Are you a Magnet for Abusers?
by Leslie Vernick
Unhealthy, toxic individuals seem to have internal radar for people they can target. They instinctively know who will – and who won’t – put up with their bad behavior.
If you’re continually attracting destructive people it’s likely because you have some key personality traits or character qualities – and you might be surprised what they are.
Some of your best qualities, some of your highest Christian virtues may make you a target for abusers. Why?
Because often our greatest strengths can quickly become weaknesses if they are not paired with wisdom, discernment and courage.
Let me give you a few examples:
People Pleasing: You want to make people happy. This is actually a wonderful quality about you…..as long as you are free to say “no” without guilt when you want to.
If you can’t bear the thought of someone being disappointed or angry with you – then you’re in danger of being manipulated and used. Your strength can become a weakness.
Loyalty: How could loyalty ever be considered negative? When you are unquestionably loyal to a habitual liar, a cheater or to someone who doesn’t reciprocate loyalty, then your loyalty can become dangerous and harmful to you. Even Jesus distanced himself from people who sought to harm him and didn’t trust. He never called them friends, even when he was kind and helpful to them..
Forgiving: Toxic people love an endless forgiver. Why? Because they can perpetually take advantage, abuse, and neglect you with an occasional trite apology.
God does call you to forgive but he doesn’t call you to be a perpetual doormat. That damages you and enables the sinner to keep sinning without consequence. Forgiveness doesn’t automatically mean restored trust or restored relationship.
Forbearance: Another great virtue is to be forbearing and to overlook an offense. But, ignoring habitual sin by pretending it isn’t happening or refusing to call it out is dishonest and isn’t biblical forbearance.
It’s being passive and afraid. Sometimes, the right thing to do is rock the boat with truth.
Kindness: Yes, even a fruit of the spirit can become a problem in some relationships. Kindness without any boundaries is a recipe for being used.
Did you know it is possible to show great kindness while still communicating what kind of behavior you will and will not accept. You can say no, stop, don’t, and I don’t like that, kindly yet firmly.
Selflessness: The narcissist’s favorite target is a person willing to give up her needs, her goals, her feelings, her voice, and her very identity. This enables the narcissist to always be the center of attention.
But, the biblical idea of dying to self really means dying to your pride and ego. In other words, not being a narcissist.
Imagine a seed. A seed dies to its identity as a seed. But not to become nothing. It dies to itself in order to transform into what it was designed to become…a beautiful rose bush or an oak tree. When you are treated like an object to use, your selflessness is hurting you and your relationship.
And last, naive trust. Questioning someone’s motives doesn’t feel very “Christian.”
After all, 1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
But, if you read verse six, you’ll see the Bible also says, “Love rejoices in the truth.” Blindly trusting someone’s words isn’t what God expects.
In John, chapter 2, people were claiming faith in Jesus. But, it says, Jesus would not entrust himself to them. Why? Because he knew what was in their hearts.
This is why John the Baptist told the religious leaders in Luke chapter 3, “Prove by the way you live that you’ve repented of your sin and turned to God.”
The church often glorifies dying to self, forgiveness, loyalty, kindness, forbearance, selflessness, and trust. And yes, they are wonderful biblical qualities to develop in yourself. But equally important is wisdom and discernment as well as the ability and courage to say no.
Being godly and healthy are not opposing virtues. We can – and should – learn to be both.