I could probably write an entire chapter as an intro to the blog post, but I won’t.
Everyone has difficult people in their lives. And if you haven’t yet, you certainly will. Unfortunately, toxic people are easy to find, although they don’t always come off as toxic at first.
In a classic abuse tactic, toxic people are master manipulators. They know exactly what to say and do to get you hooked. Sometimes there are red flags, other times there truly are none. Sometimes, the toxic behavior lies dormant for months or years until it rears its hideous face and sets about a path of irreversible damage.
What about family or family friends? The people who became a part of your life the moment you let out your first cry. What if you dearly love someone who is family or like family, but they are toxic?
After reading and hearing and witnessing thousands of blog posts, stories, and testimonies, I began to see some common threads.
When unhealthy or immature people are in a close relationship with a toxic person the most common response is to hide it or make excuses.
But they had such a hard childhood… You can’t imagine what they’ve been through…If only you knew the things that of happened to them…
Excuses do not work here.
I empathize with anyone who has endured abuse or trauma or exploitation. But abuse and trauma and exploitation do not excuse those same behaviors. They may explain them… But they do not excuse them. Ever.
Each of us is responsible for our own actions.
For every person who has endured abuse or exploitation or trauma there is another person with a similar story who has overcome the hurtles life threw at them and has found peace and joy and a sense of purpose.
Ok. Let’s just jump right into this list shall we?
1. They challenge you to be a better person.
Only someone who is healthy, or at the very least is trying to be healthy, would ever challenge you to be a better person.
2. They call you out on all your crap
It takes a healthy, self-aware person to call out a toxic person on their crap…if it is done in love.
Anyone can look at another person and see their shortcomings. It takes someone who loves you to be able to say it from a place of love.
3. They don’t enable you.
A healthy person will not enable a toxic persons behavior. Name-calling, physical abuse, coercion and manipulation, damaging private property, and threats might be tolerated by an unhealthy person, but they simply will not be by someone who knows better.
4. They set boundaries with you.
Common boundaries set with toxic people mainly have to deal with proximity and control.
This is why many wives will file for legal separation or move out of the house before they fully sever the relationship. These women are setting a boundary, “Cross this line, and I leave.”
Or perhaps you have a toxic family member who is constantly creating drama and bringing people to tears – your first boundaries will likely be lessening the amount of time you spend around that person.
I’m going to take this one step further and say that if someone loves you… They will tell you the boundary straight to your face and let you know they will remove it should your behavior change.
5. They give you opportunities to rebuild trust.
Much like number four, someone who loves you will give you an opportunity to rebuild trust.
I’d like to just add that I’m not talking about murderers and rapists here. That is a whole different ball park…those people are dangerous, not merely toxic.
Toxic behavior can look like getting drunk in front of your children, physical abuse, psychological abuse, gaslighting and so on.
Cross any one of these boundaries and I’d say you’d be lucky to get one chance at redemption with a healthy person. Someone who gives you chance after chance after chance likely isn’t healthy. A healthy person simply will not stand to be treated in such away.
6. They genuinely want to see you heal.
Someone who is healthy who loves you will genuinely want to see you heal. They may recommend counseling we’re going to church or volunteering or going to a 12 step program or rehab. (Rehab isn’t just for substance abuse.)
If you have a mental illness, a healthy person might ask you to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist or just a regular family physician to start out with. when you refuse to get the help you so desperately need, you risk losing the people who love you most. Because a healthy person knows they are in capable of changing you, and that enabling your behavior only perpetuates a cycle of abuse.
7. They believe in your ability to change.
A healthy person who loves you absolutely will believe in your ability to change. They will understand any limitations you might have in terms of intelligence or mental illness. But they will hold on to the idea that you are capable of changing.
Healthy people know this to be true, because often they have overcome innumerable odds themselves.
8. They forgive you.
A healthy person will forgive you. But forgiveness doesn’t change the toxic person at all, doesn’t.
Forgiveness is between you and God, for it to reach the toxic person, they have to reach out and except it and allow it to change them.
It’s not that toxic people are in capable of changing. I fully believe they are. it’s that they don’t want to. Because often a toxic person is so full of pride they can never admit to another person all of the things they have done or all of the pain they have caused. This is absolutely an issue of the soul. And this is exactly the pride before the fall that the Bible warns us of.
9. They do not make or accept excuses for your toxic behavior.
Healthy person will not make or except excuses for a toxic person‘s behavior. They will say it for exactly what it is, and they will not dampen its far reaching affects. Because a healthy person knows that toxic behavior is sin. Any excuse for sin, falls desperately short before a Holy God. Own your behavior and repent.
10. They set a limit to the amount of abuse they are willing to take.
This is the hardest thing for a toxic person to except…That at some point their behavior will push away healthy people.
Toxic people condition their victims to stay. This is well-known and well documented. It’s called the cycle of abuse. There is a honeymoon stage, followed by an action of abuse, followed by an apology, and then the cycle starts again.
Rarely will a toxic person stop the cycle on their own. It does happen, and it can happen, but it’s rare.
More often than not, the cycle of abuse will never stop. The healthy person will simply step out of the cycle, and the toxic person will find a new victim to insert.
How sad is that?
If you’re reading this post and you kept thinking, wow, I’ve never done any of those things before, you’re not alone.
THIS QUIZ takes a few minutes and can help you determine if you are codependent – a term used to describe excessive emotional reliance on others.
If you’re reading this post, and you’ve implemented some of these things and you’re difficult or toxic relationships, I commend you. This is not easy. It’s difficult and terrifying depending on the toxic person. What you were doing is brave. Don’t stop.
If you’re reading this post and thinking, wow…I need better boundaries… can I just encourage you that the second best time to set boundaries is now. The best time was when the toxic behavior first began.
You can decide to live free from the sin of others around you. Because so often we label behaviors as “toxic” and forget that toxic behavior is sin. And sin kills and steals and destroys, and rarely so insidiously as when it lurkes behind toxic behavior.
You can’t go back and change the past. But you can look ahead and decide to change the future.