Well I was just reading yet another post about how to deal with “toxic people”. And here are a few thoughts on this subject:
1. Is it really the case that someone is truly toxic, or is it that somehow you don’t like them as a person, or you don’t spontaneously get on?
Will most people be sophisticated enough to tell the difference? That is, I’m sure there are many people who would be able to say “There’s nothing wrong with X. I just don’t like him!!!” “Or, there is just something about him that annoys me!” But then, I am equally sure that there are people who go around carelessly throwing around the word “toxic” to describe everyone with whom they have the slightest personality clash.
2. I used to think up until about 5 minutes ago, that is, writing this post, that you were entitled to limit interaction with someone if your frustration with them stemmed from a genuine character fault on their part. But if there are no real character failings, and you somehow just don’t like them, then to be honest that is more your problem, and the onus is on you to work through that. However, I’m thinking as I write this that perhaps it is legitimate to kindly and diplomatically cut back your interaction with someone even if you merely dislike them – just because life is too short. For me, for instance, I like to understand people. So I like it when people make it easy for me to understand them. When I don’t understand the way someone behaves it makes me so confused. I guess that here there is the issue of emotional intelligence – perhaps on their part (thinking of a specific person). There is a big world out there and many different kinds of people, so expecting people to instantly understand and accept where you are coming from, and just foisting whoever you are on them without trying to build a foundation of genuine kindness and mutual understanding and communication is almost a sure recipe for my failing to get along with you. As the saying goes, the very very very true saying: “No-one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
At this time I am trying to remember people I have failed to get along with, as well as people who actually demonstrated real character failings…
3. My own toxicity?
It might be easy to identify toxicity in others, but I am also asking myself – well am I capable of this behaviour? I know that I am definitely capable of toxicity, and writing this blog and my other one has made me quite aware of my own toxic tendencies. These are usually arrogance, lack of humility, being all too ready to tell people “where to go”. I hope it is fair to say that these attributes are demonstrated almost exclusively on my blog – until I actually ditch someone. However, what I express on my blogs is truly representative of what I genuinely think. So I know I have to keep a careful eye out for these traits and uproot them in my heart. I was thinking that relative to what I have been through, what people have put me through, the scathing posts I have written are actually quite mild responses. For instance, in the media you often read of people taking very drastic action when faced with far less provocation than I have repeatedly experienced. However, I am a Christian. That “excuse” is simply not good enough. Even in the face of repeated provocation, we are to remain humble and gracious and holy and Christlike. We are also not to compare our behaviour to other people’s behaviour, and say: “Well at least I don’t…” Which means that I have to go back to my Bible, my God and my prayer schedule and deal intensively with these issues. And I have known that for a long time! But the time and opportunity to really pray, to really unseat these issues, and to keep doing it, has been a challenge for me to find for about the same length of time. All the same, no excuses!
Also I know I am often guilty of being really bad at communicating or dealing with hard conversations. I was reflecting about this overnight instead of sleeping and thinking that from henceforth, within reason, instead of just cutting people off, even where I definitely need to cut people off I would still explain to them why I am cutting them off: “I am really frustrated that you have done this. I think that your behaviour belies your supposed commitment to Christ. I am not going to make myself available for you to further act like this…!” See, this is the real reason I never give people an explanation. Not because I don’t want to give them an explanation, but because I want to give it to them too much! I know that in many cases my anger would push me over the edge to be brutal. So to be honest it just feels kinder to cut them off without offering an explanation. But perhaps that is not an excuse, and I have to learn to practise the habit of gentleness even in anger. Especially if I want to get married!