Walking Away From Toxic Relationships
Walking Away From Toxic Relationships
Are any of your relationships unhealthy? Bible-based advice for how to tell--and how to cut them off.
When God wants to bless you, how does He do it? He sends people into your life. When the devil wants to destroy you, how does He do it? He sends people!
There are several types of relationships that are liabilities, not assets. If you are going to develop healthy relationships, you first must cut off the unhealthy ones you have developed. How can you tell if a relationship is toxic? Here are three major indicators:
Constant Strife and Division. First, there will be constant strife and division. Amos 3:3 asks us, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” A healthy relationship is one in which there is oneness of goals, purpose, values, and beliefs. God’s Word also says, “Where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:16).
• The Greek word for confusion means “unstable.” The Bible tells us that a double-minded man is “unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). The situation is out of order and therefore out of control. God is a God of order. He has set up lines of authority, and when those lines are violated, the door is open to every type of evil spirit. You don’t get to choose the brand of evil spirit you want. When you get out of line with the way God has designed things to work, the devil has a legal right to touch you with any form of evil he wants.
Strife and confusion sap your energy and drain your creativity. They take your focus off what God has for you.
• People Who Knew You “Back When.” One of the most dangerous relationships is the one that holds you to your past. The Bible tells us that when Jesus went to his “own country,” He taught, and the people were astonished, but they were also “offended” at Him because they kept saying, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t this the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? He can’t possibly have all this wisdom and do these mighty works. We know Him. He’s just one of us.” And Jesus could do no miracles there “because of their unbelief.” It wasn’t that Jesus had lost any power in Himself. He wasn’t any less of who He was in his home country. It was because of their, unbelief that He could not manifest the fullness of Himself (see Matthew 13:53–58).
The associations of your past can drag you down and hold you back. They can keep you from fulfilling your potential.
I’m not talking, of course, of relationships that you have entered into with a covenant or relationships that God has ordained for your life. You can’t just casually walk away from a father or mother or spouse or child. I’m talking about friendships and business associations and casual acquaintances and distant relatives who remind you continually of what people used to think of you. Those old opinions that were not God’s opinions are opinions that do not relate to your tomorrow. They relate only to your yesterday.
• Violators of the Heart. These are relationships that prey on your heart and rob you of control over your life. Don’t give power to any person to manipulate you and control you. Nobody deserves that power but God! No person can make you lose your joy, your mind, your temper, or any other aspect unless you give that person the power. Don’t do it!
The most dangerous violator of the heart is the person who tells you what you want to hear. It is the person who strokes your ego and tells you words of affection that you are desperate to hear, all in an effort to get what they want from you.
Violators take advantage of the “needs” in your life, especially the needs to be loved and accepted. They aren’t concerned about your blessings or your destiny. They are concerned only about what they want. They are takers, not givers.
Never lose your identity for another person’s sake.
Never compromise your character for anyone.
You must continually take inventory of whether a person is drawing more from you than the person is giving to you. A healthy relationship is a relationship in which there is balance in giving and taking . . . where there is mutual appreciation and a building up . . . where there are honest words of appreciation without any taint of manipulation.
The Steps to Cutting off an Unhealthy Relationship
So what are the steps you must take to cut unhealthy relationships out of your life?
First, you must identify and accept the reality of an out-of-balance relationship. At times, you need to take stock of the situation and admit to yourself that a relationship just isn’t working. All of your efforts at helping or rehabilitating a person have failed. It is at that point that you need to give that person over to God. Notice that I didn’t say that you give up on the person. To give up is to walk away and say, "I don't care what happens to you." To give a person “over to God” is to walk away as you say, "I have done all that I can do. I’m entrusting you to God from this point on."
When you give a person over to Almighty God, you are releasing that person from your own heart to One who truly can heal the person, who will never fail the person, and who is totally qualified to counsel and guide and help the person. How many times can you tell a person the same things over and over and over again? Some people have been prayed for with the laying on of your hands so often that your handprints are indelibly printed on them!
If you allow yourself to be drained and distracted by someone you truly cannot help because that person does not truly want your help—only your association—then you will not be in position to help those who truly want your help more than they want your association.
Second, don't try to be God to another person. There's a huge difference between helping a person and carrying a person. You aren’t the Holy Spirit. Don't enter into an enabling relationship in which you come to feel totally responsible for a person's success or failure.
Third, become comfortable with criticism. If you do have to end a relationship, not everybody is going to be happy with your decision. For that matter, not everybody is going to be happy with you at any point or regarding anything! There’s always going to be somebody who wants you to do something other than what God is leading you to do. Nobody can please all people all the time, everywhere.
Luke 6:26 tells us, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets." Occasionally you need to recognize that hurting people sometimes hurt people, and you need to be brave enough and godly enough to say, "This relationship isn't helping you or me. This relationship isn't healthy. We need to put an end to this."
Trust God to help you recognize when a relationship is becoming detrimental to your business, your ministry, or the health of your family life. Trust God to give you the courage to end the relationship, and then trust Him to give you broad enough shoulders and thick enough skin to take the criticism that you may face for ending the relationship.
Fourth, progressively end unhealthy relationships. It takes emotional energy to end a relationship, and if you cut every unhealthy relationship out of your life at one time, you are likely to be overwhelmed by the loss. Cut unhealthy relationships out of your life one at a time until you can look around you and say, “All of my relationships are ones that are pleasing to God. All of my relationships are ones in which there is a mutual give-and-take, a mutual blessing, a mutual edification. I am on the same wavelength with those who are close to me when it comes to values, beliefs, and goals.”
Fifth, don't burn bridges. When you dissolve a relationship, don’t do so in anger or bitterness. There is a way to walk away from a relationship without words of hatred or criticism or the placing of blame. At the same time, walk away from an unhealthy relationship with the full intent that you will not revisit that relationship in the future. God may lead you to have a relationship with that person down the line, but you should not have the intent to come back to the relationship. Make a clean break. Make a definitive break.
There may be a situation in which someone comes to you to break off a relationship. Allow that break to occur. Don’t keep hanging on. Don’t keep trying to mend fences that are twelve-foot-high stone walls. Don’t keep revisiting the relationship in your heart, looking for a way back in. Allow the break to happen.
And then, move forward. If you continue to look back, you won’t be qualified or given the authority to possess what God has for you. Look ahead, not back.
Every time you look back, you begin to question, "Did I do the right thing?" You second-guess your today. You become hesitant about your tomorrow. Leave the past behind. Move forward!
Don’t look at what might have been, should have been, or could have been! Look at what is still to be!
Go to Those Who Celebrate You. Why waste your life trying to get the attention or win the affection of people who don’t care about you?
Why make the effort to go where people merely tolerate you but don’t celebrate you?
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 at all capable of recognizing and appreciating the One who lives inside you?
Jesus told a parable in which a man gave a great feast and invited many people to come. He sent his servant at the appointed time to say to those who were invited, "Come, for all things are now ready." But one by one, those who were invited made excuses. One had bought some property, another a new yoke of oxen he needed to "test” and another had just married.
Aren’t those the things that people tend to value more than you today? One person has a business that he values more than you, another a new car or new boat or some other new “toy” of some value that the person needs to “test out.” Another has a new relationship that is more important than the relationship with you.
Find the people who are starving for what you offer! Find people who want who you are, what you give, and what you celebrate.