- Proverbs 22:24-25, Philippians 2:3-4
- Bill Couch November 1, 2015
Last week our Transition Prayer Team hosted a Prayer Vigil. There were seven stations that focused our prayers on different aspects of the transition and search process. This team put a lot of thought and preparation into this event. Those of us participated received a tremendous blessing. Margaret and I were overwhelmed with joy as we moved from station to station. Special materials were included for children so that they could pray along with their parents. I want to encourage you to use the prayer guide that is sent out each week. Each month our prayer team will hold an all church prayer emphasis and I hope you will be involved. This week our consultant began contacting potential candidates—the most important thing you can do is pray!
Today we conclude our series of messages entitled Toxic. Something is toxic when it contains poisonous material resulting in serious illness or death. We have examined toxic thoughts like excessive worry about the future and regret about the past. To prevent negative thoughts from becoming toxic we need to recognize them, release them to God and replace them with positive truth from God’s word. Last week we looked at toxic influences and how we need to evaluate what we are feeding our minds—is it toxic junk food that destroys our souls? Or are we feeding our minds with healthy influences that can fill us with love, peace and joy?
Today we are going to look at toxic relationships—those persons who have a profoundly negative impact on our lives—physically, emotionally and spiritually. I want us to look at two scriptures this morning that describe the effect these persons have on our lives.
24 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, 25 or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared. Proverbs 22:24-25
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
What is a toxic relationship? A toxic relationship is one in which you feel less than what God created you to be. God created you unique, beautiful, special, and wonderful. God gifted you with talents and abilities to make a significant contribution to his world. There are people who call out that beauty and uniqueness in us. There are people who identify gifts in us we don’t even see in ourselves. I had an eight grade math teacher, Mr. Callan, who saw potential leadership abilities in me that I had never seen in myself. He encouraged me to run for president of the student council at my junior high school. Miraculously I won! I was thrown into a leadership position and had to sink or swim and discovered that God had given me some leadership gifts. Who are the people in your life that help you become all God created you to be?
Toxic people do just the opposite. They make you feel less than who you are—less smart, less attractive, less worthy, less spiritual. They press you down and hold you back. These are “vampire people” who suck the life out of everyone they touch. In our scripture reading from Philippians, Paul identifies the characteristics of these persons and encourages us to be just the opposite. Toxic people are full of selfish ambition and vain conceit. They look out only for their own interests. They are full of pride—putting themselves above everyone else.
How do we recognize toxic people? At school they are known as bullies. They usually pick a target—one person that becomes the focus of all their venom. They constantly make fun of this person. Put them down; belittle them in front of others. They often gather a group around them to intensify their personal attacks. They use social media to humiliate their target. They may even physically abuse their target. We read all too often how the victims of these toxic bullies commit suicide to escape the pain of these vicious attacks.
In the workplace, toxic people are the ones who constantly criticize, sabotage and terrorize their co-workers. They spread gossip and make up rumors about others. They put others down to build themselves up. They disrupt meetings. They will make themselves the center of attention; often disturbing a meeting just so they will be noticed—even if only negatively. They don’t care, just so everyone pays attention to them.
In our families toxic people criticize and divide. Some of them are masters of the “drive-by dig”. They use sarcasm often masked with humor to push our buttons and expose our weaknesses for ridicule.
There are many different types of toxic people. I can’t possibly cover all of them, but let’s share a few of the most common types identified by Craig Groeschel.
- The chronically critical. They constantly drag you down. They are always complaining. Nothing you do is ever good enough. You don’t measure up to their expectations. They never affirm what you have done; they only point out what you did not do—where you failed in their eyes.
- The constantly controlling. They are overbearing, demanding, dominating and manipulative. They are always right—there is no other way except their way. They use fear and threats to intimidate you into doing what they want you to do. They may be verbally and physical abusive. When they blow up with anger—they blame you. “This is all your fault. If you had not done such and such, I would not have hit you. You make me so mad, I had to hit you.”
- The enticing tempter. They are constantly luring you into behaviors that are destructive: drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, drugs, violence. They are on a path of self-destruction and they want to take you with them.
