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The word toxic means “poisonous.” Toxic relationships are those that poison our peace and our ability to enjoy another person. A toxic relationship will leave one exhausted, frustrated, and, in some cases, depressed. Toxic relationships can affect business partnerships, sports teams, and, of course, families. Some disharmony in a relationship is normal; however, some people inject poison into every relationship, making healthy give-and-take impossible. Those are toxic people, and the Bible has some advice for us in dealing with them.
There will be some people whose company we don’t prefer, but that doesn’t make them toxic. We may be polar opposites in ideology with someone but can maintain a comfortable relationship. Democrats can enjoy the company of Republicans, a New York Yankees fan can have a friendly relationship with a Boston Red Sox fan, and Christians can engage in healthy interactions with non-Christians. But when a person is toxic, he or she is unable to maintain a healthy relationship with anyone. Only those willing to suffer the selfish demands of the toxic person can endure such a relationship for long.
Several factors determine whether or not a relationship or a person is toxic:
1. The relationship is completely one-sided in favor of the toxic person. Toxic people are incredibly narcissistic and can think only of themselves and what they want at the moment. This is a direct violation of Philippians 2:3–4, which says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Toxic people may pretend they are doing something for someone else, but there is always an ulterior motive that will benefit them.
2. There is continual drama in toxic relationships. Ironically, toxic people are often the ones who proclaim for all to hear how much they “hate drama.” Yet they instigate it everywhere they go. They seem to thrive on it. They cannot go from point A to point B in a simple, straightforward manner. They are a constant tangle of excuses, lies, fabrications, and crazy situations that weary everyone else in their world. They enjoy complicating otherwise simple situations because it keeps attention focused on them.
3. They are always right. Always. Toxic people look with disdain on anyone who dares correct or disagree with them. They mask their extreme pride with fake humility, but there is rarely any true repentance because they don’t believe they are wrong. It is everyone else’s fault. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction.” Haughtiness dominates toxic people, even when they try to hide it behind self-pity or groveling. If you are in a toxic relationship, the “destruction” the toxic person has earned due to pride often lands on you, too.
4. Others dread confrontations or interactions with a toxic person. They may appear delightfully charming to outsiders, but those in relationship with a toxic person know the real story. Every interaction, no matter how innocent it may begin, ends with the twist of a dagger. Everyone else is left with the fallout while the toxic person skates away seemingly unfazed. If you become anxious at the thought of another interaction with someone in your life, through no fault of your own, you may be in a toxic relationship.
5. Toxic people relish victimhood. Everything happens to toxic people, and the world should take notice. They shouldn’t be held responsible, they think, because it wasn’t their fault—even though it was. Self-pity practically drips from them, even though they may mask it with a facade of strength. They love to appear as martyrs and will even construct situations that portray them in that light. Those in relationship with a toxic person usually end up looking like the bad guy. Outsiders often silently judge the friends or family members who are “intolerant” of this poor victim, which creates division and misunderstanding in peripheral relationships.
6. Toxic people lie. If their mouths are moving, toxic people are probably lying. They lie more easily than they tell the truth and are so convincing that even those who know better question their own perceptions. Toxic people justify their lies by telling themselves that they had no choice. When caught red-handed in a lie, they may feign remorse, but all the while they may be concealing a dozen more lies no one has discovered yet. Scripture has harsh words for liars. God has a zero-tolerance policy for liars, and He is not fooled by any of their excuses (Revelation 21:8). Proverbs 6:16–19 lists seven things the Lord hates, and lying is on the list twice.
King Saul is an example of a toxic person. He began well, but power, pride, and jealousy crippled his soul. His furious jealousy of young David manifested itself in a confusing array of moods. One moment Saul was calm and enjoying David’s music; the next he was trying to kill him (1 Samuel 19:9–10). Saul would appear to show remorse, but soon he was hunting David again (1 Samuel 24:16–17; 26:2, 21). Later, Saul violated a serious command from the Lord so that people would think well of him (1 Samuel 15). That sin cost Saul his kingdom.
We have been called to peace (Colossians 3:15), but a toxic relationship destroys peace. Some people are so abusive that they will not allow us to seek or broker peace in any area. When the relationship is continually filled with unwanted drama, when you find yourself dreading the next blowup, when you cannot believe anything this person says, or when someone is destroying your reputation and sanity, then it is time to create distance in the relationship.
Psalm 1 gives specific instructions about keeping away from wicked fools. We are blessed when we do not seek out friendships with them or listen to their counsel. Toxic people fit into that category. They are not content to destroy their own lives; they must take others with them. It helps to remember that you cannot change a toxic person, especially from within a toxic relationship. You cannot help toxic people unless they want to be helped.
