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Family is supposed to be our safe haven. When no one else cares or understand they are supposed to. After all how many times have we heard "blood is thicker than water"? Sometimes, however, it's the place where we find the deepest heartache.

Letting go of (or breaking up with) a toxic friend, boyfriend or girlfriend is one thing, and there's plenty of advice out there for doing so, but what about letting go of a toxic family member? It happens just as often if not more and it is the most difficult. You can pick your friends and boyfriend or girlfriend. But a family member? You do not get to choose. Most of us are not in a position to just walk away, nor do we feel that we want to, or that it's the right thing to do. So what do we do when a family member is literally making our lives miserable with their toxicity? How do we deal with our feelings of obligation, confusion, betrayal, and heartache?

First and foremost, you must accept the fact that not everyone's family is healthy or available for them to lean on, to call on, or to go home to. Not every family tie is built on the premise of mutual respect, love, and support. Sometimes "family" simply means that you share a bloodline. That's all. Some family members build us up and some break us down. Always remember just because you share a bloodline does not make you like them and it does not mean that you will turn out like them.

Second, you must understand that a toxic family member may be going through a difficult stage in their lives. Be compassionate and understanding but if you see they are not changing then you need to evaluate their behavior and start setting some boundaries. They may be ill, chronically worried, or lacking what they need in terms of love and emotional support. Such people need to be listened to, supported, and cared for (although whatever the cause of their troubles, you may still need to protect yourself from their toxic behavior at times).

The key thing to keep in mind is that every case of dealing with a toxic family member is a little different, but in any and every case there are some universal principles we need to remember, for our own sake:

They may not be an inherently bad person, but they're not the right person to be spending time with every day. My mother-in-law was the type of person that you just did not need to be around every day. Because her moods were never stable you never knew what you were going to get from one day to the next. Just so we all understand not all toxic family relationships are agonizing and uncaring on purpose. Some of them involve people who care about you – people who have good intentions but are toxic because their needs and way of existing in the world force you to compromise yourself and your happiness. And as hard as it is, we have to distance ourselves enough to give ourselves space to live. Why? Because this is Satan at work in the deepest and most private part of your life. If he can use this family member in your life it will hinder your growth in Christ. God does not want you to simply ruin yourself on a daily basis for the sake of someone else. Helping is one thing but when it is stealing your joy and peace? Something has to change. You have to make your well-being a priority. Whether that means spending less time with someone, loving a family member from a distance, letting go entirely, or temporarily removing yourself from a situation that feels painful – you have every right to leave and create some healthy space for yourself.

Toxic people often hide cleverly behind passive aggression. – Passive aggressive behavior takes many forms but can generally be described as a nonverbal aggression that manifests in negative behavior. To me, this is the worst kind it is just like in war it is hard to fight your enemy if you do not know who they are. Instead of openly expressing how they feel, someone makes subtle, annoying gestures directed at you. Instead of saying what's actually upsetting them, they find small and petty ways to take jabs at you until you pay attention and get upset. It shows this person is set on not communicating openly and clearly with you. Keep in mind that most sane human beings will feel no reason to be passive-aggressive toward you if they feel safe expressing themselves. In other words, they won't feel a need to hide behind passive aggression if they feel like they won't be judged or criticized for what they are thinking.

Think of the disciples, this was Jesus's family. He chose these men to walk, talk, eat, sleep, and preach with him day in and day out. When you are looking for toxic people in the gospel, your eyes might land on Herod, or Pilate, or the religious leaders, but there is something horrifying about Judas - he is a disciple, Jesus chose him as one of the twelve, he is a friend, a companion over the three years of Jesus' ministry. He was almost as close as you could get, and yet he has been stealing for the three years, robbing the purse that was there to support Jesus and the disciples and to feed the poor. He's been lying and deceitful, and finally, he sells Jesus out for filthy lucre – 30 pieces of silver, the cost of a slave. He is the betrayer. His very name has come to mean betrayer. He is toxic. He was deceived by Satan and Judas was out for himself. He was taken advantage of family. Jesus was his family. Jesus knew God had a plan and he knew that His Father was using Judas in order to carry out that plan. God was redeeming the world through the death of His Son. Without the cross, you and I would be literally HELL BOUND.

