Say things in love and kindness. Set limits to protect yourself. It is not up to you to change a person’s behaviour or feelings. You may need to adjust how much time you spend with certain people. You may need to spend time forming new, healthier friendships and seek out counsel. Find a good support group/mentors who will encourage you and provide a safe place for you to share and pray.
Finally, I leave you with this:
“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.”2 Timothy 2:23-24
This post was first published here on the author’s blog.