Dealing With Toxic People Part 3

As promised, this is the third and final post on Dealing with Toxic People. It has taken me a while to get this done. Why? Because I personally am dealing with some toxic individuals, and at times of discouragement, I sometimes feel I don’t have any counsel for anybody. But I know that as believers in Christ, we do have general guidelines in Scripture for these situations.

Additionally, listening to godly people who are living in and dealing with people like this on a daily basis is a great help. I talked with one of my friends who daily lives the struggle with a toxic husband. As an older Christian woman, her counsel is balanced and always worth listening to. Unlike some who promote a kind of slavish acceptance and submission to lies and venom as they come out of the mouth of a toxic individual, my friend understands that there are times to take a stand and refuse the lies being spoken. This is a summary of what she said to me. It sums up very succinctly what needs to be said:

We are to regard all men because they are created in the image of God, but that doesn’t mean we have to spend time with abusive or rude people.
. There is a time to pray and a time NOT to pray. See Jeremiah 6 and 1 John 5.
. We are not here to please all the people. . .we are to please the LORD in all that we do and say.
. In the Bible, the Holy Spirit went into great detail to give us a few verses about the habits, characteristics and lifestyle of the righteous and the wicked. If we stay in the Word, we will recognize by the behavior where people are coming from. Titus 1:16 is a very important verse of Scripture. Many profess, few possess the LORD.
. It’s okay to say “STOP!” when someone is spewing hatred and vile things all over the place. Then walk away and LET GO OF IT. God will take care of what concerns us.
. We can’t change anyone and we can’t force people to do “the right thing.” We don’t have a right to expect right behavior from those who will not do what is right. They are making a choice and to “their own master, they will stand.”
. Look up 1 Thess. 5:15 and follow the biblical pattern of what we are to do in trials and tribulations and all the time.
. Christians behave. . .The only way you can hold to this standard is to truly be a Christian and practice self-control in every situation. Pray, pray, pray. Stand, stand, stand in what you know to be the truth.
. When you are blamed and accused in every manner of evil, you don’t have to answer back. You can just be quiet, no matter what the situation. God hears, God sees. God knows. Leave it all with Him.
. “Let your forebearing spirit be made known to all men.”
. Pick your battles. Sometimes you do have to speak up, sometimes not.
. Learn to show mercy to those who are weak. Also to the ignorant. Choose to walk in mercy for His sake and yours whenever possible.
. The full armour of God is to be used–take up the shield of faith and don’t take to heart everything somebody says personally. Most likely, you are not the problem. If you are the problem, be quick to ask for forgiveness from God and the offending person, whether they forgive you or not, you still need to deal with whatever has happened to disturb your peace. If after a first and second warning, shake the dust from your feet and move on.
. Be at peace with everyone as much as is possible. Example: “I’m sorry you are having a bad day. Is there anything I can do to help you?” “What can I do to make things better for you?”
. The righteous consider how to speak before they speak. Fools don’t!
. If you can’t fix it, leave it with the LORD. Train yourself to do this. Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.
If God forgives me for my sins, how can I NOT forgive those who trespass against me?
. The bondservant of the LORD is not quarrelsome. Look up the verse.
. Anger does not achieve the righteousness of God. So don’t stay angry if you become angry.
. Keep on keeping no matter what. . .do the best you can in every situation. Persevering faith gets the prize!

Some situations are untenable with toxic individuals. Emotional, physical and sexual abuse, particularly when there are children involved, requires prayerful action. You may decide that you will tolerate someone’s abuse, but you have no right to subject your innocent children to it. The legacy of abusers is more abuse. Children act out what they see and hear in their homes. Sons of abusers tend to become abusive and daughters of abusers tend to marry them. It is the sick and sinful legacy of toxic husbands and fathers. If this is the case, you need to do what you can to protect yourself and your children.

Knowing how and when to do that is where discernment, prayer and good counsel is necessary, because every situation is different. I say “good counsel” because not all counsel is good. There is a mindset in Christian fundamentalism that places blame on the victims and defends the perpetrator. I have seen this again and again. That Christianity could be used as the pretext for the harm of innocent people is evil that needs to be exposed for what it is.

