We recently have talked about “Toxic Religion.” We are now going to take a look at dealing with “Toxic Family Members.” Whenever I have mentioned this subject to people, I always see a desperate look in their eyes. So I know this is a big one. This is one that so many have issues with. I’ve had my own issues with this. But I do have some hope to share with you today.
I’d like to share a verse that really should be the goal of all of us, the hopeful goal we’re after. 1 John 4:7 “Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God.”
If this wasn’t our goal I guess we’d just write them off. But the goal for the Christian is love. Sometimes when we try to love it seems the relationship becomes even more toxic and we need help. Other times it can be good and there’s joy in it. We want to find out how do I love in any and every circumstance of life. Even in the difficult circumstances.
The idea here is that there are some people that to love them we have to realize that they are toxic. We’ve got to work through that.
Since we’re talking about toxic people (family members) it’s important to define this.
This isn’t just about irritating people. There are some people in your life that irritate you. There are some people in your family that irritates you. Everybody in your family irritates you sometimes. I am sure I irritate people and some family members as well. That’s just the way it is. So if we were going to get away from irritating people we’d all live on separate desert islands.
But we ‘re talking about toxic people. This is something different. How do you recognize a toxic family member? What does a toxic family member look like? If only someone who was toxic came with a big ugly label, we could see they are the toxic one! So what do they look like? Just what are we talking about?
Definition: toxic is when two people are stuck in a way of relating that is poisonous to one or the other. It’s affecting them both. They just can’t seem to move on. It only causes hurt and more hurt. It can be destructive physically, spiritually, and emotionally. That’s what it means to be toxic. That’s what we’re talking about.
Before we begin to look at some answers – because God does have some answers for us – before we begin to look at some answers, just a few facts about toxic family members.
1. Fact number one, most people have toxic family members.
You’re not alone in this. Many struggle with this. In fact, look at the Bible. In Genesis, the first brother killed the first brother. That’s fairly toxic you have to admit.
Abraham had a child by his wife’s maid and then later puts them out into the desert to die. That’s a toxic family relationship. This is as bad as any soap opera if you think about it.
Joseph’s eleven brothers want to kill him. But then they figure it’d be a better financial situation if we just sell him into slavery so they do that. That’s a toxic relationship.
Lot’s two daughters decide to get their father drunk so they can have children by their father. Extremely toxic wouldn’t you say?
You have Jacob trying to trick his blind father out of an inheritance.
And all this we’re talking about is just in the first book of the Bible. We haven’t gotten past the first book yet. Some of you are thinking, “My family looks pretty good compared to some of these families in the Bible.” Maybe that’s the point. Just maybe you could begin to have some hope now because you realize you’re not alone. Other people are have faced and are facing this as well.
The truth is you see in the first pages of the Bible all the things that make families toxic – jealousy, entitlement, lying, favoritism, unfair expectations, fear, power struggle, materialism, sexual sin, anger, apathy, selfishness. It’s all there. Some of you have experienced that. That’s what we mean when we talk about toxic.
When we talk about toxic relationships, being imperfect or being sinful isn’t what makes the relationship toxic. We are all imperfect. We all sin. What makes the relationship toxic is getting stuck. You get stuck in your sin. You get stuck in the past. You get stuck in unforgiveness. You get stuck in bitterness. You get stuck in unhealthy patterns. That’s what makes it toxic.
2. Fact number two is all toxic relationships are not equal.
Would you agree that some people are more toxic than others even though they both may be toxic? Some poisonous situations also last longer than others.
So we would say they are not all equal in size (one argument or one reoccurring situation), and not equal in length (one week, one month or one year).
So for some it’s one reoccurring situation that last for weeks at a time. For others, this is a lifetime pattern and you try to work through it again and again and again. So some toxic relationships are more toxic than others.
3. Fact three: When it’s toxic you must act.
If you had something in your home, in your house, and you realize it’s poisonous or toxic what would you do? You’d get it out of your house as quickly as possible. You wouldn’t study it on the Internet for three weeks to see how bad or dangerous it is. You would do something about it. When it’s toxic you have to act on it.
One of the things that keeps us from acting on it is we want to assign levels of toxicity and whose blame it is, whose fault it is. We get into this whole thing of, Am I the one whose toxic or are you the one whose toxic? Or is the combination of the two of us that’s toxic? In the end… it doesn’t matter. In the end you’ve got to do something about it no matter what. You could spend the rest of your life trying to assign levels of blame and some people do. You could spend the rest of your life doing that and never do anything about the problem.
So you don’t say, “How poisonous is it? Are you more toxic than I am?” No. You do something about it. When it’s toxic you have to act. You can’t just leave something that’s toxic alone and expect it to get better. It doesn’t! You have to do something about it.
If you do the things that we’re going to talk about it will take the toxicity out of any relationship in your life. In many cases it can bring that relationship back together some day, in some way. But even if it doesn’t, even if the other person still remains toxic, that relationship need no longer be toxic to you. God gives us some hope. He gives us some things to do.
What do we do about toxic family members? Next week we will begin to look at what we can do… When obeying God’s word and loving is the goal we will take action regardless how painful it may be.