Can you believe we are almost done with January? How are you doing in this new decade? I’ve begun implementing some small habit changes that have started to show some real results. For example, while brushing my teeth each day, I started doing 50 squats morning and evening. Before that, I didn’t do any exercise other than pickleball and hiking. But this small change has allowed me to fit into a once too-tight skirt. No weight loss, but now it fits fine. And I’m learning to think of ten things I’m grateful for when I’m aggravated. This habit can shift a cranky mood pretty quickly. What new habits are you trying to add to your life? Remember, taking small steps consistently will yield bigger changes over time than taking big steps only occasionally.
Don’t forget to register for my free webinar on Four Lies That Will Leave You Feeling Miserable, Afraid, and Stuck in a Destructive Marriage on February 4th. You won’t get to attend or watch a replay if you don’t register…and please invite a friend. Register here.
Today’s Question: Why does it seem like I’m surrounded by toxic people! Because I have a tendency to blame myself, is there something in me that may be attracting them or are they just in abundance? I grew up with a narcissistic sister and father. Behavior seemingly normal for me it seems.
Answer: First, you are not the cause of someone else’s toxic behavior. We are each responsible for our own character development. However, growing up with toxic people around you probably got confused on what’s a healthy and normal behavior in relationships. Plus, when one grows up with a narcissistic parent and sibling, you usually have only one role to play and that is to serve the narcissist. Every child needs to feel safe, valued, and wanted, so to survive, most children are resourceful enough to adapt their behavior even if it costs them their own personhood.
In addition, Christian teaching has sometimes glorified the Biblical virtues of sacrifice, servanthood, and suffering as well as dying to self. Good people sometimes believe they are obeying God when they allow toxic people to repeatedly carnage their life with no consequences. But the Bible does not teach that. We see Jesus himself escaping from situations where people intended to harm him (See Luke 4:31). The Bible also teaches us to steward our self and resources (Proverbs 6:1-5), speak the truth in love, expose the unfruitful deeds of darkness, (Ephesians 4 and 5), and have appropriate boundaries (Proverbs 4:23).
However, let me also say that unhealthy and toxic people do seem to have a sort of internal radar of who they can target. People who will let them get away with their lies, their foolishness, their addictions, their betrayals, their indifference. Instinctively they know that most people will not put up with it. So they look for people who will. Is that you? I don’t know, but here is a list of traits that toxic people gravitate to in people who might be too nice, too naive or too trusting.
Remember some of your greatest strengths can also become weaknesses when not tempered with wisdom and discernment. Here are seven positive qualities you may have that can also make you more vulnerable to toxic individuals.
- People Pleasing – Pleasing people is fine as long as you are also able to say no when you need to. A compulsive need to make people happy at your own expense can make you more vulnerable to those who will take you upon it (Galatians 1:10; Proverbs 29:25).
- High Loyalty – God calls us to be faithful and loyal. However, when we are unquestionably loyal towards someone who continues to lie to us, cheat us, betray us, or not care about who you are or what you feel is foolish. Jesus loved people but when they didn’t love him back, he didn’t consider them his friend and often distanced himself from them (John 2:24; Mark 10:21).
- Forgiving – God calls us all to forgive, generously. However, when we forgive without seeing any repentance or change from abusive/destructive individuals, be cautious. Abusive individuals look for someone that will allow them to keep doing the same thing over and over again without any consequences. If your forgiveness gives someone a “get out of jail free card” it only invites him or her to keep hurting you again and again. That’s not only not good for you, but it’s also not good for him or your relationship.
- Forbearing – God calls us to be forbearing people (Philippians 4:5-7). It’s a strength to overlook small things and not be easily offended. However, when we overlook repeated sin or refuse to speak up or stand up, we are not being honest with ourselves or the other person (Matthew 18:15-17). Plus, often what appears forbearing isn’t true Biblical forbearance, but rather fear and passivity. You’re afraid to speak up or rock the boat with the truth about how you feel or what’s wrong.
- Kindness – Kindness is one of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22).You can be kind and set boundaries and be firm at the same time. However, when we are kind with no boundaries or never speak up on what’s not okay with us, we invite those who will take advantage of our kindness to do so over and over again. Click To Tweet
- Selflessness – You probably learned to be selfless growing up with two narcissistic people in your family. There was no room for you to be you. However, Biblical selflessness, or dying to self does not mean becoming a non-person. Rather we’re not to become self-focused or self-absorbed either with our flaws and failures or our strengths and virtues (Romans 12:3). Dying to self doesn’t mean abdicating your personhood, it means dying to your pride/ego, so that you grow into the person God designed you to become, much like a seed dies to itself as a seed. Not to become nothing but to grow into the oak tree or rose bush God designed it to become.
- Naïve Trust – The Bible says that “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthian’s 13:7). Sometimes Christians have been taught that love means always trusting someone’s words. However, a verse before this passage, 1 Corinthians 13:6 says “Love rejoices in the truth.” Jesus didn’t trust people because he knew what was in their hearts (John 2:24). John the Baptist said to the religious leaders, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sin and turned to God” (Luke 3:8).
You can learn to be a godly and a healthy person. If you see yourself having some of these strengths yet coupled with the inability to set boundaries or speak up for yourself, you can learn. I’ll be offering a new two-session introduction class to building CORE strength. If you’re interested in finding out more about it, click here.
Friends, what other good qualities do you have that you’ve found attract toxic individuals?