In an earlier post, Flashing Billboards on My Forehead, I began explaining my history of unhealthy relationship issues and how I know God is calling me to recognize and respond to them in a biblical way. I have not always been a beacon of healthiness myself. When I became serious about a daily relationship with my Savior and began spending time in the scriptures and in prayer something extraordinary happened; I invited Christ to show me my sin. My unhealthy ways of thinking, talking and interacting with others. And do you know what happened? I began to be convicted in my heart, soul, mind and strength. I acknowledged the problem, repented of it, asked Jesus to heal it and replaced the empty healed place with something good leaving no room for the problem to return. This is a continual process. As my son, A.J., articulated this week while we were studying Jesus the One and Only, “Jesus was born naturally perfect.” To which my son Colson replied, “Man, I wish we could have been born that way. We were born sinful.” Yep, every single one of us. That is why we need Jesus the One and Only!
Here is my continuation:
When prayers were not answered in a way I could detect I turned to reputable Christian books on being a peacemaker, developing healthy relationships, remaining purposeful in prayer and resolving conflicts biblically but they were of no use. These books are beneficial for most people living in a sinful world when interacting with mentally and emotionally healthy people or even being in relationship with those suffering from mental illness who are willing to admit they need and want help. Relating to a person suffering from mental illness who refuses to seek help goes beyond the practical application offered in most books with the exception of the Bible. Applying grace and mercy is essential in relationships with those who suffer from mental illness because God calls us to love others. That being said, God does not call us to abuse at the hands, or the mouth, of a foolish person. The Bible has much to say about the foolish; in fact, a word search at biblegateway.com yielded 182 verses pertaining to a fool. Here is a sampling:
Psalm 107:17 -Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.
Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 13:20 – Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
Proverbs 14:7 – Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips
Proverbs 14:8 – The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.
Proverbs 17:21 – To have a fool for a child brings grief; there is no joy for the parent of a godless fool.
Proverbs 17:25 – A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him.
Proverbs 23:9 – Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn your prudent words.
Proverbs 26:11 – As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.
Proverbs 27:3 – Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.
Proverbs 27:22 – Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding them like grain with a pestle, you will not remove their folly from them.
Ecclesiastes 10:2 – The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left
Ephesians 5:11 – Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
Titus 3:10 – Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.
Wow! Scripture is clear that we need to stay away from foolish people and that includes those who are dysfunctional, abusive and boundaryless.
I have a history of allowing anger, toxicity, to be taken out on me so when it comes up it feels natural but I know God is calling me to recognize and respond to it in a biblical way. This is anything but easy for me.
Several books I have read referred to these foolish people as, “Toxic” which I consider spot-on terminology. When you come in contact with a chemical toxin you can become contaminated to the degree you are damaged in part or in whole. Spiritually, emotionally and physically speaking we become damaged by “toxic” relationships but instead of calling a HazMat response team to stabilize and remove the toxins we have the Ancient of Days. The Creator of the universe. The Author of Math and Science who created the properties of every toxin known and unknown to man. God knows our entire history and is capable of locating, speaking truth over and eradicating the poison from our very being.
God’s word has everything we need for understanding how to live on planet earth. This does not necessarily mean our life will be easy or that we will never have impossible issues or problematic people to deal with. God’s word does not tell us we will never encounter difficulties or be allowed more than we can handle just because we are Christians. You have heard the quote, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” You will not find this quote anywhere in scripture. I have lived through more than I could cope with in multiple areas of my life. Scripture says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13. My times of strenuous challenge have not come from temptation but rather from God allowing me to live through more than I could understand or deal with in a healthy way. This caused me to pray and read the Bible more believing God would heal me and He did; however, not always the way I hoped He would. My help usually came in ways I never imagined. God’s word says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10. God’s track record for sustaining me and not failing me is 100%.
God continually allows me more than I can handle which leaves me utterly dependent on Him. I don’t mind this and I actually enjoy rubbing Satan’s stupidity into his own face because every time he sets out to destroy me; my inabilities and weaknesses are turned into strength. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12:9. You see God does tell me in scripture that when I am weak He will be strong. When I cannot get up off the floor from deep despair His word says He will be the, “Lifter of my head” and He is.
You may be asking, “Who are foolish—toxic people?” If you have to ask you may not have such a person in your life. Or you may have grown up in a toxic relationship and not be aware of it because it is all you have ever known. For others, you may have had a name or two in mind while reading this post.
Foolish (toxic) people are the ones who complain all the time about you and/or pretty much any topic. They are the ones who always blame you for their problems. When you lovingly confront them they always turn things around so things you felt they had done wrong are suddenly your fault or you are the one who did it or you are crazy because it never happened. They drain your energy and leave you feeling tired, angry or depressed. No matter how much you try to cheer them up or compliment them it is never enough and may even come across as an insult to them. They constantly find fault with you and you can’t do anything to please them. Even the Proverbs 31 woman could never please this type of person. They may take advantage of you and manipulate you. They do not respect boundaries you have set. There are controlling aspects of your relationship with them. They are verbally, emotionally, spiritually, physically or sexually abusive to you or a loved one. Are they so nice then so mean, or so mean then so nice, to the point you are left dazed and confused as to what just happened? These are some of the signs to look for in a foolish—toxic relationship.
Do you recognize yourself in such a relationship and want to know how to respond?
The Bible clearly teaches that we are to have nothing to do with a fool but what are we to do if the person is a family member, long-time friend or co-worker? If you are asking yourself this question I highly recommend you commit the issue to God through prayer. Faithfully ask Him what His heart and will is for you in this relationship and petition it in the name of Jesus.
I would like to tell you that God always repaired and healed toxic relationships in which I was involved but He did not. Not because He wasn’t capable of doing so but because the other person had free will, given by God, but did not choose to be reconciled and healed.
In the right margin of my blog you will find links to articles on abusive relationships, resources for counseling services and referrals and a link for those who are victims of domestic abuse.
Here is a list of books I have read over the years and can personally recommend:
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Cloud, Henry and Townsend, John
Boundaries in Marriage by Cloud, Henry and Townsend, John
Boundaries with Kids: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Children by Cloud, Henry and Townsend, John
Boundaries with Teens: When to Say Yes, How to Say No by Townsend, John
Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren’t by Cloud, Henry and Townsend, John
Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships by Cloud, Henry and Townsend, John
The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond by Evans, Patricia
The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Allender, Dr. Dan B
If after praying, studying the Bible, receiving godly council, reading and applying applications and setting healthy boundaries you still see no improvement in your relationship with your fool; it may be time to move on.
Maybe you are asking, “What does this application of setting boundaries look like in real life?” I will attempt to share some of my life lessons on boundary setting in upcoming blog posts. I’ll think of them as: Toxic Tuesday: Self-protection from fools of Biblical proportion.
I am no authority in this area, just a fellow sojourner, who God happens to be very serious with in the area of setting boundaries for the purpose of protecting myself and those I love.
Remember: There isn’t any problem a little bit of chocolate and a whole lot of Jesus can’t fix!