Today is the final Tuesday People Tips in this series. I’ve been spending some time each Tuesday talking to you about how to foster great relationships with Your People. Today will be a bit different. Today I’d like to talk to you about the other people in your life. The ones who are basically the opposite of Your People. Those Toxic People, or TPs.
Now folks, let me start by saying that I don’t want to come across as harsh. Toxic people are people too. They are worthy of basic respect and love simply because they are made in God’s image, as we all are. I don’t advocate treating someone badly. But there are relationships in our lives that are, for whatever reason, just difficult, and we have to figure out how to navigate those.
God knew this would be so. He gave us many verses in the bible about how to deal with difficult situations with people. Two of the most notable are found in Matthew 18 and Romans 12.
The first, Matthew 18, instructs us how to deal with a brother or sister who has sinned against us. Obviously it’s in here because God knew it would happen and we’d need a little help to figure out what to do. There are a few steps in verses 15-17 that tell us exactly what to do. They involve a series of discussions where the end goal is always reconciliation. Only after we have done everything in our power and the person still refuses to listen, then a time comes to distance ourselves.
Which brings me to our other verse:
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. -Romans 12:18
As far as it depends on you. That must mean that sometimes there will be instances where it doesn’t depend on us. Something past our personal ability to reach, offer, help the way we’d like to. We are to do everything in our power to live at peace with everyone. But there will be times when peace isn’t happening, because it depends on someone else doing their part as well.
Folks, I have some difficult people in my life. But difficult doesn’t equal toxic. So for these difficult folks, I live at peace with them as far as it depends on me. I am cordial, not rude. I wouldn’t purposely do or say anything disrespectful to them, but we don’t have to be BFFs. I pray for them and try as much as humanly possible to understand their perspectives and why they act the way they do. What the heck makes them so difficult in the first place?
For most folks, we tend become difficult when we’ve been hurt somehow. We all walk around carrying wounds of one kind or another. Some folks just live from their wounds and relate to others from behind the walls they’ve built because of their wounds, and that’s what makes them difficult.
But a Toxic Person goes beyond difficult. This is a person who goes out of their way to belittle others, blame others, humiliate others, or simply drain the joy out of every situation. A revolving door of drama, these folks cause dissension in your life at every turn, do things to harm you emotionally, and the entire “relationship” is a one-way street… where they basically drive a Mack truck of their drama into your house over and over and over.
These folks, my friends, are TPs. And what they bring to the table does not depend on you. Sometimes we just need to understand that it’s okay to put distance between ourselves and a TP for the sake of our families or our our own hearts. We can set boundaries without taking away a person’s dignity. We can tell them what we will or will not do without thinking we can control what they do or say. For example:
If you need food I will gladly cook a meal for you. But because you have taken money from the family without permission in the past, I will no longer give you cash.
I want to keep in touch with you. But I don’t wish to be yelled and cursed at. I would love to talk to you but if you begin to raise your voice or curse at me, I will hang up the phone.
These types of boundary statements say what we will or will not tolerate, and what we will do if a line is crossed. They allow us to protect ourselves without disrespecting the other person as a human being. As much as it depends on you, you’re keeping the peace.
Friends, I am not encouraging you to hop on Facebook and unfriend every person you know. I’m not suggesting you call annoying Aunt Erma and tell her she’s off the Thanksgiving invite list because Krysten said she’s a TP and you don’t have to deal with all that. No. Nice try.
Take your difficult people to God. Ask Him to give you eyes to see why they are that way. Ask Him if they’ve crossed the line into becoming a toxic person that you need to distance yourself from. Ask Him how to best go about that and to give you the words to say if you need to go that route. Ask Him how to live out the command to live at peace with everyone as much as it depends on us.
Understanding that we are not responsible for a toxic person’s behavior is a good first step. Living at peace with everyone, as much as it depends on us, frees us to have the energy and awareness to love Our People well.
Y’all, I’m praying for you on this one. It’s one of the hardest things we have to deal with in life. We are called to love, but when that’s hard to do, something feels off. I’m with you. But we can do this. God gave us a heart and a mind and He expects us to use them together to deal with difficult things. And we can.