A couple of weeks ago I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and stumbled across an article called “The Ten Types of Toxic People that Mentally Strong People Avoid.”
Curious, I clicked. The article, I found, recommended eliminating interactions with “toxic people,” with the ultimate goal of improving your quality of life.
This wasn’t a new message to me. It is a message deeply ingrained in our culture. We’re told to do whatever is necessary to insure our own happiness.
But an unforeseen problem comes with this mindset: because no one is perfect, everyone is going to annoy you at some point. Therefore, we start to hate all people, becoming grumpier and lonelier than we were before. And we grow distant from the very human beings God put us on earth to serve.
The Root of the Problem: Worth
“..You will want to avoid all the toxic [people] who will make you worse off for knowing them.”
The beginning of the article sums up the cry of American culture. We are told: if my neighbor is degrading my quality of life (whether I’m irritable or they’re genuinely annoying), I am justified in completely avoiding the person, in ending my relationship with them.
Their worth in my life depends on the happiness I may or may not experience while I am around them.
We’re told that we need to receive something for a relationship to be worth our time. We are to be filled up.
The Bible tells a very different story.
Paul writes in Philippians 2:17, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”
Jesus said something similar in Luke 22:20, at the Last Supper, “And likewise the cup after they had eaten, [Jesus said], ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’”
Like Paul and Jesus, who poured out themselves for those who didn’t deserve it, we must not seek only to be filled up. Remember, Jesus died on the cross for us: the toxic people that he had every reason to deny. He saved us and he loves us.
And if we are to follow Christ, we must do the same for every person who is as unworthy of love as we are.
The Truth of the Matter: Biblical Love
- We are called to love: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11)
- We don’t get to decide who’s worthy of love.
- Love is not a spontaneous burst of warm feelings for another person. Love is daily acts of sacrifice on behalf of another human being.
- Avoiding people we dislike or are easily irritated by incapacitates our ability to follow the command of Galatians 6:10: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
- The really frustrating people are often the ones who need Christ the most. We can’t easily share the gospel to these lost ones if we block them on Facebook and walk the other direction when we see them coming.
Fighting Irritation and Learning to Love Others
We have to make a conscious decision daily to love others – it doesn’t come naturally or easily. Here are some thoughts and steps to help you in that:
1. Love is a muscle. The more you exercise it, the more genuine your love will grow.
2. Start your day with the goal to avoid irritation, not irritating people.
3. Get rid of toxic media/entertainment sources. For me, it was social media accounts that constantly post memes about their annoyance with people and the world, like Grumpy Cat. They might be funny, but ultimately, the negative worldview in these memes and Tumblr posts becomes ours. The negativity can also come from movies, TV shows, music, YouTube videos, etc.
4. Fill the gap with Scripture. Memorize it. You’ll notice as you memorize Scripture that it begins to affect your worldview and ultimately your actions.
5. Pray for strength when you know you will face a difficult person and then act on the prayer. Don’t wait for a spontaneous burst of love to strike you from the heavens.
6. Instead of silently fuming at your annoyance and that person’s foolishness, walk up and ask them how their day was. Smile!
Life isn’t about becoming the happiest we can be. It’s about glorifying God, and when we avoid “toxic” people, we can’t carry out this mission.
This all comes back to the fight against low expectations. We are immersed in a time and place that preaches sneakily sinful messages, and when our friends and sometimes even our parents expect us to follow along, it’s easy to do so.
But instead of following along, let’s resolve to love our neighbors in a way that makes them question what’s different about us. Let’s be salt and light.
Share Your Thoughts in the Comment Section!
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Thank you for writing this article! It’s something that I have to fight every day. My natural tendencies are to avoid the people who annoy me or exhaust me and to hang out with the fun people. But the annoying and draining people are almost always the ones who need love the most. Thanks for this great reminder! 🙂
Wonderful article, Haley! I’m afraid I’m certainly guilty of avoiding those who annoy me. Thank you for the call to do something better!
