Setting Boundaries in Toxic Relationships

Do you have someone in your life who’s toxic? Someone who’s negative, even antagonistic toward you. Someone who tries to control your life. Someone who, no matter what you say or do to please them, it’s never enough.

What’s a good way to respond to a person like that?

Christians are especially likely to have relationships with toxic people. Coming alongside another person with the love of Christ in a time of need can be messy. Being the hands and feet of Christ requires relationship at some level.

But does God expect us to subject ourselves to controlling, manipulative people? To answer that, look at how Jesus handled toxic people. The Gospels record a couple dozen distinct encounters where Jesus allowed a toxic person to walk away from Him. He didn’t chase any of them. Instead, he invested in His disciples. They were flawed men, but their hearts were open.

God asks the same of us – to seed and water fields that are fertile, that are receptive to growth. The Bible advises against pouring time, energy, and resources into toxic people who resent the care, reject truth, and refuse to be transformed (Matthew 7:6). People like that turn on you and make you pay for your good intentions.

The question is, how do you discern between a toxic person and someone who’s just hard to get along with? It’s easy to categorize people too quickly. What kind of person is wise to allow into our lives and what kind of person is not?

Jesus gives us a clue in John 10:10. He says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” If a person is stealing your joy, killing your peace, and destroying your ability to invest in people who will benefit, that’s probably a bad sign.

By contrast, in Colossians 3:12-17, Paul lays out the qualities you find in healthy relationships: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love. The fruit of the Spirit.

When do you stick with somebody? When should you walk away?

If you’ve got a toxic person in your life, and you don’t know what to do, join us for our Focus on the Family Broadcast “Setting Boundaries in Toxic Relationships.” We’re talking with author Gary Thomas about his book When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People.

You can hear our full conversation on your local radio station, online, on Apple Podcasts, via Google Podcasts, or take us with you on our free phone app.

And I’d also like to remind you that were a donor-supported ministry. Help families in need by becoming a special partner with us through our monthly “Friends of Focus on the Family” program. When you do, I’ll send you a copy of Gary Thomas’ book as a way of saying thank you for touching others with the love of Christ. To make your pledge, or for more information, visit our website or call 1-800-A-FAMILY (232-6459).

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Jim Daly

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