People-pleasers are the most frequent victims of toxic relationships because they want the toxic person to like them. But there are times when closing the door on a relationship is the wisest thing you can do (Proverbs 22:24–25). If you are married to a toxic person who has turned your relationship into a toxic marriage, then a separation may be in order, along with some focused marital counselling. If you are not married, then it’s time to say goodbye.
In every situation involving a toxic relationship, take the matter to God in prayer. Cry out to “receive mercy and find grace” to help in the time of need (Hebrews 4:16). “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Petition the Lord unceasingly to change the heart of the person bringing the toxicity. There is hope and healing in Him.
For Further Study
Dealing with negative people—what does the Bible say?
What does the Bible say about being mean-spirited?
What does the Bible say about hospitality?
Dealing with mean people—what does the Bible say?
What is toxic positivity?
Questions about Relationships
What does the Bible say about toxic relationships?
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John 15:13 tells us, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This friend is Jesus, and He laid down His life for toxic people—and that includes me.What does the Bible say about wrong relationships? ›
We will hurt others, and others will hurt us. But if you can forgive a fault, love can be restored. However, dwelling on wrongs and refusing to let them go causes angry division and painful separation. You may have been hurt in your relationships, or you may have been the one to hurt others.
Jesus also demonstrates the need to sometimes “verbally” walk away when dealing with a toxic person, like Herod. Instead of arguing with Herod and trying to justify himself, Jesus remained silent: “[Herod] plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer” (Luke 23:9).Does God want me to stay in a toxic marriage? ›
Ultimately staying or leaving a toxic marriage for a Christian persons is between them and God. No one can make that decision for you. The bible does say sin is forgiven for those that ask, and accept Christ as their savior.What does the Bible say about setting boundaries in relationships? ›
Boundaries In The Bible
The Bible talks about boundaries quite often. In Proverbs 25:17 the Bible says, “Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house. Too much of you, and they will hate you.” It is true. If you show up uninvited to your neighbor's house, you will eventually ruin that relationship.
- Avoid playing into their reality. ...
- Don't get drawn in. ...
- Pay attention to how they make you feel. ...
- Talk to them about their behavior. ...
- Put yourself first. ...
- Offer compassion, but don't try to fix them. ...
- Say no (and walk away) ...
- Remember, you aren't at fault.
A toxic relationship is one that makes you feel unsupported, misunderstood, demeaned, or attacked. A relationship is toxic when your well-being is threatened in some way—emotionally, psychologically, and even physically.What are examples of broken relationships in the Bible? ›
From then on, the Bible shows a litany of broken and damaged relationships. Brothers turn against brothers, family members lie to each other, daughters sleep with their fathers, mistresses hate their maidservants, husbands fail to protect their wives — and that's just in Genesis!What are examples of unhealthy relationships? ›
- Control. One dating partner makes all the decisions and tells the other what to do, what to wear, or who to spend time with. ...
- Hostility. ...
- Dishonesty. ...
- Disrespect. ...
- Dependence. ...
- Intimidation. ...
- Physical violence. ...
- Sexual violence.
The person encourages you to disobey God
A clear sign that God is telling you to end a relationship is if that person encourages you to disobey God. Ask yourself: Is this person always asking me to violate God's word in order to gain worldly pleasure?
If you feel that you're less true to yourself or feel that this partnership directly impacts your confidence and self-esteem, it may be a sign to walk away. There's instability or intense ups and downs. Toxic relationships are often unstable.Does God want us to stay in a loveless marriage? ›
Biblically speaking, spouses don't have the right to simply dissolve an unhappy marriage. God intended that marriage be for a lifetime. Ephesians 5 describes marriage as a metaphor for our relationship with God. He is not capricious in His affections toward us, nor does His love depend on favorable circumstances.What does God say about narcissist? ›
Narcissism is addressed in the Bible in Paul's second pastoral epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:1-7) in the fall of A.D.67. Paul seems to be concerned about the character and behavior of leaders within the church, so he warns Timothy to beware of those who act out of a “self love attitude”.What does God say about staying in an unhappy marriage? ›
Constant Conflict – (Ephesians 5:33)
“If your marriage is filled with conflict, don't give up.” This scripture instructs a husband to love his wife as he loves himself and that his wife must respect him. If your marriage is filled with conflict, don't give up.
ESV Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor's house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you. NIV Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house-- too much of you, and they will hate you. NASB Let your foot rarely be in your neighbor's house, Or he will become weary of you and hate you.What does Proverbs 22 3 say about boundaries? ›
Proverbs 22:3 says that “the prudent see danger and take refuge.” Sometimes physically removing yourself from a situation will help maintain boundaries. You can do this to replenish yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually after you have given to your limit, as Jesus often did.How do you set boundaries in a godly relationship? ›
- 1 Know your own boundaries beforehand.
