How to avoid toxic family members?

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As Christians, how are you to avoid toxic relationships, especially when it is someone related to you? A toxic relationship is where every interaction in the relationship can feel wrong; there is negativity, anger and disappointment. The definition of toxic is that something is harmful to your health or even poisonous if consumed in enough amounts. Likewise, it may seem the same when you are affected by harmful and toxic family members.


As in every aspect of our lives, I believe the Bible provides us with answers on how we need to deal with every situation. So to know who and what to avoid, it is crucial to understand the characteristics of a toxic person. Once we know the characteristics of a toxic person, then let us look at what the Bible instructs us to do.


If you do not like to spend time with someone, it does not necessarily make them toxic. What makes a person or relationship toxic is when it becomes unhealthy and poisonous as described earlier. Dealing with toxic people can be stressful and exhausting at the least. It can push you to the limits. 


You recognise a toxic person because they are:

  • manipulative
  • judgmental
  • do not take responsibility for their feelings 
  • they want everything, yet are unwilling to give anything
  • they do not apologise 
  • they are inconsistent
  • make you prove yourself to them
  • make you defend yourself
  • they are not caring, supportive, or interested in what’s important to you.


As children of God, what are you supposed to do if you find yourself in such a situation, especially if they are your family member? Romans 12:18 says “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” The charge to “live at peace with everyone” is hedged about with two qualifying statements. “If it is possible” suggesting that there are instances in human relations when the strongest desire for peace will not avail. If disharmony and conflict should come, however, we should accept the responsibility for resolving it. Believers may not be able to persuade the other party, but they can at least refuse to be the instigator of trouble. God wants us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). 


Scripture is full of verses commanding us to live in peace and to be peaceful, but a toxic relationship can destroy unity. The first step in such a relationship is to seek what God wants you to do. If you are a people pleaser, then your decision making is driven by the level of approval you believe you will receive from others. Proverbs 29:25 says “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” 


You see, we are to obey God rather than man. Acts 5:29 says “But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” It is not our job to please people; instead, we are to live as pleasing to God, serving the Lord wholeheartedly, dying daily to our selfish desires and doing all to glorify God. If you want to be a God pleaser, then anything that causes you to stray from that path needs to be dealt with. 


Proverbs 14:7-8 says “Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge. The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.”


So, determine how any toxic relationship affects your relationship with Jesus Christ. Regardless of this being a relative or for that matter, anybody else; if it is negatively impacting your relationship with Christ, then you need to remove yourself from that environment. 


Jesus Himself gave us this teaching in Luke 14:25-33 says “Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”


You see, Jesus is teaching us this; if there is anyone or anything that will impact our relationship with Him, then we need to do two things. Firstly, seek peace in the situation. Secondly, If that does not work, then you need to distance yourself; otherwise, it will cost you dearly, and the cost is your relationship with Jesus. It is about priorities. Who is your priority and what are you doing about it. Do not let anyone come between your fellowship with Christ; otherwise, you are not worthy of being His disciple. The “hating” that Jesus talks about is not about literally hating, but driving the point that Christ must have supremacy over the throne of our hearts. 


Jesus commanded us to love our enemies (Mathew 5:43-46), Jesus is called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and He said that His followers would be known by their love for one another (John 13:35).


In conclusion, let us close with reading 2 Peter 3:17 “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.”


So examine your relationships and if they are toxic, firstly seek peace. If peace cannot be achieved and your relationship with Christ is affected, then you need to distance yourself, lest you lose your own stability.


God bless.

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