Growing up, I learned heard quite a bit about being careful not to allow toxic friendships and relationships in my life. You know those people who make you feel you are less than, leave you feeling yucky, and completely drained whenever you are around them.
Most of us will deal with at least one toxic person in our lifetime, often from someone close to us.
But what happens when the person with the toxic behavior is you?
Being willing to take a hard look at yourself and your unhealthy behaviors is not easy, but it is needed.
Sadly, many of us walk around surrounding others with our toxic behaviors making it simply exhausting for others to be around us. When you have a bad day, your negative words become daggers piercing the heart of the ones you love most. You allow your attitude to disrespect your spouse and fuss at your children. I know you don’t mean to act negatively. Often, you may not even realize you are the one with toxic behaviors in your relationships. But those behaviors are there–lingering in your attitude, the tone of your voice, the manipulation in your response.
Dealing with toxic behaviors is challenging, especially when someone with toxic behaviors is you.
The first step toward living a life whole and free from toxic behavior is to acknowledge you cannot fix you; only God can. When we are willing to change, God can meet us right where we are and begin the healing process. And it is a healing process.
Toxic behaviors come from a broken, hurtful place deep within our hearts. People are not born toxic. The environments we grow up in and the experiences we have in our relationships both in and out of the home help shape the way we react. Unfortunately, some of us have embraced toxic behaviors as a regular part of our personality.
This is a lie. God designed our hearts to love, to give, to serve, and to forgive. Toxic behavior does the exact opposite. It’s time to kick toxic behaviors out so that love can grow.
Now let’s talk about three subtle ways toxic behaviors are manifesting in your life and practical steps you can take to move forward in the healing process
Behavior #1: Negativity.
Negativity is more than just fussing because your spouse left the ONE thing you asked him to pick up at the grocery store. Negativity is a slippery slope we go down without even being aware. When we talk about subtle ways negativity become a toxic behavior, we are talking about individuals who stubbornly refuse to see the positive side of life. You focus on the flaws and errors of others, continuously complaining and being critical. You often choose to take charge of doing things because others can never do anything right. A lousy moment often turns into a bad day, bad week, then a bad month. We hide our negativity behind “just keeping it real,” “I need to tell it like it is,” “I am only speaking the truth,” “I just need to vent” statements.
Want to know if negativity has subtly become a toxic behavior in your life, ask yourself do you:
- criticize others for making mistakes
- when something positive happens, do you find yourself overwhelmed or stressed by all the ways it could go wrong?
- have difficulty celebrating and appreciating your blessings?
- refuse to try anything new, preferring to stay in what is familiar and comfortable?
- you are always defensive and feel like you can’t do anything right?
If you said yes to any or most of these things, then negativity might have taken up residence in your heart.
So what do you do?
- Be mindful of what you say and how you say it: just because you can complain about your hard day, difficult co-worker, or challenging child doesn’t mean you should. Discipline yourself to be aware of how you are using your words over your life. Your words matter.
- Use a gratitude log: Spending time each day identifying the blessings of your life helps retrain your brain to see the good in every situation. When we spend time expressing praise God there isn’t any room for criticism or negativity.
- Use an accountability partner: Allow someone else in your life to hold you accountable to your negative attitude. For this to work, you must choose someone you respect and someone you will receive redirection. Someone who will not become a partner to your negativity, but will remind you of God’s word, prayer with you and for you, and celebrate your steps of improvement.
Behavior #2: You must be right
Early in my marriage, I would tell my hubby “I don’t have to be right unless I am right.” I cannot tell you the just how many times I sat on my bed praying for God to MAKE my husband apologize because he was wrong. I would rather sit on my bed, upset, not speaking to my husband than be the one to initiate reconciliation. He messed up, and I had to be right. There were times I even forgot what we were arguing about, but I refused to let go because I had to be “right.” I wanted him to give in, see my point of view, and say he was wrong. Any time we focus on our desire to be right over reconciliation, we have subtly allowed toxic behavior to permeate our hearts.
Not sure if the desire to be right is an issue for you, ask yourself
- would you rather be angry and correct than reconcile?
- you change the way something happened, so you don’t have to be wrong?
- you bring up irrelevant details about old arguments?
- you turn the argument to what is important to you instead of what is important to the other person?
Okay, so what do you do now?
- Choose your relationship: Sitting on that bed, I choose my desire to be right over choosing reconciliation with my husband. When I remember to choose my relationship, I can keep things in perspective, which might mean choosing to apologize first.
- Admit you are wrong: When difficulties arise in your relationship, focus on what you did, how you responded and how you can improve. Taking responsibility for your actions go a long way to repair and restore a relationship.
- Choose physical connection: Often when we choose to be right, we will use isolation as a form of punishment and manipulation. Instead of pulling away, decide to connect physically. Hold the hand. Give a hug. Be in the room together (without an attitude, eye rolling or any other negative response).
Behavior #3 Comparison
Comparison is perhaps one of the most subtle and universal toxic behaviors. We allow comparison to rob us of our worth, our God-designed identity and robs us of our praise. Comparisons become the measuring stick in which we evaluate our value in our homes, workplace, and relationships. Whether we realize it or not, when we compare our journey, our gifts, or our talents to others we subtly believe what/who God created us to be is not enough.
Envy begins to creep into our hearts. Sure we all have friends we say we want to be like. The subtle lull of comparison causes us to go from inspiration to jealousy. You start competing with others (even if it’s in your head) to have a better marriage, to make more money, to be fitter, or to have a more athletic kid. You work hard so that you can stay ahead. Remember friend, the success of others is not your failure.
This might be you if you:
- compare the worst of you against the best of others?
- when celebrating others, you feel sadness or lack in your own life?
- you feel the need to highlight your life when talking to others?
What do you do?
- Remember no one is perfect: When we compare ourselves against others, we only see the highlight of their lives. We see the happy marriage, the well-behaved kids, and the successful career. It’s important to remember we are all flawed individuals doing the best we can to live our lives. Everyone is going through struggles we may never know about. So instead of comparing, cover. Cover those around you in prayer.
- Choose inspiration not comparison: Inspiration causes us to step up to be the best version of ourselves while comparison causes you to try to be like others. Every day allow the strength and fortitudes of others to inspire you to go after the dream inside of you, love your husband, appreciate your children, or do well on your job. The goal is to be YOU.
- Praise: Your greatest weapon against the thief of comparison is praise. God creates with intention. Every single part of you God intentionally designed. He made no mistake. Praise God at all times in all places for your life. Praise Him for your friendships. Praise Him for your home. Praise Him for your creativity. Praise Him for your progress, no matter how small. When you praise, you won’t have time for comparison.
Disconnecting from your toxic behavior is essential to your mental and spiritual growth. No growth can occur until we are willing to acknowledge toxic behaviors within ourselves. Take ownership of your actions, submit them to God, allow the Holy Spirit to lead you, and apologize to those you have hurt. There is hope! You can change. Start today.
Cheering you on friend,