October 26, 2012

Toxic Friends Part 2

This is Part 2 of Toxic Friends.

(If you didn't already catch that from the title......Clever, those titles.)

I mentioned in Part 1 that I would delve deeper into triggers and behaviors. The book speaks to this so much better so I'm going to limit this to my experience. For me the biggest trigger is simply being in an emotionally unhealthy place but refusing to deal with it. When I'm not handling things how I should (coming to the feet of the Lord, casting every one of my cares on him, having faith when things don't feel like they should, being thankful, keeping my head in Scripture) then I'm a textbook Unglued case. I either stuff or explode depending on who it is. If it's not family, I usually stuff. 

(Family has to love me, friends don't.)

This will play out in my actions in some way. Are my words cutting? Am I refusing to celebrate with another's joy? Am I being passive aggressive? Critical?

I understand that on some level we all deal with insecurity and jealousy. Just last night I finished the chapter in this book in which she talks about that. We can even feel that we've finally conquered all that and be totally blindsided by something unexpected. She makes this point (which I love) of how much it would mean to each other as friends if we took a minute to call those close friends and say something like, "I just wanted to let you know that I think the world of you and you don't ever have to worry that you've said or done something that makes me think less of you. I'll tell you if I think we've crossed wires, you don't ever have to guess. I just think you're amazing and I'm so thankful for your friendship."

How great is that? I love that. 

But what can you do if you're in a relationship with a toxic person? 

You can only do what you can do. You can do everything right and they can still choose to do everything wrong. What you can do is be honest, humble, gracious, committed to loving them, forgiving them, etc. But you cannot force them to see or change. Believe me, I've tried. I've tried directly and I've tried indirectly and the bottom line is only the Lord can turn stone hearts into flesh. If things simply do not change, then it seems the healthiest course is to let the friendship go. 

There's something that I've thought about lately. I have limited time. I'm not crazy busy by any means (thank goodness) but I still have limited time. Which means that the time I do get with my friends, I don't want it to be toxic. I want (need) it to be a place of mutual encouragement and enjoyment. A safe place for both of us. 

I'm in a place in life where I can thankfully say I have that. The Lord particularly this year has blessed me with rich friendship. A Bible study group has become more than that for me. A new friend, recently moved from the northeast. An old friend, recently moved back to town.  

That's what I want. Those are the types of friendships worth cultivating. 

But what can you do if you're the toxic person?

This is a hard one because the answers seem so easy, but they weren't easy for me. Honestly, it took several years past the carnage to see that it really was me all that time ago. Yes, people had done and said hurtful things, but most of it came from me. And sometimes it takes losing to gain. 

If you're wondering if this is you, here's what I would tell you. 

Ask the Lord. Ask him to soften your heart, open your eyes, convict you where there's sin, known or unknown. Sometimes we're in such an unhealthy and sin-filled state that it's become our normal. We can no longer discern sin or wrongdoing and we need the Holy Spirit to illuminate our hearts with the light of Truth.

If you're isolated, stop being isolated. Proverbs 18:1 says, "A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment." When we isolate ourselves our Abnormal Normal stays abnormally normal. There's no one around to sharpen and slough off our rough edges. We need community. We need friendship and relationship. And if you think you don't, the abnormal has become normal for you.

There's so much more to this. I would encourage you to get the book.

Let's go forth and be Normal together.

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