Setting Boundaries in Toxic Relationships
Do you have someone in your life who’s toxic? Someone who’s negative, even
antagonistic toward you. Someone who tries to control your life. Someone who, no
matter what you say or do to please them, it’s never enough.
What’s a good way to respond to a person like that?
Christians are especially likely to have relationships with toxic people. Coming
alongside another person with the love of Christ in a time of need can be messy. Being
the hands and feet of Christ requires relationship at some level.
But does God expect us to subject ourselves to controlling, manipulative people? To
answer that, look at how Jesus handled toxic people. The Gospels record a couple
dozen distinct encounters where Jesus allowed a toxic person to walk away from Him.
He didn’t chase any of them. Instead, he invested in His disciples. They were flawed
men, but their hearts were open.
God asks the same of us – to seed and water fields that are fertile, that are receptive to
growth. The Bible advises against pouring time, energy, and resources into toxic people
who resent the care, reject truth, and refuse to be transformed (Matthew 7:6). People
like that turn on you and make you pay for your good intentions.
The question is, how do you discern between a toxic person and someone who’s just
hard to get along with? It’s easy to categorize people too quickly. What kind of person is
wise to allow into our lives and what kind of person is not?
Jesus gives us a clue in John 10:10. He says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and
destroy.” If a person is stealing your joy, killing your peace, and destroying your ability
to invest in people who will benefit, that’s probably a bad sign.
By contrast, in Colossians 3:12-17, Paul lays out the qualities you find in healthy
relationships: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love. The fruit
of the Spirit.
When do you stick with somebody? When should you walk away?