Dealing with Toxic People
The bane of our existence, it seems like toxic people are everywhere. A tricky situation to navigate, how can we tell the difference between a truly toxic person from someone that’s just acting up
because they’re going through a hard time? We all have our moments and it’s important to be able to sift the wheat from the chaff.
Once my family and I were at a resort, we were walking down a path when I saw a snake. I’m no expert but I know enough to identify the dangerous species in our region. This was a Mozambican spitting cobra. Not only does it have a dangerous bite, but it can also spit its venom at you, hence the name.
Can you guess what happened next? Nothing, I identified the snake, my family and I kept our distance. The cobra went about its business and so did we… No one got hurt. I know right, so anticlimactic.
The reason why we were safe is that I was able to correctly identify the snake and act accordingly. It’s the same with toxic people. If you can identify a toxic person, you can protect yourself.
What is a toxic person?
Let’s start by describing what is NOT a toxic person. An unfortunate consequence of living in an incredibly complex world where you have to make decisions with incomplete information is that we judge by outward appearance. We see a tattoo, a cigarette, coarse speech, or a drink in the person’s hand and we over extrapolate on these things.
However, it’s the content of the person’s heart and not the content of their glass that you should be paying attention to. Some people get unnerved by outward appearances, they frown upon coarse speech or crude humor but I have found that these people are more trustworthy because they are not putting on a persona. What you see is what you get. These are not signs of toxic traits in my opinion.
Toxic people tend to exhibit the following pattern of behavior. A toxic person is a common denominator. You will always find that if there’s a problem, they are somehow involved. They simply cannot mind their own business and are constantly complaining about others. They are unable to maintain inner peace because they have an external locus of control.
This leads to their lives being emotional rollercoaster because they are affected by everything around them and somehow, they find a way to drag you into their madness and you end up riding this rollercoaster with them. Everything has to be their way and if they don’t get their way, the trouble starts. They also tend to play the victim card often, their selfishness causes the problem, and then they blame others.
Dealing with Toxicity
Christians have a tendency of believing that we can persuade a person to change. Even I am guilty of this. We see the proverbial snake and we try to convince it to repent then end up the next victim. You can’t change people, people have to make the change on their own. This is another hallmark of a toxic person, they are never wrong. They seem to lack the capacity to self-reflect and they have an unteachable spirit. Hence they seldom change.
So what can you do? Well, when you spot the common denominator, you keep your distance. You don’t have to announce it… Hear ye, hear ye… From henceforth, shall there be a distance between us? Just greet and stay out of striking range. It’s as simple as that. The person doesn’t need to know what you’re doing. You’re exercising wisdom, not unforgiveness. Remember, be as wise as a serpent but harmless as a dove.
It’s better to be proactive than reactive with them. Let me tell you what will happen if you don’t keep your distance. You will inevitably get a bit, you will then learn your lesson and try to distance yourself. It is now too late because distancing yourself means that you and your transgressor have beef. They will accuse you of walking in unforgiveness. Hence me writing the article on forgiveness first, I had to explain that before I could explain how to deal with this topic.
Now here’s the problem, toxic people have this idea that they can say and do anything to you, then they will apologize and all must be forgiven. They are correct, they should be forgiven. However, reinstatement is optional and sometimes not possible.
Think of it this way. Relationships are like a game of snakes and ladders… without the ladders. You start off on your journey together and when one person transgresses against the other, it’s like landing on a snake. The breaking of trust will create emotional distancing between you and depending on the size of the transgression (aka the snake), it will take longer for you to be back on par with them. Truth be told, the likelihood that you guys will be able to recover the lost ground is possible but unlikely. Hence, if you value the person, you need to consider your actions carefully. We’ve all damaged relationships because we didn’t think about the consequences of our actions, even me.
Seemingly drastic measures…
I am fussy about who has access to me. I’ve found that your quality of life is dependent on the caliber of people around you. The truth is, we all manage the access that we give people, this isn’t a new thing. We look at a person’s title, their wealth, their status and we give these people access. I am suggesting that you base your decision on the person’s character instead.
If you can’t distance yourself from them, you need to control access by cutting them off. Life is too short to have toxic people weighing you down. I know that some of you are scared to do this. Partly because you think about the time that you’ve invested in this relationship or perhaps you’re worried about the void that will be left by this person’s absence.
It has been my experience that when you cut people off, you allow good people to enter and be a part of your life. Your time is finite, your energy is finite. It is prudent to invest your time and energy wisely. You rather invest and nurture relationships with good people. You’ll be amazed at how much time and energy these toxic people take from you. Let them go.
I believe that when people behave in a toxic manner and their actions cause pain. They are telling you that they valued their actions more than the relationship. By cutting them off, all you are doing is honoring their decision. Access to you is a privilege, not a right. Access should be taken away from people that abuse it.
Guys, you may believe that I am being a bit harsh on this matter. Perhaps I am, perhaps I will simmer down as I get older but I doubt it. I believe that dialog needs to be opened up on this topic.
- What has been your experience with toxic people?
- What has worked for you?
Think about the type of relationships that you want to have in your life? Your first step is to become the type of person that you desire to have. When issues arise in your relationships, practice being slow to anger. It’s not easy, I know. Then take it before God and ask Him to guide you in maintaining these valued relationships. Ask God to give you the right words to say so that you may find favor in their eyes.
One last thought, we teach our kids about having manners and good hygiene but we neglect to teach them accountability. It is a vital lesson to teach them that no one is going to tolerate their nonsense so they better treat people right. It’ll save them much turmoil in the future. That’s all for now. I hope this helps. Take care.
My goal is to emulate Jesus and follow his example but if all else fails, I’ll be like David. A writer, a man after God’s own heart and someone not to be trifled with.
I believe in discussing life in a candid (unfiltered), no holds barred manner that stimulates personal growth.
I spend my spare time creating content that is informative, entertaining and that will help others in their personal development.
The Hustle is a project that focuses on career and purpose.
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In matters of faith, I contribute to this ministry.