You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone...
We all know at least one person we consider "toxic," and difficult. Toxic people are often narcissistic (vain), selfish, judgmental/critical, negative, controlling, manipulative, passive aggressive, opinionated (but think only their opinion counts), untrustworthy, easily angered, and self-centered.
According to Mental Health America, 84% of women and 75% of men report having a toxic friend at some point in their lives. And 3/4 of US workers report having had or have a toxic boss.
The stark reality is these type of people are miserable (often due to self-sabotage), and they tend to feel empowered or encouraged when they can make others feel equally as miserable. The old saying, "misery loves company," holds true as toxic people feel better about themselves when they can make others feel miserable, too.
News and social media are drowning in toxicity!
James - his real name was changed to protect the guilty - was very presumptuous when, after an argument about his bad behavior, he angrily told his wife, Sally (again, not her real name) and kids, "Someday, you're gonna miss me when I'm gone!" Fed up and tired of years of self-loathing, criticism, manipulation, and myriad other bad behaviors, not counting his addiction to pornography, Sally immediately replied, "Are we?"
While that may seem cruel to respond in such manner, understanding how James had treated Sally, the kids, and others during his lifetime left such an impression of doubt that he would actually be missed if he were gone. James and Sally had not always had a toxic relationship. But after years of challenges, financial constraints, and growing differences, James became more self-loathing and highly critical of her and the kids - and everyone else around him, for that matter.
He would often voice his divisive opinions with little tact or fact, arguing with anyone who disagreed or failed to see his perspective. He lashed out to his children when they didn't meet his standard, despite not ever knowing what the standard was supposed to be. He often manipulated Sally into poor financial decisions that would later result in her having to work extra to pay for his mistakes. And after struggling to simply get along or "play well" with others, many of his friends decided they didn't need him in their lives and abandoned their friendships.
James, arrogantly dismissed them as being "their loss" rather than accept responsibility for destroying the relationships. Sally and the kids had reached the conclusion that they would be better off without him. His toxic behavior had become very taxing on the family, and they walked on pins and needles around him because they never quite knew when he was going to lash out or say verbally abusive words that would cut to the core of their beings.
After 18 years, Sally and the kids packed their things and left James alone. In her goodbye letter, Sally repeated James' manipulative statement, saying, "You once told us that we would one day miss you when you're gone. And I believe the opposite to be true. While you wallow in your self-pity, pious attitude, negative and judgmental personality, the kids and I will, for the first time, feel relief and feel the burden you have placed upon us finally lifted."
Ouch! That had to hurt! Or did James think the same as he did with his failed friendships, "her loss?" In fact, James did realize what he had done. Despite attempts to reconcile, Sally and the kids had reached the point of no return. They no longer wanted to subject themselves to the poisonous words spoken to them, the name-calling, the angry abuse that he had subjected them to over the years. They were done! And he was left alone to live out his days.
Although it took Sally and the kids leaving to detoxify their relationship with James, sometimes we may have to endure toxic people without much option of leaving. For instance, toxic co-workers, neighbors, clients, and government officials (to name a few), may pose a problem, and avoidance becomes evident by those who are in their atmosphere.
But, there are ways to "clean house" when moving, changing jobs, or firing a client are not an option. While moving and selecting the people you choose to be around is often necessary to put an end to the toxic firestorm of chaos and calamity, some relationships can have imaginary distance placed between them.
First, identifying the toxic behaviors in your various relationships is key. Understanding that no one is perfect by any means of the imagination, some behaviors are less tolerable than others and directly impact you in a very negative way. But, if you don't recognize the abuse, you will continue to tolerate it and be subject to its control, unjustifiably.
