Toxic Relationships

We all encounter relationships daily. We have work relationships, family relationships, romantic relationships and general acquaintances. Each type of relationship is unique and has its good parts and bad parts. For no relationship is perfect. I like to think of the quality of my relationships on a spectrum.

At one end of the spectrum is a perfect relationship. This is like the relationship that Jesus has with God the father. They are in perfect unity with no conflict. As you move down the spectrum you move into what I would call the healthy zone. This is like the green zone. The relationship is not perfect but both parties are benefiting from the relationship and dealing with the negatives in ways that are facilitating growth and sanctification.

As you continue to move down you move into an unhealthy zone. Let’s call this the yellow zone. Either one individual is not equally benefiting, there is a misbalance of power or the negative aspects of the relationship are causing harm to either one person or both. Yet while in his unhealthy zone both individuals are aware of the unhealthiness and are making strides to solve the problems. They are seeking care and working on the relationship.

Then there is the final zone, the red zone, the toxic zone. Toxic relationships are where harm is being done to either one or both individuals and either one or both individual is unwilling to seek care. In these instances it would take an act of God and supernatural miracle for the relationship to change.

I have encountered relationships in my life that were at each stage. I have had healthy relationships, unhealthy relationships and toxic relationships. So today I would like to ponder and ask the question of what do we do when a relationship becomes toxic? Particularly if this is a spouse, or family member and it is not as simple as walking away without consequence.

Obviously prayer and asking for God’s wisdom is essential. But reaching out for pastoral care, professional counseling and trusting friends is important. People in toxic relationships are often blind to the severity of the situation and do not understand what is happening to them. Similarly they often love the person who is toxic to them. They desire to see this person helped and have a mended, healed relationship.

But what does God want? I believe God cares about each individual in the relationship equally. If the relationship has turned from unhealthy to toxic sometimes the best thing you can do for both parties is to walk away and seek care for yourself. If you are not healthy yourself and the toxic relationship is the source of you being unwell then the most loving thing you can do for God, the other person and yourself is walk away in order to get help. You can pray for the other person, love them from a distance and reach out to the church in hopes that someone else can intervene in your loved ones life. But staying in toxic relationships brings healing to no one. I do not believe God wishes this of anyone. That is not self-sacrifice and bearing your cross. No that is walking the narrow line of temptations resulting in sin. There is a difference.

If you were to evaluate the relationships in your life, what zone are they? Healthy, Unhealthy or toxic? If they are not healthy what can you do to change that? If you are in the toxic zone why have you not walked away?

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