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How to recognize toxic people around you

A few years ago, I had a very close friend who I would spend lots of time with—road trips, nights out, family functions, you name it. Over time, I noticed that when she was around other people, some of them told her negative things about me. She would not only gossip about them, but she always came to tell me what they said.

As we spent more time together, I noticed that she would make rather crude jokes about me and then end them with, “You know I’m just kidding, right?” The final straw was when she spilled some family secrets to friends of hers who I wasn’t close to.

I always felt like I was justifying her attitude toward me. I also felt like I was the one making an effort to spend time together. I was in denial for a long time, and then I had to accept it: she was toxic for me.

There are many types of toxic people you should recognize in your life. You may need to figure out how to cut them off, even if just for a short while. While dealing with toxic people, keep in mind that none of us is perfect—but we can accept them for who they are.

The Bible says,

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Matthew 5:44

Types of Toxic People

1. The Narcissist: This is someone who only thinks of themselves. While they may be close to you, they do not ask how you are doing or consider your feelings. This means they can talk negatively about you in private or in public and not see the problem.

2. The Emotional Vampire: This is someone who makes you feel drained and tired after interacting with them. They suck you dry emotionally. The worst part? They may not even know this about themselves.

3. The Jealous/Judgemental Person: Remember my friend? She would have no problem telling me things about other people. She also had no issue telling me when people had something to say about me. This type of person is capable of talking the same way about you behind your back.

4. The Controlling Friend: Have you ever experienced people who feel they must control everything and everyone around them? It can be someone who even feels jealous if you spend time with other friends.

How to Deal with Toxic People in Your Life

1. Set boundaries.

Real family and friends will appreciate and respect the boundaries you place in your life.

For example, if you cannot tolerate unsolicited advice about how to raise your kids, let them know. If you don’t wish to speak about family issues with strangers, tell them. If these people can’t respect your boundaries, you can distance yourself from them until they are able to do so. 

2. Avoid discussing private details.

If you feel that a family member or friend is toxic, you should stop divulging private information to them.

If you are in debt, undergoing relationship problems, or having trouble at work, be careful with whom you share these issues. Some are happy with your downfall and will broadcast this to the world.

3. Be OK with letting them go.

Yes, I know it can be hard to let go of a toxic person in your life. It can be someone as close as a sibling, relative, or dear friend. If you talk to them and they don’t change their ways, it is best to let them go and work on your peace.

Avoid hanging out with them and try not to get sucked into conversations. Turn to the Word and pray about your situation so you can know how to move forward. The Holy Spirit will give you discernment on how to reconcile with this person—or whether you should. 

Most importantly, if you need to move forward without a certain person in your life, try not to let bitterness toward them fester. If you do, you’ll remain stuck in the past: 

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Mark 11:25

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