Toxicity is described in the dictionary as something poisonous, extremely harsh, malicious or harmful. It’s something we are seeing more and more with the use of the Internet, social media and lack of self control. When we come up against someone who exhibits toxic behavior, our natural instinct is to confront them, defend ourselves or walk away. We’ve all encountered toxic people – a classmate, someone we work with, a boss, a family member – maybe we’re the ones who are toxic. Whatever the case, nothing good seems to come from these confrontations.
Some toxic people are narcissists. Some have a low self image and need to prove themselves. Some are power hungry, angry, unhappy or have been abused by another toxic person. So how do we live with them, work with them or have a relationship with them?
When Jesus spoke His sermon on the mount he was setting up a list of guidelines for how to live. Previously it was said to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This probably made no sense at all. When someone attacks we think we need to fight back, to defend our rights and honor.
When words are printed in the form of a text message, a tweet or a comment on social media, those words are permanent. We can erase them, but the damage has already been done once the publish button is hit. In our world of instant everything, we’re saying and writing words without thinking. Too often we don’t even realize the effect of those words until it’s too late.
Face to face encounters are even worse, because we tend to act and react in the moment and words fly out of our mouths that we never intended to say. To be a true follower of Christ, our actions should be that of a servant. That doesn’t mean we should become a doormat for another person’s rage, but we should first show compassion rather than flying off the handle. When we resort to the same tactics we’re giving the exact reaction they want. That just feeds the drama and encourages more negative behavior.
When our integrity and work ethics are being challenged without cause, it isn’t easy to simply walk away or not respond. Name calling, bullying, lies and anger run rampant in our country. So what should we do? Pray for them. As hard as that may seem, it’s what we’re commanded to do. The power of prayer is amazing. It can heal broken bodies, restore relationships, give us hope in times of trouble and it can change hearts – even the hearts of toxic people.