Who’s there for me? I found myself asking that question for about two (2) decades of my life. Refusing to throw myself a pity party, time after time, I would pick up my “cross” and bear what seemed like a burden of doing good. If a nephew was graduating, an aunt was hosting a cookout or a friend was celebrating an accomplishment, no matter the distance, I made it my priority to be there to support my family/friends and to fellowship. If there was a scheduling conflict, I would still try to represent my love in deed…perhaps a bouquet of flowers or some other gift of love.
Growing up, I seemed to have known way too many people who felt no need to reciprocate my love and kindness….to do unto others as they would like done unto themselves. I have had many true friends who spoke plainly to me in telling me to let go of the toxic people in my life. I refused. I didn’t think that was the Christian thing to do. So, I continued to allocate myself, my time, my money and my love on people who didn’t appreciate its priceless value.
There were people in my life that would get upset at how I prioritize family and friends. On numerous occasions I have been pulled aside by concerned friends for an “Intervention Session” in which they would implore me to, once again, let go of specific toxic people in my life. But, again, I refuse to heed the advice.
I can recall receiving warnings as early as 19. My college roommate and I decided we would spend spring break at my home. She was excited because she lived in another state. By the time we returned to our dorm a week later, my college roommate sat me down to discuss some concerns she had about some of my friends AND family. “Oh my, the audacity of this girl,” is all I can think as she spoke. The things she said hurt me and I was upset with her for saying them. But, two decades later, I was receiving the same message about the same people from different people.
It took me a long time to come to the realization that it was okay to stop loving so hard. Honestly, I allowed myself to be completely broken by the toxic people in my life before I got the message. As a result of this journey I learned 4 things: 1) it’s okay to stop or reduce interaction with toxic family and friends; 2) learn how to love from a distance; 3) don’t ever let your light dim; and 4) don’t grow weary in doing right.
It’s okay to stop or reduce interaction with toxic friends and family
How would I define “toxic people”? Well, the toxic people in my life had one or more of the following characteristics:
- They make you feel uncomfortable being yourself;
- They tend to take (joy, love, time, happiness, peace, money, sacrifice) but don’t give;
- They bring out the worst in you as opposed to the best;
- They are constantly negative; and,
- They love in words but not in deeds.
I am a naturally joyful person but around some of the toxic people in my life that was being “phony.” Huh? I didn’t understand the logic. So grimacing is “keeping it real.” They couldn’t see how I could genuinely care about a stranger enough to say “hello” or smile. They were a constant stumbling block…encouraging me to be divisive, angry, hurtful and selfish to name just a few. It is difficult having a conversation with them because of their snarky nature. On occasion, I would get a Facebook “like” or a text message but nothing of substance that says….”I see you and I love you.”
I now know it is okay to stop or reduce interaction with such people. God’s word says:
“I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts (Psalm 119:63)”
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24)”
“The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray (Proverbs 12:26).”
“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’ (I Corinthians 15:33).”
“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm (Proverbs 13:20).”
“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared (Proverbs 22:24-25).”
Learn How to Love From a Distance
Phone calls, greeting cards and/or “just because I love you” packages are becoming a new norm for me. I have given it all to God and now wait for His direction on what I should do. Until such time as He finds it okay for me to mix and mingle with the toxic people in my life, I will keep my distance. What’s most important to me is that I am able to let them know I still love them in the things I do for them. I just have to limit my deeds to those that do not involve interaction.
Don’t Ever Let Your Light Dim
I think this is what caused me to eventually change how I interacted with the toxic people in my life. I began to become angry…ensnared. I would leave their presence and immediately feel regret for my actions and deeds. If I can’t be me when in the presence of others (family or friends), then I shouldn’t be around them. I have learned to surround myself around people who encourage me to shine my light brightly….and I LOVE IT!! I asked God to bring people in my life that encourage and strengthen me in my walk with Him and He is continuously answering my prayers. Every year I meet someone(s) new that loves God just as much as I do and are not uncomfortable with me saying and acting so.
Don’t Grow Weary in Doing What is Right
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).” Yep, it’s in the Bible…and “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).”
I pray that the lessons I have learned throughout the years may bless others going through the same. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving and doing good. God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:38) and to pray for those who mistreat us (Luke 6:28). We also need to be mindful of those we keep regular company.