Romans 12:14-21

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. …

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. …Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary:

"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

(and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you )

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Communion – serve each other.

Let's all remember that we are not the divine and sometimes our situations are not like Christ's. However, we can take comfort in knowing that he suffered too at the hands of those he loved and trusted. There is nothing you are going through in life that your savior did not suffer too. Remember that and let it inspire you to rise above what ever is going on in your life. Who ever is in your life at this moment God is allowing for a reason. They may not change, but God may be allowing the situation to change you. 

Hating them for being toxic only brings more toxicity into your life.

Matthew 5:43-44 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."

Luke 6:27,28 &36

"But to you who are listening, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. … Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

Sadly, sometimes all you can do is let go for good put distance between you and that person and let God take over. Because we can not control all the things toxic family members do to us, but we can decide not to be reduced by them, in the long run, this can only happen if we surrender them to God. You can decide not to let their actions and opinions continuously invade your heart and mind. And above all, you can decide whom to walk beside into tomorrow, and whom to leave behind today. In a perfect world, we would always be able to fix our relationships with toxic family members, but as you know the world isn't perfect. Put in the effort and do what you can to keep things intact, but don't be afraid when it is time to let go and let God. 

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Overcome Anxiety With Truth

The first step is reading God's Word knowing the truth about God and what he has stated about you. Faith in God is your first and foremost step. Holding on to the old you and the new you at the same time will not work. In the end, one of the two will defeat the other. When you are born again you make a choice and that is to get rid of the person you use to be. You allow Jesus to change you the Spirit that dwells in you to weed out all the bad and allow the new to grow. Just like in anything else it takes time and it takes dedication for you to not allow previous sins to overtake what Jesus is taking out.

God is not a dictator, therefore, the work is all up to you. One thing I can say and it is from experience when you make the choice for Jesus to be Lord over your life. The battle is over but the war is hard and it is tough because Satan comes at you with every single thing he has. Sometimes you will be up against things that you have no idea how in the world you are going to defeat it, get past it. Then out of NOWHERE literally, God intervenes He fights when you can not fight. He takes care of you when you can no longer take care of yourself. You are NEVER alone He is there always. 

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Overcoming anxiety in a given moment means facing fear with truth, especially when we admit ultimate truths and pray for help to go from there. Pray for truth to rule your life in the name of Jesus Christ. It’s not always easy because we live in a world of lies.

Most of us don’t know what to do with the situations we find ourselves in. We get stressed, and the truth gets fuzzy.

This is a great translation of James 1:5-8:

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

Putting total faith in God requires us to let go of what we think we know and let him handle it. Once we desire a spirit of truth, we trust that he will steer us in the right direction according to his will. In faith, we know that God’s will is the best way for us, even when we do not understand it.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all of our anxieties upon the Lord because he cares for us.

It requires faith to take a situation to God in all its ugliness and darkness and lay it at the foot of the cross, trusting fully that he will work to heal the situation.

And in these moments, our faith can grow. It’s not comfortable, but transformation takes place. James 1:2-8 tells us:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

We turn to Him and say, “I need you Lord” He is there, holding us as we manage to put one foot in front of the other and make it through another day. True peace, true courage and true love comes from God. The Lord Jesus Christ died for us so that we would be set free from the evil of the world. Nothing can win against the one who conquered death. 

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Where to Begin

That was my first thought when I decided to start this series. Where to begin in understanding people that it is almost impossible to wrap your mind around. A type of behavior that makes no sense. God states in the Bible that whatever you pretty much dish out you get back in 10-fold. So, when you are treated a certain way you think to yourself “OK what did I do to deserve this and did I do something to warrant this type of behavior from someone”? I learned over a 20-year span the answer is no, sometimes you have done nothing and it is something within that person. It is dark forces at work that have been allowed access to this person way before you were in the picture.

Toxic people are everywhere it is not something we can avoid. We will run into at least a half a dozen or more in our llifetime The key is to know how to deal with these types of people or when to walk away. First, we need to know some characteristics. I am only going to list five.
 

