Last week I shared a sampling of scriptures teaching about fools—common day toxic people. I’m not referring to nuisances or dealing with someone who appears to be in a bad mood today. I’m referring to the very character of a person who shows no regard for you, your heart, your needs or your boundaries. You know something is wrong; you just don’t know what.
First I need to acknowledge that I have been a fool of Biblical proportions on many occasions; especially as a youth. Without Christ, I cannot imagine where I would be emotionally, spiritually or even logistically. I know for certain I would be a toxic mess in every way; including contaminating those around me.
Second I need to acknowledge my gratefulness to my Savior, Jesus Christ, for living to intercede for me. For His sacrifice. His grace. His mercy. He saw me, a foolish—toxic person, who loved Him and wanted to be used by Him as redeemable and usable.
That being said, in my adult life, I have encountered numerous unhealthy people who were users, manipulators and who were abusive in nature.
How I easily fall prey…
I naturally trust people even though life experiences have taught me multiple times over that I should use caution.
I assume I am wrong when someone tells me I am wrong, that I am misinformed or that I am not remembering correctly. My insecurities leave me feeling wrong in almost any circumstance. This drives me crazy.
I want to be a peacemaker. I do not want to make someone angry or mad at me and I want to avoid problems at all cost.
I have to stay close to the Lord in prayer and in His word or I have the potential to continually make mistakes. I am capable of messing up even when staying close to Lord through prayer and through His word but I would rather make a mistake acting in faith than make a mistake because I did nothing at all.
You can understand how the above plays into my thought life when interacting with an abusive person.
Here are some controlling mechanisms I have encountered: If you want specific signs to look for and responses to use for the below topics; they may be found in: The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond By: Patricia Evans.
- Withholding companionship and/or conversation
- Not allowing you to have a different opinion which ends all possibility of a discussion
- Your experiences and feelings mean nothing
- Making jokes about you that actually cut to the bone but are disguised as ‘funny’
- Withholds information from you so there cannot be a discussion, purposefully changes the subject or gives multiple answers to a question but never the answer to the original question
- Diverts all accusations back at you (think of a mirror being held in front of the person reflecting all your comments back onto yourself)
- Judgmental or condescending tones that criticize you; even when you are complimenting them it may not be a grand enough compliment and is therefore received with anger or resentment
- Makes light of your significant words or actions as having little significance. This can be as matter-of-fact or subtle
- Undermines you, your ideas, your experiences or your needs
- Threatens you emotionally or verbally
- Calls you sarcastic, condescending or mean names
- Everyone forgets once in a while; this forgetting is denial and manipulation to avoid taking responsibility or apologizing for something they have said or done; or regularly forgetting important commitments to the other person
- A drill sergeant who orders you around instead of respectfully asking
- Denies your reality – “I never said that.” “You are making that all up.” “We never had that conversation.” “I don’t know where you got that.”
- Abusive anger
You can imagine how off balance I become when dealing with an abusive person. Even when I begin to understand something is intrinsically wrong with the person, their ideas or perceptions it can be difficult for me to decide the healthy way to deal with it. My first concerns are usually, “Did I do something to cause this issue?” “I don’t want to make the situation worse than it all ready is.” “I want to reach them for Christ so how can I handle this in a positive way?”
Do not explain yourself or defend yourself. Do not get emotional. A word of caution when interacting with an abusive person: They often feed off of your reactions. Do not feed the monsters! And if you are in relationship with a narcissistic person; they feed off of positive or negative emotions. They may be nice to you, hoping for praise and accolades to feed their ego but when it does not work they will turn to negative behavior hoping for a negative reaction out of you; again, to feed their ego. This is called Narcissistic Supply. DO NOT BE THEIR SUPPLIER. Indifference is the key to keeping your sanity when dealing with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Keep your emotions to yourself.
“Don’t spend a second trying to explain that you weren’t doing what you were accused of doing or guilty of what you were blamed for. Just say, ‘Stop it.’ Abusive statements are lies about you which are told to you. They violate your boundaries. The abuser in effect invades your mind, makes up a ‘story’ about your motives, and then tells it to you. No human being has the right to do that to another.
Generally, accusing and blaming involve lies about the other person’s intentions, attitudes, and motives. They leave you feeling frustrated and misunderstood and, therefore, especially desirous of explaining yourself. If you do try to explain yourself, the abuse is perpetuated.
One more word about ‘explaining.’ If you are encountering abuse and feel that if you could explain things the other person would understand, remember this: If someone started throwing rocks through your windows, you would be more inclined to tell them to stop than you would be to explain to them why they shouldn’t throw rocks. Verbal abuse is like a rock thrown through your window.” Patricia Evans (2010) The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond. Massachusetts: Adams Media. p. 141
Simplicity: “Stop it.”
Say it. “Stop it.” Keep practicing.
If you wonder, or know, that you may be dealing with a foolish, toxic, abusive person I highly recommend keeping a dated journal. Depending on the type of abuse; this may require keeping your journal in a safe place, password protecting your electronic journal or typing your journal as an email and sending it to yourself at your password protected email address.
Why journal? To show yourself that you are not the crazy person you are constantly told you are or feel like you are. This will help you decide how to set healthy boundaries for yourself or your family. You may even find that the traits or problems you are dealing with in the other person are listed as mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This is available at your local library and you can find criteria for specific mental illnesses online.
If you are in a physically or sexually abusive relationship you need to report it to the police and/or seek help at your local Domestic Abuse Shelter. You need to begin a paper trail that could later be used for seeking help not only for you, but for the abuser, and a paper trail that would stand up in a court of law. In the right margin of my blog you will find a link under ‘Resources’ for Domestic Abuse/Domestic Violence with hotline numbers for abused women and men.
I am not saying we can avoid all difficult people or all difficult circumstances. Placing our faith in Christ is not an insurance policy for avoiding pain and suffering. We need look no farther than Christ on the cross to put away that argument.
In Romans 8:35 Paul asks whether, “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” can separate us from the love of Christ. Since this was included in scripture we can be certain Paul knew of what he wrote. We will experience hardships.
So stay close to the Lord, nothing can separate us from His love. Pain, suffering and difficult relationships should not drive us away from God, but rather allow us to identify with Him and allow Him access to our hurts. Only then can He give us the complete healing we need.
Pray about it. If you need help on how to pray specifically for a difficult relationship, take a look at my blog post: DIY Prayer Box. It will give you numerous ideas for spending time with God.