Who comes to mind when you hear the words “toxic person?” Is it your friend from college, your mom, your brother-in-law, a coworker? I bet your shoulders feel a little bit tenser and your blood pressure a little bit higher just thinking about them. Take a deep breath. And another. You’re going to need it. This is not a how-to about breaking up with friends and family members. Unlike conventional wisdom, we’re going to talk about loving your person well.
Just like everything in Christianity, it all comes back to the Gospel. There is no more toxic, poisonous thing on earth than humans. Through human action, death was brought on the world. Through human error, decay creeps into every living thing. We were the toxic substance that turned God’s perfect garden into ruin. Yet, He didn’t choose to break up with us; He chose to pursue us.
Once our toxicity was revealed, God immediately set up a boundary for our own good. While I don’t think you have a spare cherubim with a flaming sword in the garage, a conversation should suffice for most boundary setting. Don’t ghost them, or mutter passive-aggressive comments to them hoping they’ll get the picture. Describe to them behavior that is/is not acceptable for you and the consequences of violating that boundary.
The consequence must be something you are fully in control of enforcing and something you are willing to enforce. The purpose of the consequence is not to punish the other person, shame them, or damage the relationship from your side. By placing a boundary, you are actually promoting the relationship by not allowing (or allowing less access for) the other person to destroy it from their side.
Remember: always speak with kindness, making generous, but wise assumptions about the other person.
From before the foundation of the world, God knew He would redeem us. He did not send a flaming sword wielding angel to keep us away from Himself. He sent it to prevent us from inflicting more devastating damage to ourselves that would further separate us from Him, because He had a plan to draw us near. So near that He would call us His children. Despite the roller coaster of faithfulness and betrayal from humanity, He kept with the plan. Through great personal sacrifice, He accomplished salvation for all who believe through the blood of Christ. His desire has always been for our good.
You do not know the plan that God has for your toxic person, but you do know that God desires their good. Pray for their good: whether that is their salvation, sanctification, and/or healing of old wound - we must pray. Prayerfully consider your boundaries and your own heart towards your person, knowing that they are an image bearer that Christ died to redeem. Just like you. So plan your boundaries and interactions in a way that seeks good for them.
Also, have a plan for yourself. Have a plan to examine why this person is so toxic to you. Seek discipleship and support for your own heart and care. Plan recharge time after spending time with your toxic person.
The love of God is so humbling. Humility is the fuel of loving toxic people well. Humility, guided by wisdom, will lead you into the depths of love. The place where few will ever manage the discomfort of navigating, but those that do will find a deeper connection with the heart and mind of God.
If you are in an abusive relationship, prayerfully consider skipping boundary setting and seek immediate help instead. Your safety must be insured before the beautiful work of loving a toxic person can begin.
Meet the Author!
Phoebe is a therapist at Connect Counseling at Deaconess Pregnancy and Adoption, mom to the very lively Vivi and very chill Charlie, and wife to Jeff. You may spot her out and about at almost any Target in the area with a coconut milk latte in hand. She enjoys nonfiction books, Disney movies, and helping others find peace and healing in the hope of the Gospel.
This blog is meant to further the conversation about mental health and is not intended as medical or professional advice.