When toxic people refuse to repent of their damaging conduct and they do nothing but continue to spew bile, cutting off contact is sometimes the only solution. I have had to do that in several situations where women attempted to use me to fill emotional voids in their lives. Because I was open and friendly, they moved in for the type of relationship that they needed, paying no attention to my own limitations and needs. When I had to pull back and could not take the intensity of their demands, they then turned on me, blasting me with emails or in some cases telephone calls with the most incredible nastiness. This happens, no doubt, to anyone who is even slightly in the public eye in the Christian community. Another talk show host friend of mine confided that she had the same problem. Reconciliation attempts from these kinds of people are usually non-existent. It is hurtful and sad, but it is the nature of these kinds of individuals that they cannot see when they have been unfair. They can only see themselves.

May God keep us from being toxic. Healing and forgiveness is there for all of us in damaged relationships when we stay humble and willing to admit when we’re wrong. The best definition of a toxic person is someone who rejects healing and forgiveness in favor of their own pet sins. Only God’s mercy can remove the scales from such eyes so that the sin is addressed and forgiven. God help all of us who deal with these people in our lives.

15 thoughts on “Dealing With Toxic People Part 3

  1. Paula says:

    Thank you Ingrid, I have learned a lot of helpful information from this series, and I can well imagine your advice does come hard-earned. I have even come to understand (from reading other comments) how pervasive this problem is and how similar many of the circumstances are. With regard to your situation as a radio host, I would wonder if it has been your experience that there are more toxic people now than 5 – 10 years ago? I know from seeing the bullying trend in schools, there seems to be an ever growing body of toxic people and starting at younger ages. Therefore, your advice has even more urgency for many of us. Praying for you and your family as always.

  2. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Interesting question, Paula. I would say that what has changed is the ability for such people to get “in your face” immediately now through email and hate blogs, etc. I used to get hate mail (snail mail) once in a while on an issue, sometimes from fellow “Christians”, but often from those on the other side of the political/moral spectrum. More often now, the nastiness is from those who are supposedly believers.

    These are toxic people. They don’t know me, they don’t want to reconcile. They have no conscience. It’s an ugly world out there apart from love, and “Christians” will often be your worst enemies.

  3. Carol says:

    Ingrid, I am so sorry that you are experiencing this. As we daily get closer to the Lord’s return things are only going to get worse and harder to deal with, both inside and out of the church. (And especially for those on the front lines.) Stay in the Word and keep the faith. God Bless you.

  4. Donna says:

    I think this is an extremely important topic, even though I do not approach it from the same scriptural perspective as you do. I am currently watching a dear friend reel from discovering that the man to whom she was engaged was a complete cad. His response was to make excuses and then blame her. I have been heartsick that this fine person could think for one second that this was due to any shortcoming on her part and hope she will come to the realization that this is simply someone to be avoided.

  5. marilyn says:

    I am upset that you would be treated so poorly. By heathens is bad anough but other so -callled Christians. You have done NOTHING to ever warrant this kind of reaction. It is just rediculous. Hmmm. You actually take a stand on Biblical issues. You are a wife, mother, daughter and other roles. Satan is indeed the prince of the air and clouding hearts and ears. Keep up the good work of reporting and giving analysis of the news, sharing your life both serious and humorous aspects and just simply being a godly woman.

  6. Paula says:

    To go out of one’s way simply to do something so completely conniving and nasty almost for the sake of it, just seems so irrational to me. So much so, that I wonder if the spirit of evil has just triumphed in our society. I contend that in the case of the young people who bully etc, that our laziness as a society with all forms of manners, and decorum in every aspect and environment coupled with the ease and cowardly use of anonymous technology has created a dangerous situation for people who are already given to such toxicity. But combine all that with the of the lack of foundations in the family and the breakdown of the church and our cultural decay, and I think that we have toxic people in epic proportions. I’m convinced that the onset of reality t.v. has demonstrated to the culture at large that one does not have to even try to edit what they say or do. In fact it is encouraged that they not do the right thing. These shows are created with the sole purpose now of having the people on them fight, argue, cheat each other etc. I believe it has had an impact. I have noticed personally more wickedness as of late. I give you great credit for facing this battle by simply expressing your beliefs each day. The kind of stuff you must endure, I think, is really frightening. When the toxic person is a member of your own family, the hurt is amplified but not so randomly frightful. So again, thanks for your well thought out and even pragmatic yet biblical advice it has REALLY helped!

