We all have these kinds of people in our lives at one time or another. It’s someone that makes life unbearable. Sadly, this person is often a family member or a close friend. Let’s see how to deal with these difficult relationships from psychological and faith based perspectives.
What Defines A Toxic Person Or Relationship?
Maybe the best way to describe a toxic person is someone you don’t want to be around at all, and you hate them (and maybe yourself) for it. This is not a formal psychological diagnosis as different personality disorders can lead to toxic behavior. Here are some signs that a person’s behavior is toxic:
- Extreme selfishness
- Always the victim
- Aggressive or threatening behavior
- Overreacts easily
- Suffocating perfectionism
- Overly dramatic
- Controlling behavior
- Jealously or envy
- Extreme pessismism
- Obsession with being sick
- Drug or alcohol abuse
Your Reaction Helps Identify Problems
How you respond to the person is a key part of identification and healing. Some signs that you are in a toxic relationship are:
- Dread or fear of the person
- You feel emotionally drained
- You feel frustrated by your own reactions as much as the toxic person’s behavior
- Every time you think things are better, they fall apart again
- You end up compromising your values trying to cope
- Endless arguments of repeating the same thing over-and-over
- You feel that there is a battle for control between the two of you
How To Handle Toxic Relationships: Psychological Perspective
First of all, if you are in any sort of danger, ask for help right away. The National Domestic Violence Hotline website can be found here.
The main reason people act irrationally is usually due to an unhealed emotional wound. Maybe they were abused or neglected or perhaps they were raised by a toxic person. These wounds make us all react in ways we don’t want to.
People who care for parents that have Alzheimer’s disease often get frustrated. But when they understand that it’s a disease process, they can be more objective. This type of objectivity can help you navigate toxic relationships.
Meditate on this thought: His/Her irrational behavior is based on a past wound or weakness.
Try not to argue, and avoid interrupting the other person. Let them talk it out, even if what they are saying makes no sense at all. Remember, silence does not mean that you agree. Toxicity thrives on argument; so don’t feed it.
Stop making things “easy” for the other person or yourself. Compromising your convictions and values only makes things harder down the road. Set healthy boundaries and have the courage to walk away until the smoke clears. In some cases, this might mean walking away from a relationship altogether. It might also be wise to seek professional counselling.
How To Handle Toxic Relationships: Faith Based Perspective
Romans 8:28 says everything that happens to us is for our own good if we love God. This can be a hard pill to swallow when exposed to toxic people. However, think about this — if a person is toxic, it means they are sick. In Mark 2:17, Jesus said he did not come to heal the healthy, but those who are ill with sin.
Toxic behavior is often under some kind of evil influence. It could be the result of past sin, abuse, or even a demonic presence. The best way to combat this is through prayer. Pray incessantly for the other person. Separate in your mind the behavior from the person. Let God soften your heart while he strengthens your character, even as you are being harmed. This is true Christ-likeness.
It requires a lot of hard praying to deal with these people. But when they look for conflict, they will encounter God’s love in your heart.
Our trials produce patience. Many times the presence of a toxic person in your life is the best way for you to develop the fruit of the Spirit such as peace, kindness, and self-control. The world will tell you to retain your dignity at all costs; Jesus will tell you to love your enemy. Ask God to mold your heart through your trails.
Project Of A Lifetime
These people are the most needy in our lives. It may take years before they are ready to change. But never give up hope. This doesn’t mean you have to remain physically close to the person, but you can keep knocking on God’s door asking him to change things. Maybe you can’t leave the situation. Here, you become completely dependent on God’s mercy and love. Let his Spirit do the fighting for you.
You might think, “Why do I have to waste my life for this person who doesn’t appreciate what I do or feel for them? It’s so unfair!” Only God’s justice and mercy are perfect. And who are the just? Asking for mercy, he is the tax collector who does not even feel worthy to lift up his eyes up to heaven (Luke 18:9-14); she is the sinful woman washing the feet of Jesus with her tears (Luke 7:36-50).
The answers are never simple. Consider all things in the light of prayer. Talk with your pastor, priest, or spiritual guide. Remember, when we rejoice in our trials and sufferings, God’s grace is certain to shine through.