“Mountain Lake”, Courtesy of Karthikeya GS, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; Our interactions teach us to live as vessels and vehicles, receiving and releasing God’s love. However, all relationships don’t reflect God’s intention for the quality of our interactions. Although intended to enrich, sometimes loving others who inflict pain and toxicity seems wrong.
Instead of affirming and celebrating these relationships drain us of joy and deplete our strength. Sometimes, our past experiences have misshapen our hearts and perspectives. We, along with those we love and care for can misuse one another, in an attempt to have our own needs met and our hearts repaired.
Having needs is part of the human experience. God created us to live jointly. He meets some directly. Often, He sets us up into interdependent connections where we mutually answer the needs of others in our lives. No one can be completely independent of the influence of others. God created humanity as part of His family and that is the first experience we have with other people in the world.
The necessity of relationship.
As with healing, sometimes God answers directly in our relationship with Him. However, He often works through people to restore us to His original intent for relationships. Whether it is in family, among friends, with those in our faith circle, or even those we engage with for counsel, we need other people.
God funnels His power through connections to rebuild what was broken and repair what has been wounded by life and circumstance. If our hearts have been damaged by toxic relationships, we need a path to healing not only with the Lord but also with healthy people to support us in navigating God’s plan for rest and relationship.
As believers in Christ, we are connected with God because Jesus redeemed us into righteousness and repaired the breach that sin leveraged between us and the Father. We are also joined to one another, having placed our faith in the same Savior who heads the church body to which we belong.
The expression of our love for God is evidenced in how we relate to one another. And in the same respect, our regard for our fellow humans is service to God. These interactions get complicated and can become toxic when an agenda, even one that seems benign and appears well-intentioned, is characterized by manipulation and control.
Pain and poison in toxic relationships.
Toxic relationships can work deceptively. They masquerade as considering the legitimate needs that we all have, then twist those needs to satisfy someone else’s aim. Such relationships confuse boundaries, superimposing one’s will over another’s.
It often works to leverage doubt, guilt, or shame to coerce another person to yield their will to what we want instead of prioritizing what God wants. The ill effects of toxic behavior don’t remain localized to the parts of our hearts touched by pain.
The pain and poison of toxic relationships infiltrate many areas of our lives. It shows up in narcissistic behavior and gaslighting. Toxic communications devalue our legitimate thoughts and feelings and diminish our experiences. Individuals who initiate this kind of pain often persuade us to believe that what is real and valid is imaginary.
These destructive patterns also reveal individuals who deny culpability and responsibility for their poor judgment and behavior, instead shifting blame onto us. The burden of toxic relationships guilts us into making decisions and life changes, not based on the leading of the Holy Spirit, but rather to suit another person’s self-absorbed aims.
Toxic relationships progressively diminish our self-esteem and invariably shape our choices, influencing us to compromise healthy boundaries. They morph the quality of our interactions, persuading us to accept treatment that dishonors. We second guess our judgment, and often become double-minded, vacillating between sparks of revelation of our true value and consignment to a lesser identity.
When this happens, we confuse how God wants us to esteem ourselves and how He wants us to be regarded by others with questions about our worth. This can leave us bewildered and ashamed about how we came to endure toxic treatment.
Whether we are initiating the undesirable behavior or find ourselves codependent and complicit, we need to understand that toxicity takes two people. The venom of toxic relationships spreads when we allow ourselves to persist in relationships that dishonor the image of God in us.
Although it is painful and debilitating, we don’t have to remain a target for these forms of emotional abuse. There is nothing spiritual about subjecting ourselves to unnecessary pain and affliction. It doesn’t reflect God’s love for us, and we can partner with Him, who is the Master of all relationships to gather resources and learn how to find relief and respite from toxicity.
The necessity of soul care in toxic relationships.
We need to care for our souls in ways that will allow for God’s healing to transform us individually, and in connection with others. Recognizing how toxic relationships have promoted self-doubt is an important element of understanding how we came to such a destructive place and pattern.
We don’t have to abide in this low place. We can embrace partnership with the Holy Spirit to heal the effects of toxic relationships. We can also take active steps to triage our wounded hearts, train for new relationship skills, and transform to continue becoming who God always intended.
We often tolerate toxic relationships when we feel powerless or trapped. Sometimes, toxic relationships escalate into abuse, whether physical or emotional. While all toxic relationships are not necessarily abusive, their presence in our lives can be damaging nonetheless.
The most essential step may be to triage oneself, by taking physical space and creating emotional distance with the person who is injuring us. As we establish healthy boundaries of space, time, and attention, the Lord will give us wisdom, protection, and respite from what would compromise our emotional and mental wellness.
Sometimes, the experience of a difficult encounter provides the grit needed to walk through an extended or arduous healing process. While we may wonder how we have survived poor treatment and toxic relationships and feel shame, we can instead embrace that same ability to endure as we resolve to unlearn toxic patterns.
We need to gather strength and solutions, so we can find relief and eject toxicity’s poisonous presence from our lives. With God’s help, and through the care and commitment of a counselor, we can learn how to engage. Counseling provides a safe space to sort the contents of our hearts while practicing the techniques that will enable us to interact from a healthier place.
Essential change does not often occur overnight. It takes time to unlearn the old and learn a new way of being. Even though God works an immediate change in our eternal spirits when Jesus saves us, our souls require a long-term investment that will continue until we encounter our Savior face to face. In this, we can embrace hope, not only as optimism but confidence in a verified outcome.
God is at work in us to not only produce what He wants to remain for eternity, but also to transform us, bringing about new thoughts, habits, and relational skills that are essential to living well and thriving in our earthly lives.
While this is not how God wants us to live, we can navigate our way through the maze and into a healthier place. Searching for a therapist to sort out the puzzle of past pain and trauma can be an important first step.
Explore the resources on this site and locate a counselor. Schedule your appointment and commit it to yourself. You are worth investing in. You can find relief from toxic relationships and discover God’s best for you that is already within.
“Mountain Lake”, Courtesy of Karthikeya GS, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Lightning Strikes”, Courtesy of Nikolett Emmert, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Taking the Forest Road”, Courtesy of Hans Isaacson, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Napping”, Courtesy of Kateryna Hliznitsova, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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