  7. sherry says:

    Excellent post and very timely! Our culture has pretty much gone down the drain. . .but God has His own people throughout the earth who are His witnesses. I believe this begins in the home. My four-year-old grandson who attends a very excellent pre-school understands right from wrong. When he comes here, he says, “Nan! Don’t say the ‘s’ word. . .” “Okay,” Noah. “What is the ‘s’ word?” “Stupid! We aren’t supposed to say that!” I am so thankful for my Christian heritage and more importantly my Christian experience with Christ so that I can model and pass on to my children and their children and now great-grandchildren simple things on a daily basis which help them to see right and wrong. Even if you feel like it is a losing battle, keep holding the line for righteousness and it will pay off. Noah already knows the Lord Jesus and says to me often: “Nan, some kids don’t know Jesus and that’s why they act the way they do. . .I want to help them.” Well, he’s just a little boy, but he has the Lord to help him in all things. God is the Creator of all men, but not the Father of all men; only those adopted into His family by faith in Christ may call him Father!” Good post, Ingrid. Thank you. I try to remember the one in the flesh always persecutes the one in the Spirit of Christ. . .it’s spiritual warfare non-stop except for the power of prayer which should be our constant resource for life and dealing with difficult circumstances.

  8. Margaret L. Been says:

    So helpful! You really hit it with your observation that some individuals use others to fill their emotional voids. This explains why these self-centered women are exhausting to be with–and inconsiderate of the fact that others also have a life!

    A wise Bible teacher once said, “God chooses those to whom we are to ‘minister’, but we have the freedom and right to choose our friends.”

    Obviously, if we allow the emotionally needy ones to use us, we are not ministering to them as only God can fill emotional voids and we are not supposed to try! Enabling sinful conduct is never helpful to anyone.

    And the users cannot be friends as friendship is reciprocal and mutual, rather than one person continually taking and draining the energy from another! Spiritually speaking, these women are vampires!

    I realize that when I’m constantly depleted and fragmented by a person–and never refreshed in the relationship–something is radically wrong!

    Yes, “mark and avoid” is the only way in these situations! Thank you so much for your insights!

  9. Rose says:

    This is such a timely post. I read it yesterday and shared it with some people because I thought it was so good. I’ve been dealing with a toxic person who lives in my neighborhood and it’s been about a year since they’ve pretty much declared war on me. I had been avoiding and ignoring her and her actions but then today I went to a lunch I had been invited to. Since these were ‘new’ friends I had made in the neighborhood, I was looking forward to it. I had asked twice who would be there and they all seemed like pleasant enough people. I get there and find that I had been lied to. The guest list was different. The toxic person was there and it was obvious everyone was watching to see how things would go. It wasn’t Jerry Springer, but I assure you it was awful. That woman hated me and she made sure I knew it, all the while using a sweet tone and being careful not to let the others see the venomous looks she was giving me when she could do so without getting caught. I wept on the way home. How could those women, who seemed so nice and pleasant, do such a thing to me? One woman even took the day off from work to be there. Obviously they knew what they were doing was wrong, otherwise why was I lied to, twice? I know this will seem like a small thing in time but I’m just appalled that there are people like that. It just makes me want to never leave my house again. But I will. Satan is not going to defeat me like that although I’m disappointed that my new friends are not going to be real friends after all.

  10. Lisa K says:

    Ingrid I just read over this post and something hit me. Many very hurting, needy people gravitate to church. They desperately want something or someone to help them, and are not in a proper state of mind to offer help themselves. Unfortunately for them, churches NEED people to run the church and volunteer. A lot of these needy people don’t realize this – if they receive help, they have to reciprocate. They either don’t want to do this, or are not capable of doing it. I have actually known women who quit going to church when the church wanted them to sign up to help on a committee – they take but don’t want to give. I think churches are filled with people like this – simply because of the idea that church is a refuge.