“How I treat a brother or sister from day to day,
how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to
interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in
their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my
reverence for life than the antiabortion sticker on the bumper of my
car.” (Brennan Manning, “The Ragamuffin Gospel”
great article, it was a good subject and good writing as well. I find myself guilty of avoiding people i’d rather not spend time with a lot; so thanks for the convicting article. 🙂
i’m new to the rebelution, so what are some good posts to get started on?
Really good article. It reminded me of something one of my old youth group leaders said. You have three circles. Intimate (you, God, and the person you’re married to), Inner (Your close Christian friends who are a good influence on you), and Influence (The people who you want to Influence). Thanks for taking the time to write it!
Thank you! That’s a really good explanation to what a lot of people on here are saying. Yes, we need to be forgiving and merciful to all people, but we shouldn’t put harmful or truly toxic people into our intimate or inner circles. This is pretty much what I was thinking, I just couldn’t figure out a good way to say it.
This is an awesome and challenging article. It’s so important for all of us to remember!
One thing I would add, though, is if you think that someone truly is “toxic” in that they are treating you in a way that is actually damaging, talk to people (maybe even a professional) to determine if that person is being abusive. Then I think the conversation needs to change. Don’t just write off every annoying person as abusive or toxic, but when that situation occurs, don’t put yourself in danger because you want to love them. This comes from someone who allowed an emotionally abusive situation to continue and worsen because I thought I needed to keep loving on this person, when they were actually using and abusing that love and seriously damaging me.
While God calls us to love the annoying and seemingly unlovable, we are also his children and we need to remember that- especially those of us who end up in abusive situations.
Once you have determined that a “toxic” person is not in fact abusive, but simply annoying or hard to love, then this article is absolutely true!
While I appreciate many things in your article, it did not differentiate the believer from the non-believer.
As Christians, we are without excuse in not loving others. Even if they are our enemies we are told to bless them.
But there are occurrences in life that do require separation from a professing believer, as seen in this scripture:
Titus 3:10-11 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
We are to exhaust our efforts to restore those who continually sin against us, but when a heart is resistant to Christ and his mandates, we have to stop it. We are then to forgive and continue to love them and bless them, but there is a time when we are to separate.
Sincerely in Him,
I agree with this wholeheartedly. There is also a difference between annoying people and toxic people. There is also a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness takes one person but reconciliation takes two people. After repeatedly offering forgiveness to someone in our lives who refuses to change, (who is abusive or destructive to your family (AKA toxic) there is a time where we have to say, “No more.” Your apologies were insincere, and I forgive you, but I can no longer enable you to sin against God or our family, or me in this way.”
I have firsthand experience with this. I believe that we are to be merciful, forgiving people, but some people aren’t really looking to change. I believe in unconditional love and doing everything we can to show it. But there is a time when we have to move on and begin to show it to other people and not allow toxic, abusive people to drain us of everything we have.
Ok, so I agree with all of you. The thing to remember is that on these kind of topics, it can get tricky trying to remember all your points, and look at it from all angles. I think that Haley agrees that you shouldn’t try to be making friends with or living around people that are going to seriously damage your faith or physically harm you.
This article is sooo good, Haley. I fail a lot when it comes to this area of my relationships. Badly. Your article is super-duper helpful, and honest. I needed to hear this. Thank you! I love your name, by the way 😉
Thanks for the reminder! I needed this!
Love the use of Scripture!
So good. Kudos
Love your article!
I know it may sound silly, but I sometimes get really annoyed when I’m drying the dishes with my little sister and she goes really slow. I just think ‘I have better things to do than dry dishes all day!’ But I am really trying to work on it and please pray as it is a big prob in my life. I can really sympathise with you Haley!
love this! it’s easy to blend in with culture and ignore/avoid/gossip about the people who are annoying. I mean, everyone will assure you its okay and maybe even laugh along with you in it. but what ive found, when I hear people talk about other people being annoying, it doesn’t make them seem very kind or trustworthy- and then I wonder how many people think that about me because of one offhand comment I made. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) “If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.” love is for everyone- not just the easy people to love, and words are powerful things, we should be careful with how we deal with other (even annoying) people, it reflects back on us as Christians! (btw FKAC’s proof of your love is like the best song for this topic 😉 and wow this comment is long) God Bless!
