Identifying Toxic People.
Do you know anyone who you consider to be toxic in your life? Perhaps it is a coworker, a neighbor, or even a family member with whom you are compelled to interact.
As Christians, we understand that we are commanded to love others. “By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” Jesus says in John 13:35. (NIV). It’s one thing to fall in love with someone you’ll never see again. However, it can be difficult to love toxic people in our lives, especially when the person has hurt us or continues to hurt us.
How do we love toxic people without allowing them into our lives?
A toxic person, according to WebMD, is anyone whose behavior adds negativity and upheaval to your life. They may cause stress, annoyance, difficulty, or conflict. You may be subjected to manipulation or verbal abuse, or they may repeatedly violate your physical, emotional, spiritual, or other boundaries. It can be exhausting to be around them.
What Does the Bible Say About Toxic Individuals?
Although the term is new, the concept is not. Those who wrote the Bible were no strangers to toxic people. Several scriptures address the difficult souls who cause so much trouble in our lives.
The Apostle Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’”
In Proverbs 22:24-25, we are warned, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and become entangled.”
Toxic People: How Do We Love Them?
Jesus, on the other hand, tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). In Matthew 25:35-40, he goes even further, commanding us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, and welcome the stranger as if it were Jesus Himself.
We know from the Bible that Jesus died to save all sinners (John 3:16), including toxic people. And loving people is a way for us to introduce or reinforce the life-saving gospel truth in their lives, as well as honor the blessing Jesus bestows on us.
That is not the case if the toxic person in your life is abusive in some way. Abuse is against the law, dangerous, and in no way acceptable. It may appear that loving them entails forgiving them and moving on, far away from them. (And if you’re in any kind of abusive relationship, I strongly advise you to seek help from law enforcement or an organization like the National Domestic Violence Hotline.)
The Bible, on the other hand, shows us how to love non-abusive toxic people without allowing them to poison our lives.
People with personality disorders can be toxic at times. It can be due to a sinful or simply irritating trait. Sometimes they’re going through a “dark phase,” such as a breakup, death, mental health crisis, or job loss, and they’re not dealing with it well, perhaps consumed by insecurity, envy, ambition, greed, or fury.
One thing we can do is try to empathize with them as much as possible. I have an aversion to people who remind me of myself in some way, especially when they remind me of things I don’t like about myself and want to change.
Perhaps you have a lot more in common with that toxic person than you realize. Maybe she’s just a younger version of yourself, and you can help her grow the way someone else did for you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Jesus asked in Matthew 7:3-5.
How can you tell your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when you have a plank in your own eye all the time? You hypocrite, remove the plank from your own eye first, and then you will be able to see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’
Pray for the Toxic Individual.
Never undervalue the importance of prayer. Prayer, according to Scripture, is powerful and can move mountains.
Jesus has the ability to change anyone’s heart and life. Make a prayer for it to happen. Pray that they respond to Christ’s call to love, kindness, mercy, and truth.
“Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you,” Jesus says in Luke 6:28.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse,” Romans 12:14 reminds us.
Our prayers are always heard by God. Every soul on this planet has Him at work in their lives and hearts. Your prayers have the potential to have a huge impact.
Be gentle & Kind with the toxic individual.
Another way to love a toxic person in our lives is to be kind to them. Kindness is listed among the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. Those who have Christ’s love in their hearts will naturally exhibit this characteristic.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, as well as every form of malice,” Ephesians 4:31-32 says. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another as God forgave you in Christ.”
Love, according to 1 Corinthians 13:4, is patient and kind. Kindness serves as a model of love. Being generous and loving, doing something truly nice and considerate for someone else, is what kindness entails.
Try showing kindness to that toxic person in your life (even if you’ve tried before). This could be as simple as holding their door open, assisting them with a task, or paying them a genuine compliment.
Forgive the Toxic Individual.
Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins so that we could have eternal life, and He did so not because of anything we did, but because of His infinite and inexplicable love for us. We are to model that as well, as best we can, even when it is difficult. That’s what grace is all about.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,” the Apostle Paul wrote to the early church in Colossae.
If you have a grudge against someone, bear with each other and forgive one another. Allow yourself to be forgiven as the Lord has forgiven you. And put on love, which binds all of these virtues together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).
Forgiveness is love disguised as liberation: we hand over the pain we’ve suffered at the hands (or lips) of another to the Lord, who takes care of it. The gift of forgiveness has the potential to transform our lives while also reminding us of how fortunate we are that God forgives us for our own sins, which are toxic to Him.
‘Extravagantly’ love the toxic person
In His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus advised people to abandon the old ways of personal vengeance, such as an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. That is, in the past, if someone injured your eye, you had the legal right to injure their eye in return. All of that should be set aside, according to Jesus.
Jesus, on the other hand, encouraged wild, extravagant love, which He later exemplified by dying on the cross for each of us.
“However, I advise you not to resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other cheek towards them as well. If someone wants to sue you and take your shirt, you should also hand over your coat. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with them. Give to the one who asks, and do not refuse to lend to the one who seeks to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:39-42).
Extravagant love can accomplish a lot. It has the potential to open people’s eyes and make them question why you are doing this. It has the potential to introduce them to Christ.
It can also make them feel ashamed of their own actions, which may be unkind and unloving — shame that may lead to repentance.
The most important thing to remember when dealing with toxic people is to protect your soul. Be wary of how this toxic person can affect your life and values. But there are ways to love them without allowing their toxicity to harm you.
Some of these ways include empathy, prayer, small acts of kindness, forgiveness, extravagant love, and general exposure to God’s powerful and redeeming light.
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