  11. Lynn says:

    Ingrid – I recently found your site and am finding it very helpful because our family is suffering and arguing because of a toxic family member. Background – 20 years ago I married a wonderful Special Ed teacher who had fostered and eventually adopted a needy student, “Joe”. Joe lived with us till he was about 25. We knew Joe had identity problems, because he lied to people about things in an effort to impress them and hide his true past, but in retrospect his problems are much deeper. Joe lost his last decent job about 6 years ago, because he was belligerent to leaders and would “preach” around the office in an ugly manner (telling people they were going to hell, etc.) 2 years ago our daughter in law revealed there was trouble in the marriage. Though she was the only wage earner, he controlled her financially and socially, gradually eliminating interaction with friends and family. As she continued to share with us, we learned he had lied to her through their entire relationship (about past jobs, accomplishments, how he was treated by my husband, etc.). Starting at church, he dealt with a series of counselors in an effort to improve the marriage, but each led to a need for deeper counseling. We have heard he probably has a mix of various personality disorders, such as narcissistic and more. Last summer, his wife divorced him. He beat her up during a visitation with their 2 toddlers at her house, got convicted of assault and battery, and is now in a 6 month anger management program. My personal concern is that he has become very belligerent with me in the past 2 years, and I am afraid of his anger. I can’t help but intervene when he says something damaging to his child (like running around in the back yard, clutching his daughter while screaming that he hates all women), and then he rages at me. My stress is because other family members want us to all get together “like normal”. My blood pressure has escalated, and I want to set boundaries, but I feel that my spouse and others believe everything is just fine. That is even more frustrating. I appreciate your site as a support, because I keep hearing that “I need to be the bigger person”. Thank you and bless you!

  12. Susan McCrea says:

    Ingrid,
    I wanted to thank you for your comments on toxic people. I found your blogspot because of that subject and have tuned in just for that topic. It is brave of you to tackle this subject, a much needed topic to openly discuss in Christian circles. Thanks!
    You mentioned in your last article “where women attempted to use me to fill emotional voids in their lives”. This is a classic example of “transference”, as it is called in psychological circles. A Christian writer, Valerie J. McIntyre, has taken on this subject in depth in her book, “Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing, How Unseen Need Destroys Friendship and Community and What to Do about It”, Baker Books, that might be helpful to you and any of your readers. I find her insights useful, especially when one of the hurting sheep projects pain on me and tries to use me to fulfill unmet emotional needs.
    All the best!
    Susan McCrea

  13. Nef says:

    Ingrid,
    I want to thank you for this helpful message that you’ve written. It has been a real blessing to me.
    I wanted to ask you for a bit of advice on something I noticed you said. You see, I am in the process of dealing with a toxic relationship with a girl friend. I couldn’t help but notice these lines: “I have had to do that in several situations where women attempted to use me to fill emotional voids in their lives. Because I was open and friendly, they moved in for the type of relationship that they needed, paying no attention to my own limitations and needs.”
    You see, she used to be my best friend until she started pushing me away out of a selfish need of escape from peer pressure, even though she knew we were just friends. Ever since that happened, I’ve tried giving her a second chance because I didn’t want our friendship to go to waste, but… she started pushing me away again. Now she’s on a trip to her hometown, and it seems like she’s forgotten about the rest of her friends, including me, which feels so selfish from her.
    Now, I know how this sounds, but I need to accept my fault too because I don’t want to be toxic. I feel like I’ve become that person that attempts to use her to fill an emotional void in my life. I am more than willing to accept it. However, I don’t know how to deal with this anymore. I’ve prayed and prayed and had my mind busy on other things and it still feels like I’m doing it. I don’t want that because I know that makes me toxic to her, but I don’t know if cutting off contact would be the right thing. I think I’ll end up being the bad guy because of this, and I don’t even know whether I am or not.

    I would really appreciate some advice, even if it hurts, I want to do the right thing and be right with GOD. I don’t want to become the kind of person you described here. I know I’m a stranger, but if you have time, please say a short prayer for me.

    Again, thank you for the message.

  14. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Hi, can you email me so I can better understand what you’re dealing with. I wasn’t entirely clear on the situation. It sounds like it’s really bothering you, and I’d be glad to exchange emails with you on this. My email is ingridschlueter2@gmail.com

    Ingrid

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