- The religiously judgmental. Some of the most toxic people use religion to dominate others. They point out how much better they are than you. They are holier than thou. They use God’s name to put you in your place—always beneath them. Jesus told a story about a toxic Pharisee:
11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:11-14 (NIV)
Listen to how Jesus describes Toxic Religious people:
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. Matthew 23:27
What a powerful description of a toxic person: beautiful on the outside but full death and everything unclean on the inside.
How many toxic people do you have in your life? If you can’t think of one, it could be because you are the toxic person in everyone else’s life!!
Why do people stay in toxic relationships? One psychologist describes it this way: “Mainly because of fear. What will my life look like without this relationship? What would I lose if I left this relationship? What if others side with the toxic person—people who don’t know what he/she is like behind closed doors? I might lose the relationships in my social club or even Sunday school class.” The fear is that I cannot make it on my own without this person in my life—no matter how toxic he/she is.
What can you do if you are in a toxic relationship? First of all acknowledge it. “This relationship is not good for me. It is crushing me, stifling me, I’m losing all my self-esteem—I’m in danger of losing myself. I’m drowning.” Then explore what you are doing to contribute to the toxic relationship. Pastor Jim Jackson said that problems in a relationship are never 100% one person’s fault and 0% for the other person. Everyone contributes something to the problem. It may be 90% to 10%. But there is always at least 10% that is your contribution. Identify what you bring to the table and change that attitude or behavior and see what happens.
The only thing that you can change in a relationship is your own attitude or behavior. You cannot change the other person. Often people in toxic relationships say, “If this person would change, then my life would be fine. I wish they would get into counseling and get fixed and then everything would be fine.” You cannot wait for the other person to change. Unless you change, the situation is going to remain the same. Don’t wait for the other person to get fixed in counseling. Go to counseling for yourself! Find out why you allow yourself to be treated this way. Why do you stay in a toxic relationship? What are healthy boundaries you can set to protect yourself? Most people who are in a toxic relationship don’t know how to set healthy boundaries and need someone to help them determine what to do and support them through the process. A counselor can help you define what behaviors are unacceptable and determine your response if the behaviors don’t stop.
Sociologist, Dr. Brene Brown points out: “true compassion is having boundaries and holding others accountable.” It is not our job to fix the way others interact. Our job is to uphold the boundary. It might be the only way the other person changes. When they realize they cannot continue to abuse others to make themselves feel better.
If a toxic person refuses to accept healthy boundaries, they leave you no choice but to face your fear and get out of the toxic relationship. Recall the Proverb: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.” (Proverbs 22:24-25)
Amanda Kuhn, one of the members of our Praise Ensemble in the sanctuary, realized that she was in a toxic relationship. I asked her if she would be willing to share about this relationship and how she got out of it. It takes a lot of courage to speak about this type of experience, so I really appreciate her willingness to share it with us. VIDEO: Amanda Kuhn, Toxic Relationships
Amanda set boundaries that continued to be violated. She sought help to support her in ending this relationship. Once you are out of a toxic relationship there is still work to be done. Often those who get out of a toxic relationship get right back into another one and keep repeating the cycle. You have to answer a very tough question: Why am I attracted to toxic people? Take advantage of this time for healing and seek out people who energize you, build you up and affirm who you are in God’s eyes.
Author Glennon Melton’s grandfather was a coal miner on the east coast. He told her that at the turn of the century they did not have sophisticated monitoring devices to alert them when toxic gases were reaching dangerous levels in the mine. They took a canary in a cage with them deep into the mine. As long as the canary was singing, they knew that toxic gases were not present. A canary’s metabolism would be affected quickly when the level of toxic gases increased and the canary would quit singing. As soon as the canary quit singing, the miner’s knew they needed to exit the mine immediately or face certain death.
I hope this “Toxic” series regarding toxic thoughts, influences and relationships has helped you to identify those things that make your canary stop singing. They will destroy you. Pay attention to those things and get them out of your life. What is one toxic thing that you will remove from your life this week?
I hope you have also been able to identify healthy things that keep your canary singing! What are the things that fill your body, mind and soul with energy, life, love, joy, peace and move you toward becoming all that God created you to be? What is one thing you will chose this week that will let your canary sing!