Dr. Stephen Phinney
I woke up this morning to an email from a Toxic Christian. The email was short but not sweet. No hello, no encouragement, no ‘how are you,’ just picking out a flaw in my writing. The first thing that went through my mind is this man is toxic.
The organic definition of toxic is poisonous, venomous, virulent, noxious, dangerous, and destructive.
You might have a few people in your life that cause unnecessary conflict or work to dethrone the strengths our Lord has invested in you through Christ. If so, you are dealing with a toxic person. These people are self-righteous, creating stress and Christianized persecution, not to mention draining you of strength. The root of their demise is nothing short of jealousy.
Jealous Christians are toxic Christians.
While many toxic Christians hide behind the skirt of Grace, typically, there isn’t an ounce of Grace in their dealings with others – at least in fronting those they are jealous of. A toxic Christian is obsessed with humbling other Christians that seem to be more popular, skilled, and advanced than themselves. They tend to self-appoint themselves as the ‘thought police.’ In this, we find the greatest rub of their demise – they cannot be corrected.
Here are a few warning signs to watch for in dealing with a toxic person:
Inconsistency; They come and go from your life. However, when they come, classically, they come to front you of a flaw. Their behavior is erratic. While they offer assistance to you, they don’t follow through on their commitments. Toxic people believe they are ‘there for you,’ but they are not.
They Cling Like Leaches; They tend to extract every ounce of life you contain. The relationship is typically one way. Their appearance of loyalty fades when you construct guidelines or restrictions – proving their loyalty is fake. Once it is discovered that their manipulation has no success, they're gone from your life.
They Always Need Your Attention; Toxic people are lonely people. They appear to be a ‘people person,’ but in reality, they are desperate for your attention. Instead of admitting they need your help and guidance, they slip into the driver’s seat and present themselves as the ‘answer man.’
There Is Always Drama; Since toxicity demands ’feelings’ of drama to ignore their error of high control, they inflame emotions and create mild offenses to tempt the other to join their demise. Bluntly, toxic people thrive in dramatic situations. They are usually toxic because they’re not interested in being stable due to their ‘addiction’ to conflict.
They Don’t Respect Privacy or Integrity; Since the relationship is about their opinions, thoughts, and directives, they tend to be gossipers. Toxic people are rude and dangerous regarding keeping private information private. The irony is most are not only clueless about being gossipers. They believe they have the right to spread their disappointments about people to others while ‘feeling’ justified in doing so.
Toxic People Take In Toxins; Most indulge themselves with other toxic people. Their day's highlight is trapping others to listen to their toxic gossip. Their mental trap harms others because they ‘feel’ harmed in the relationship. It is a psychological modality of ‘payback.’ Yes. They are people of revenge.
Toxic people are people of ambiguity. Ambiguity is a meaning in which a phrase, statement, or resolution is not explicitly defined, making several interpretations plausible. A common aspect of ambiguity is uncertainty, but passion and feelings dominate logic when uncertainty is fronted. Thus, it is an attribute of any idea or statement whose intended meaning cannot be resolved according to the governing mandates stated in documented absolute Truth. Logic becomes flawed, while passions take the forefront of reasoning. When ambiguity becomes habitual, a spiritual stronghold is established. Therefore, I believe ambiguity is the gateway to demonic spiritual strongholds. As per the norm, the world captures words and phrases to define age-old issues in the Bible. Ambiguity versus spiritual strongholds is one of them.
Toxic people believe they have the right to intrude on relationships. When they don’t get the cooperation they demand, most distort the relationship to manipulate the Truth, ultimately forming an unhealthy relationship of superiority – stamping God’s approval on their manipulative ways. Warning, toxic people of ambiguity cannot be fronted. The reason? They justify their toxic ways as love when in reality, their kind of love destroys the relationship at every turn.
What should you do with a toxic relationship?
Outside of the intervention of Jesus Christ, there isn’t much you can do. The lie of toxic ambiguity is generally contrasted with vagueness. People who use vagueness to hide the Truth cannot be confronted. People who ‘do vague’ defend their sinful habits with self-righteousness. These people, overall, are unreachable – that is, outside of a miracle of transformation by the Holy Spirit. Since pride has not only gripped their hearts, it has become their identity. The only solution is for the Lord to bring them to the end of their self-life.
When stuck with an identity of pride, a question must be asked: does Truth truly overcome lies? The quick answer is, of course, it does. Those trapped in a lifestyle of lies find Truth toxic. Worse, they use the Truth to confirm their lies and toxic behavior. As a counselor, I have learned the only way to combat this trap is by reinforcing this passage:
But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:11)
The passage surfaces an important question. How do I maintain the commission of reaching out to others while honoring the 1 Corinthians 5 passage? The Greek word for ‘associate’ is sunanamignumi – to mix up together, become one with. As in all cases of evangelism, we are called to step into relationships without partaking or participating in the individual's gossip, habits, depravities, or identity. When they gossip, you don’t. When they excuse their behaviors, you don’t. When they attempt to entrap you, you disengage. Simply put, you evangelize them in the Grace and love of Jesus Christ.
God gave me a visual years ago when addressing toxic people. I pictured myself as a faucet. When I was amidst a toxic person, the Lord said to keep the faucet open the entire time of relating to the individual. I realized as long as the Living Water was pouring out of me, the toxic fumes of defilement could not enter my life. I must tell you; it has worked 100% of the time. It works so well; most toxic people run like dogs returning to their vomit (2 Peter 2:22).
It is possible to turn a toxic person into a friend for life. However, the above illustration must remain in play – sometimes for years. Most importantly, it takes relentless prayers. Write down all the toxic people in your life. Decide to pray for each of them often. While guarded, watch the Lord do what He does best – redemption. Who knows, maybe you will see a once enemy become a precious friend in Christ (Matt. 5:43-45).
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