For some reason I will never fully understand, I have had more experience with toxic people than most. Let me explain what I mean by “toxic.” We all have our sinful traits that we have to wrestle with, seek forgiveness for and continually try to eliminate in our lives. I am not referring to normal humans who give in to the flesh for a time, seek forgiveness and restoration with those they have hurt and stop their sinful conduct. By toxic people, I refer to those who are not wrestling at all against their sin.
For reasons known only to them, they are under the full sway of their sinful and harmful impulses towards others. These are angry, abusive and unhappy people who feel compelled to take out their anger and unhappiness on those around them.
Toxic people are defined and ruled by their Luciferian pride. They will never humble themselves and admit wrong because, in their own minds, they have no problems. The problem is always, always with everyone around them who fails to meet their expectations and insatiable desires.
Toxic people are known by the turmoil they create around them. Whether it is a family member, spouse, co-worker, fellow church member, neighbor or someone else, these people are able to inflict considerable pain in the people they hurt. They are not happy unless there is drama and intrigue and strife in progress. They seem to take pleasure in creating chaos where there is peace, and in hurting those who are otherwise happy by finding their weakest, most vulnerable area. In my experience, there is sometimes almost a supernatural ability to sniff out an area of insecurity and to put the knife into that tender spot with glee.
Toxic people drain the life out of those around them. Their egos tend to fill the room when they enter and the oxygen, metaphorically speaking, gets sucked out for everyone else. One woman I once knew controlled everyone around her with the sound of her voice. The grating, penetrating, ceaseless sound of her talking shut down conversation for everyone in the room. I literally felt myself drooping from mental and spiritual exhaustion in her presence. Her powerful voice was her weapon, and it was used to fill every nook and cranny in a room. Nobody else existed. It was a terrible thing to witness.
Because of our Christian teaching on humility, self-sacrifice and kindness, we sometimes get the impression that to set boundaries of any kind with these people is wrong, and that we must take whatever they dish out. I do not believe this is so.
When we give abusive and vicious people permission to repeatedly sin against us without consequence, we enable them to sin. There are some times when the best thing we can do for that openly sinning person is to part company with them. When we do this, we deny the person the further opportunity to sin against us. This helps us to forgive them and cut off further chances for the enemy to take advantage of the situation.
Obviously, when the toxic person is in our home, it can be difficult to do this. For example, toxic teenagers in open rebellion and defiance can turn a quiet home into a hellish scene faster than almost anyone. With years of experience in raising teenagers, I can tell you that my husband and I believe strongly that love must be tough enough to do hard things for the best interest of the child and the home. No teenager has the right to turn a family home into a war zone because of his own spiritual rebellion. That is another post which I will write at a different time, but the principles are the same. Those who are unrepentant and in open sin need to face the break of fellowship this produces. If we continue to make excuses for them, coddle them and give limitless “second” chances, we are sending the message that abusive and disrespectful behavior has no serious consequences. These young people will take that same belief into their marriage relationships some day.
When toxic spouses break their wedding vows and abuse those they swore to love and cherish as their own bodies, it also requires a response. I wrote about this last summer in detail in a series of posts I intend to republish at a later date. One professing Christian man I know verbally berates and attacks his godly Christian wife repeatedly, reducing her to a trembling, crying mess. I asked her once why she stays in the room to listen to it. The answer to that is that she had trained him through the years that he could deliver whatever Satanic lies he felt like coming up with, and she would be willing to receive it. After granting tacit permission for this abusive behavior for years, changing this pattern was too difficult for this woman. The boundaries that should have been drawn years earlier were never established, and she has paid a horrendous price for it.
Those Christian women who believe they are being biblical by letting their spouses batter them are enabling their husbands to break the laws of the land, not just God’s laws. Boundaries can be biblical. In fact, there are times when refusing to draw boundaries for our own protection is actually the more sinful act.
I am not espousing a self-centered philosophy of “taking care of # 1.” What I am saying is that when we are told that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we are obligated to take care that they are not destroyed by others who are only too happy to do so. When someone is deliberately causing massive stress, turmoil and chaos, they are acting as a tool of the devil. We are fully on solid ground to do what we can to limit the enemy’s access to our hearts and minds. That means sometimes saying no to relationships that are harming us. It sometimes means having to find an alternative living situation for a rebellious young person. It sometimes means having to honestly tell someone that you can’t always take their phone calls when they call and demand hours of your time every week to share the latest installment of their life’s drama. When we approach these situations prayerfully, God will grant wisdom as to how to best handle our situation.
The good news is that God can change toxic people. It does not, despite our most sincere prayers, always happen. But by His grace, we can handle these people and situations as wisely as possible and keep the devil from causing sinful people to perpetually do damage in our lives.