Also, if your relationships are going south and you don't know why, examining your life and asking questions, such as "are there any bad behaviors that I do that are creating the distance between us?" is always a good way to open the door to recognizing if you are the problem. But, be prepared! If you are the problem, everyone will be quick to walk through that door and let you know! What is meant to be constructive feedback may turn on you and become an opportunity for all-out attack! Take it as it is meant to be. Listen without offense, recognizing you may have put them in a defensive mode by your bad behavior. Learn from what they say, and realize the way you feel as the attacked is how you have made them feel when you were the attacker. This is a get real moment when you have a reality check and it will make you feel very uncomfortable. But, if you learn from and change your behavior, you may have a chance of restoring soured relationships.
Second, set healthy boundaries. Start by creating a simple table or list and writing down these three column headings:
1. What do I need to put a stop to or remove from my life? This could be a bad behavior you or others do to you, a person that drains and strains you anytime you are around him/her, or a situation such as a bad work environment or church setting.
2. What positive and healthy characteristics do I need or want in my life? This includes positive behavioral changes, supportive and encouraging people who will also hold you accountable and have your back, changing jobs or churches.
3. What characteristics are deal-breakers and unacceptable going forward? This may include a list of behaviors you will no longer accept or be subject to in any relationship, type of people you will not entertain or be involved with, and types of work or worship environments you will no longer subject yourself to.
Once you complete your list, hang it somewhere where you will see it as a constant reminder. Don't permit yourself to compromise. And seek relationships with healthy people who are not perfect, but don't try to manipulate and take advantage of the relationship.
Remember, all relationships operate on a two-way street and require a give-and-take investment. When one person in the relationship begins to feel he or she is the only one investing in the relationship, it won't be long until they exit the street you're on!
It's important for both people to equally contribute to the relationship. While it may sometimes be imbalanced due to circumstances, distance, or other challenges, that's okay, as long as it is not long-term, or the person doing the most investing will begin to feel taken advantage of. And, once that feeling sets, it won't be long before the relationship ends.
Setting healthy boundaries by not tolerating bad behavior, non-constructive criticism, verbal/physical/spiritual abuse, or other toxic characteristic will keep you free of such negative influence and empower you to build more positive relationships with others.
Let It Go and Let God
Be like Elsa and "let it go!" I know, bad pun. But, remember, you can't change people. Their behavior, like yours, is a heart condition, and may be void of God. People without a proper perspective of Jesus and no spiritual relationship with the Father are the most toxic of all! And, yes, that may even be the pastor in a church, strangely enough!
We are all sinners and we have all failed from time to time. But, consistently bad behavior is not acceptable to God and it should not be acceptable to you. When you permit others to treat you badly, you are allowing them to insult God by using you as the vehicle to do it!
When you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you inherit the Kingdom and become a joint heir with Christ - a prince or princess of the King - a child of God!
And if you are a parent, would you permit someone to verbally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally abuse your child without intervention?! I would hope not, unless you are the one doing it! And if you are, then you need to get right with Jesus before it's too late!
Any good parent would not tolerate their children to be subject to such abuse. And God, being a good parent, will not tolerate your abuse of His children, either. So, remove yourself from such relationships and pray for the Holy Spirit to convict the abuser so they may see the Light and realize their wicked ways. It may not restore your relationship with that person, but it could save others from such toxicity. Only God can save someone from themselves. You are not equipped nor mandated to do so. So, let the person go and let God take control.
Struggling with an addiction, bad decisions, negative self-talk, anxiety, depression, or other self-sabotaging toxic behavior? Then examine your heart. Make your list. And pray for the Holy Spirit to intervene and work on your heart and mind to change. While it won't often be an instant transformation, He will begin to help you overcome your own violations.
By ending or setting strong boundaries around toxic people, your own behaviors, mindset, and issues, you will begin to see an incredible change in your own life and viewpoint. Setting and reinforcing boundaries will lead to your own improvement in living a healthy lifestyle, and will improve relationships by drawing people to you.
Don't you want to be that one person everyone loves and wants to be around? Simply because you are positive, optimistic, loveable, friendly, kind, supportive, prayerful, fun, and non-judgmental, people will be drawn to you! Chances are those are the same types of people you want to surround yourself with.
Give them a reason to miss you when you're gone, by leaving a positive legacy they will never forget!