  1. Deception – this is something you may notice right away or it might be later on. Deception is how they maneuver to gain your trust. We all have had deception at some point in our lives. But these type of people uses it in every aspect of their lives to get what they want. They will use past relationships: a divorce, a break-up, a friend mistreated them, parents were horrible to them, a boss does not like them, a co-worker makes their life a nightmare. The list goes on. It makes no difference to them how long ago it was it can be only yesterday to 50 years ago.  If they can gain sympathy from one incident in their lives they will keep using it. When you grow tired of hearing it they will move on to the next. Toxic people feed off negativity without it, they cannot function. Just think of a vampire that is exactly how these people are. They need to feed to exist. They will latch on to anyone that will accommodate them. 
  2. They are ALWAYS the victim – This continues from number 1. In order to be the victim, they need to deceive others about the situation they are claiming to be a victim of. They will even go as far as being completely clueless and act utterly naive to whatever situation they created. They caused the situation they are in and when confronted they will be the victim. 
  3. They are too eager – Always going out of their way to help. Trust me there is a difference in someone wanting to help and someone being obsessive about it.  Relationships take time to build and an emotionally healthy person recognizes that you need space. They are not over bearing and always seeking you out and hounding you about helping. When you do not oblige them they become agitated. Not understanding or appreciating others feelings and their needs is a huge red flag. Someone like this is going above and beyond to prove they are a good person to show you and others how dedicated and sincere that are. But they are selfish and desire nothing than to place themselves above others. This is not only a selfish person but possibly could be a narcissist. 
  4. They DO NOT let go – Some of us on some sort of level have a hard time letting go of things. But there is a certain level that is just unhealthy. When someone has been divorced for 30 or 50 years and they still are surrounding themselves with ex-in-laws at family holidays this is when it becomes far more than unhealthy it becomes down right disturbing.  Bad things happen to all of us and we all question with the why’s. We go through the normal process of these emotions and move on. Toxic people do not do this they thrive on the drama, negativity, discourse and the division they cause. They relish on the attention they get from it. They complain, rail and moan about their troubles how life has just been so unfair to them. Deep down they love it, and need it. This is the only way they know how to function they manipulate and maneuver their way through life. So why would they want to even learn how to let go of bad things when it is those things that enable them? If they do they have nothing to manipulate others with. They want others to always feel sorry for them this is the only way they think they can get attention or certain things out of people. They choose to be this way.
  5. They’re evasive – Normal people are straight forward most are anyway. When asked a direct question they give a direct answer. Not a toxic person. They have so much they are hiding and harboring they do not even know what the truth is anymore. They have so many things they want to remain hidden they remain evasive or act completely clueless. They will happily lie at will and never bat an eye in the process. Whatever they can do to keep what they are doing hidden they will do it. They want to destabilize you get you from level ground. This gives them the advantage. They tilt, twist, and muddle the truth until no one is sure what is going on. This is how they control the situation. This is to keep you from figuring out the wrong in which they have done or are still doing. This is their way of manipulating situations and they will sabotage anyone that gets in their way. They have no regard for anything when they feel that they are going to be exposed. Evasiveness is just the tip of the iceberg they will go much further and it will get far dirtier. If someone is not being direct with you 9 times out of 10 they are hiding something.

 
When I started writing these devotionals I did not realize how far I was going to have to go. My husband and I dealt with a toxic person for 20 years. 16 of those 20 years they lived with us. These devotionals will at times become very personal and they will become very in-depth. It will not be a short write up every day. It is imperative and important to me to write these. Because the instant that I discovered I had a problem in my home. I scoured the internet read – reread on the problems I was having with my mother-in-law. Even paid for and sent her to see a therapist. Nothing got better and in time it only got worse. A lot of prayers, and having the foundation of Jesus Christ is the only thing that got my husband and me through. I want all that read these devotionals to know only “ONE” thing you are NOT ALONE. I asked at the beginning where do I begin? How about I rephrase that. Where do “WE” begin? First things first the one thing that was never told to me. You are not alone…

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Our next series of devotionals in August will be on removing toxic people out of your life. As Christians, it is imperative that we show compassion and help others. However, it is not OK to allow toxic people into your life or try to control and manipulate you. 

Join us as we cover this crucial life lesson.