Thank you so much for writing this, Haley! I really need to remember to better love people, especially if, by the world’s standard’s, they’re “toxic”. Because without the gift of God, we’re all toxic with sin. And became we have been forgiven much, we should at least forgive the little done against us. Because we have been loved eternally, we can at least love those around us. This is very convicting. I loved all your points, and these were my favorite:
Thank you again!
Thanks very much for this, Haley! In a narcissistic and selfish world, that attitude really stands out…
A great article. All I would point out is that being ‘unequally yoked’ also applies to friends. Your Christian friends should be more important than the unbelievers. If you are having an issue with a Christian – seek them out and put things right. This is an excellent witness to our unsaved acquaintances.
‘Annoying’ can also be guilt on our part that someone else made a better decision than we did, or frustration that they made a poor decision.
Thank you so much for this!!
I really needed this! Thank you for providing us with the truth, and even some practical application. Very impactful article. Thank you, Haley! 🙂
I really agree with this! There was an incident in my life which included my younger sister by 2 years. We were watching these little kids all day long. And to tell you the truth, watching them was the WORST decision of my life. But we survived. I ended up losing my sister in this huge, crowded, public place. She had this little kid with her, she was little, everything was just making me panic! I couldn’t find her ANYWHERE. I was yelling her name, I was looking over the grounds of the place, and I was going around corners praying that I would find her and also that I wouldn’t get lost in the place. I went to my mom in tears. I was completely hysterical! My mom was in a mad dash trying to find my sister. I followed behind her helpless and beside myself. I thought it was my fault that she was missing. All types of thoughts were going through my head. One that particularly scared me was, “What if someone just picked her up in their van and drove off? They could be anywhere!” We went outside of the building and my mother started yelling my sister’s name. All of the sudden she came from behind a car, almost dragging the kid behind her. I turned away from the scene in tears. I was upset at her then. I thought, she should’ve never left me. She’s should’ve just stayed with me.
My sister was totally unharmed and unaware of my emotions about this situation. This event made me realize how much I actually care about my sister even though it doesn’t seem like I do that much in my everyday life. So I definitely agree with this topic! Thanks for posting Haley!!!
Yes! I needed this!
That is great, I have the issue of getting annoyed too easily,
I read this a little late, but I need the message either way.
i searched the word “annoying” on this website. this article was exactly what i wanted
“Annoying” and “toxic” are two VERY different things.
“Cutting out toxic people in your life” basically means the same thing as “Choose your friends wisely”
The point is that you shouldn’t be hanging around people who are a bad influence on you. ((Or who bring you down all the time, perhaps with constant negativity. In this case, ofc you’re suppose to be kind and respectful, but you’re not obligated to continue a relationship with them)) Which is something the bible can and does back up, if you want to look there.
It’s so strange to me that people hear a word like TOXIC and they interpret it as “oh y’know, anyone who you don’t happen to like or who annoys you”
Things that are TOXIC are things that are deadly. Damaging. They make you incredibly sick at best.
“Toxic people” can refer to manipulative people, to abusive people. It can even mean people with just generally bad lifestyles. Drug abuse, crime, etc.
THOSE people are the people you don’t need to be spending your time with
Cut them out.
Speaking strictly about difficult or annoying people, though, this is a good article. I just feel like that particular point is misunderstood.
My mom she loves to come down into the basement and irritate me she wants me to go out places of her I’m not going out with her anywhere she has a mental illness and she won’t admit it to anybody I’m not going to go any place with my mom who has a mental illness and who’s not going to admit it to people and likes to purposely hurt my feelings say her sisters are saying things about me when they’re not and then she lied to me and say she’s not trying to hurt my feelings and she’s purposely trying to hurt my feelings she loves hurting my feelings. And I wanted to live with my dad and my mom took me away from my dad told me he was going to kill me.