The word “toxic” has become a popular buzzword over the years. What exactly does it mean for someone to be toxic? A simple approach to this concept would be to recognize a relationship as a whole to be toxic, rather than the individual.
It is important to recognize that no relationship is going to be perfect. Every relationship, whether professional, platonic, or romantic, is going to naturally have different bumps in the road. On the other hand, there are instances where a specific relationship can become too straining to an individual’s emotional, physical, spiritual and/or mental health.
A key practice recommended for all people, regardless of whether they are in a toxic relationship or not, is to notice and identify the various unhealthy tendencies present in the self. This can look different from person to person.
What might be considered an “unhealthy tendency”? There is a large number of actions and habits that could be considered toxic. Self-sabotage, jealousy, pride and much more are different attributes that can be identified within oneself.
Detecting and regulating the destructive tendencies within oneself is important. This is because we want to ensure we are not doing anything to contribute toxic attributes to the relationship or environment. After self-assessment has taken place and is regularly put into practice, then it is important to analyze the other individual and the relationship as a whole.
There is no one way to determine whether a relationship is harmful or not. Because of this, it is encouraged to start asking yourself questions. “Does this relationship tear me down or build me up?”, “Am I the only one putting effort into this relationship?” and “Does this relationship leave me feeling drained or like I’m walking on eggshells?” are all key questions to ask the self when evaluating a specific relationship.
A key concept to remember is that some relationships are only going to be seasonal. This is OK and natural. Not every friendship is going to stand the test of time. Taking unnecessary steps to attempt to mend a toxic relationship is mentally taxing to an individual.
The Christian community is not immune to toxic relationship dynamics. In fact, unhealthy tendencies within the church must be discussed to raise awareness of this very important issue. Far too often, there is a power-faith struggle found in many Christian circles.
Carey Nieuwhof, pastor of Connexus Church in Ontario, Canada, utilizes social media to convey this phenomenon to believers and non-believers alike.
“Leaders are the architects of culture,” Nieuwhof wrote out in a tweet. “You create a culture whether you intend to or not.” Pastor Nieuwhof speaks a simple yet important truth in his teachings: Leadership plays a key role in the church. Often, a church’s leadership can cultivate an environment that is either healthy or destructive.
Many Christians need to hear that it is OK to hold their community around them accountable. Jarrid Wilson, pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship before he died from suicide in 2019, was an individual who was known for challenging the status quo within the Christian bubble. “Toxic relationships can create toxic hearts,” said Wilson in a tweet just days before he died. “Remove yourself from the relationship before your toxic heart tries to remove you from your peace.”
Unhealthy relationships are a hard reality of life. Usually, people pursue relationships that did not seem toxic in the beginning, but the relationship gradually declines over time.
It is important to note that not all situations are the same, so if you or someone you know is in a toxic relationship, it is best practice to approach them with love and not judgment Fostering a welcoming environment for yourself and others is a fundamental step when dealing with sensitive topics, such as harmful relationships.
No one deserves to feel alone and isolated. Talking to a friend, a coworker, a professor or a counselor is a major first step if there is a toxic relationship present.