In the ideal world, we would never come across people who intend to hurt us. Unfortunately we live in a fallen world that is full of broken people, and pain and hurt are destined to come to each of us. Sin is abundant, and thus, toxic and abusive relationships are formed. Christians are not immune to finding themselves trapped in these situations. Occasionally, we get wound up in these unhealthy relationships and cycles of behavior.
A healthy relationship is one in which there is oneness of goals, purpose, values, and beliefs. Toxic relationships, however, are often one-sided and sometimes abusive. Toxic relationships can happen between friends, family members, co-workers and romantic relationships. God’s Word tells us “where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:16). These types of relationships are not sent by God, because they bring negativity and pain to those in it.
When We Are Toxic
Everyone is guilty on some level of being abusive or toxic to others at some point. As humans, we are going to fail to live up to God's standards. The potential to harm has to do with sin and our innate bent toward selfishness (Romans 3:23; Jeremiah 17:9). Those who have accepted the need for a Savior acknowledge that only Love Himself, Jesus Christ, can overrule our selfishness, transforming it into real love (Romans 8:10). We have a responsibility to care for and love others—not cause harm (John 13:34; Exodus 22:22; Isaiah 10:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:6).
Christians that cause harm to others understand that they must repent for their mistakes, and apologize for their actions. When we look deep into the mirror, we may realize that we are the ones who have some unhealthy tendencies that God wants to change. We should stop wasting time in toxic patterns of living, because He has better in store for us.
When Others Are Toxic
God does not want us to stay when we are in a toxic relationship. Why spend your time, effort, and resources seeking acceptance from people who are so wrapped up in themselves that they can’t accommodate anybody else in their lives? Why spend your spiritual gifts on people who aren’t appreciating the One who lives inside you?
If a person in your life is toxic to your mental, spiritual, or physical health, often the wisest decision is to put some distance between you and them. God’s greatest desire is to set us free, and sometimes that means facing the person and saying “stop, no more” and walking away.
In Galatians 4:7-10, the Apostle Paul admonishes the church for listening to someone who was spreading lies and shaking people's faith in God. He spoke pretty harshly upon the troublesome person too (Galatians 4:12). Paul goes on to say that love is the better option, but that distance may be necessary for "if you bite and devour one another," you may end up hurting each other a lot worse (Galatians 4:14-15).
Being angry and frustrated by a toxic situation, relationship is perfectly normal. Typically, that's our mind's way of alerting us to the fact that something is very wrong. If you're in a toxic environment, you do not need to "get used to it" or "just get over it." God wants you to remove yourself from these situations.
The key to making this distance work is to avoid indulging in your anger or bitterness. We shouldn’t respond by gossiping or ridiculing the person (I Peter 3:9, II Corinthians 12:20) no matter how much they hurt us. Instead, we should focus on building a stronger and healthier relationship with Him to help us forgive and move forward. Sometimes, it’s best to respond to toxicity by turning the other cheek (Luke 6:29). Other times, we can repay evil with good (1 Peter 3:9). We should always seek to forgive though (Mark 11:25) as Jesus did for us. If you are having trouble finding the will to forgive, pray for those who mistreated you (Luke 6:28, Romans 12:14, Matthew 5:44).
Psalm 147:3 tells us that God "heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Only God's healing power can truly restore peace to a broken or traumatized heart. As much as we wish that the toxic person would apologize, there are many times where that simply won't happen. Only God will be able to truly heal us where we are broken.
Ending these types of relationships can be very scary, and the person is likely to erupt in anger. Trust God to help you recognize when a relationship is becoming detrimental to your business, your spirituality, or the health of your family life. Further trust Him to give you the courage to end the relationship, and to give you thick enough skin to take the criticism that you may face for ending the relationship.
God actually warns us of the many different types of toxic people we might encounter in our daily lives.Some people we are to avoid friendship with include: the violent man (Proverbs 16:29, Proverbs 1:10-12), the wicked man (Proverbs 12:26, Proverbs 4:14-17), the gossip (Proverbs 16:28), the perverse (Proverbs 16:30), those who engage in deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11, Proverbs 2:12), the thief (Proverbs 1:10-19), and the adulterous woman (Proverbs 2:16-19). Furthermore, 2 Timothy 3:1-5 tells us we should not be friends with lovers of self, lovers of money, the proud, the abusive, those disobedient to parents, the ungrateful, the heartless, lovers of pleasure, etc.
We are likely to be faced with a toxic relationship sometime in our lives. This might be someone very close to us, like our own parent, or someone in leadership such as a boss. Whatever you face, understand that these relationships are not a blessing from the Lord. When the devil wants to tear you down, he will send people to do so. Learn that these types of behaviors are not healthy, and do what is necessary to remove yourself from the situation.