Today I’m sharing some of the best advice I’ve been given for guarding my mind and heart when it comes to toxic people. Nothing mind blowing, mind you, just plain common sense, because if we’re not careful, their craziness will affect us.
I often get email from hurting women in need of advice about dealing with what I call a toxic person. I posted some of this on FB after a woman shared some of her “crazy person” struggles with me, so some of this is not new.
When I say “toxic person,” I mean a person who is unhappy/hateful inside and chooses to attack you because of their own bitterness. Their modus operandi seems to be seek and destroy. They vacillate between two extremes: Flaming anger in the form of outburst, attacks, and slander, or the “You’re dead to me approach” which is a little more humorous.
In “You’re Dead to Me”, they’ll maybe they go out of their way to exclude you or ignore you (and then of course let you know that they did! lol)
Or maybe they pull out the old silent treatment, complete with stoney faced scowls and glaring eyes. Lucky you. 😉 Either way, it’s not actually true avoidance because they want you to know what they are doing. (I know. It’s exhausting just typing it.) A better description would be the long distance, passive-aggressive attack.
Anyway, you get the picture. They look for a way to make you hurt. They attack anything associated with you: your reputation, a ministry, your kids, your marriage, your clothes, likes and dislikes, your personhood. * **
Sooo, say you’re dealing with a “prickly/toxic person.” I don’t know why they are prickly and neither do you. Maybe they’re insecure, or jealous, or just plain unhappy in life. Maybe they’ve been hurt themselves and have dealt with it in negative ways. How do you deal with them, while loving them, and not “owning” their junk?
7 Tips for Dealing With Toxic People
1. Remember this truth: “Nothing other people do is because of you, it’s because of themselves.”
You aren’t responsible for someone else’s bad behavior or words, they are. Nasty words and actions are a reflection of their heart. Rude behavior is about them, not you.
We are all responsible for our own actions and words. You are responsible for you and I am responsible for me. And I can choose whether or not to let your words, actions or reactions affect me.
2. Don’t take it personally.
Very little about what others say or do is about you. It’s about them and their experiences, fears, insecurities, and their own inner workings. Sometimes people will attack with words, to your face or behind your back. Don’t take it personally. Don’t put any mental energy into it. “What Susie says of Sally says more of Susie than of Sally.” Don’t take in their poison and internalize it! Call it what it is: Their poison.
3. Don’t assume anything.
When someone uses their words against you, don’t assume that it has anything to do with you. (See rule #1) They might be spewing venom at you or trying the slow-drip injection method of sending hate your way, but even with all that, don’t assume that their behavior toward you has anything to do with you. It’s about them.
It’s tempting to want to get into it with them. Don’t. Especially if this is their pattern. That’s exactly what they want. A feuding heart wants someone to feud with.
If you refuse to fight or ignore the behavior all together, they’ll look for someone else to attack. (Hopefully. Is it horrible to hope that!? lol Sorry, I hope it’s not you!)
If you choose to return “evil for evil” or “tit for tat” then YOUR actions and words are YOUR problem. Then, it would be about you.
4. Refuse to Be Like Them.
“Watch and Pray, lest you fall into temptation.” I know that this is out of context, but the principle can be applied here.
People who hold grudges are on self-destroy mode and they don’t know it. Perhaps they’ve never been forgiven themselves, or have never learned to forgive others. The result is a heavy, guilty, unhappy conscience.
As Christian women, we don’t have options when it comes to forgiveness. The commands are clear: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” End of command. No caveats or exclusions.
When you remember how much you’ve been forgiven by God, you’ll be able to forgive others of their wrongdoing toward you.
We should never take it upon ourselves to dole out punishments for other people. That’s not our job. That’s God’s territory. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”
Our job is to have faith and trust Him to do what He says He will do. He’s not a liar. He’s powerful enough to take care of us and promises to do so. He will avenge wrongdoing. Maybe not on your timetable, but at exactly the right time.
5. Pray for them.
We all need prayer and praying for someone who “persecutes you” or “despitefully uses you” is a command of God and one that we cannot omit. If you want to obey God, you’ll love your enemies and pray for them. You can’t hate someone you are sincerely praying for.
6. When appropriate, model normal, kind behavior.
First off, when is this not appropriate? When physical, emotional, or sexual abuse is present or probable. It’s not your job to deal with that person.
But barring extreme cases, kindness is always classy. Be kind. Be above reproach with your words. Let your actions reflect Christ.
7. Live your happy life, and smile. This, too, shall pass.
You are responsible to live your life and you only have one. Life wholly and fully.
These principles will actually stop you from choosing to internalize the actions of others, and from accepting the affects of their anger and bitterness into your life and mind.
It will allow you to see past their hurt and actually love them and perhaps minister to them. At the very least, you’ll not be giving them the same tit for tat treatment that the rest of the world gives them back. Maybe something about the love of God in you will make them want to know more about Him? Maybe kindness will break the bone? 😉 Prov. 25: 15
We’ve all dealt with this before in one way or another and I feel for all of you who are dealing with this right now! I know how hard it is to trust that God will bring about good through this situation! I’m praying for you!
I know this list is not complete. What ways have you found to deal with toxic people in your life?
*The Bible calls this HATE and MURDER in the NT, and NO Christian should ever be acting in this way. It is a sin to hate even one person. It’s also a sin to not love someone as you should, according to 1 Cor. 11. Now, our love is rarely as “Christ loved” or as “fervent” as it should be, but to succumb to hate or to choose to withhold love from someone is just plain devilish.
**Sometimes in ministry we have to deal with/counsel toxic people. Know your limits. You can’t help them if you begin playing their games. Objectivity/wisdom is needed to see through their behavior. Sometimes you can become the target. If so, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to affect any change in them. Refer them to someone who can help them, or a licensed counselor.