- 2 Talk about physical boundaries early in your relationship.
- 3 Stay emotionally independent at first.
- 4 Help each other stay accountable.
- 5 Steer clear of tempting situations.
- 6 Practice modesty around your partner.
People with toxic traits know they have them
It's natural to assume someone's bad behavior is a conscious choice. But many people with toxic traits don't realize that their behavior impacts others. You may have toxic traits that you don't know about. Some toxic traits, like absolutism, manifest subtly.
- Don't dwell on the past. Sure, part of repairing the relationship will likely involve addressing past events. ...
- View your partner with compassion. ...
- Start therapy. ...
- Find support. ...
- Practice healthy communication. ...
- Be accountable. ...
- Heal individually. ...
- Hold space for the other's change.
If your friendship has turned aggressive and emotionally abusive, then you should be cutting them off completely without any closure. You can straightaway block them and ignore them, as you don't owe them anything. Just do whatever works to remove yourself from that situation.
The root cause of such toxic behaviors in relationships is a lack of empathy. Refusing to understand each other's feelings, demanding that your partner lives up to your expectations, and making them feel guilty for not doing so is caused by a lack of empathy.What are 3 signs of a toxic relationship? ›
- Control. One person makes all the decisions and tells the other what to do, what to wear, or who to spend time with. ...
- Dependence. ...
- Digital monitoring or “clocking”. ...
- Dishonesty. ...
- Disrespect. ...
- Hostility. ...
- Harassment. ...
Toxic relationships generally follow three stages: idealizing, devaluing, and discarding. Learn about each of these stages and the impact it has on you.What does the Bible say about letting go of someone you love? ›
The Bible says the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and heals the brokenhearted. So, not only will God provide comfort as you move on from a past relationship, but He'll actually help you do it. God will help you heal from the wounds caused by the relationship and move forward in life and love.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” The Good News: No matter the source of your heartbreak, God can repair your wounds.What Psalm is for broken relationship? ›
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed" (Psalm 34:18).What is red flag in relationship? ›
What are red flags in a relationship? Red flags are warning signs that indicate unhealthy or manipulative behavior. They are not always recognizable at first — which is part of what makes them so dangerous. However, they tend to grow bigger and become more problematic over time.What are 7 signs of an unhealthy relationship? ›
- 10 Signs of unhealthy/abusive behaviour. Whilst all relationships have their ups and downs, an unhealthy relationship is one where a partner or close family member shows behaviour that is disrespectful, controlling or even violent. ...
- Obsessive behaviour. ...
- Possessiveness. ...
- Manipulation. ...
- Guilting. ...
- Belittling. ...
- Sabotage. ...
If you feel like you're playing a part, behaving and responding based on how you think you should rather than authentically, you might want to reassess what's going on. If you're not able to be authentically yourself around your partner, flaws and bad moods and all, it might not be the right relationship for you.How do you know if it's right to leave someone? ›
- Your needs aren't being met.
- You're seeking those needs from others.
- You're scared to ask for more from your partner.
- Your friends and family don't support your relationship.
- You feel obligated to stay with your partner.
Can God Reveal Your Spouse To You? The idea that God can reveal your spouse to you is an intriguing one. After all, if He knows the plans He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11), then it stands to reason that He would be able to show us the right person who we are supposed to marry.Does God care about breakups? ›
But there is no better time to draw close to God than when you need to heal from something as traumatic as a breakup. Psalm 34:18 tells us that God is close to those who are brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. This is a promise from God because he doesn't want you to feel alone in your suffering.How long until you let go of a toxic relationship? ›
Let it be six weeks, six months – whatever feels right for you. In that time, give the relationship everything you've got. When that 'one day' comes, be honest and act from a place of strength, self-respect and self-love.What happens when you let go of a toxic person? ›
Letting go will likely come with guilt, anger and grief for the family or person you thought you had. They might fight harder for you to stay. They will probably be crueller, more manipulative and more toxic than ever. They will do what they've always done because it has always worked.How do you know if someone doesn't value you? ›
Couple's relationship coach in Fairmont, West Virginia, Cheri Timko says other signs that someone doesn't care about you may include if they: don't value mutuality in the relationship. fail to show any interest or curiosity in you or your life. have a different agenda for the relationship than you do.What does the Bible say about toxic family members? ›
In fact, the Scriptures are full of teachings instructing us to leave relationships with wicked or evil people, to be separate from them, to shun, outcast, and purge them from our midst. (1 Corinthians 15:33, Proverbs 13:20, Psalm 1:1, Proverbs 6:27, 1 Corinthians 5:11, 1 Corinthians 10:13 – these are just a few).What does the Bible say about ignoring family? ›
1. Neglect of Family, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).What does God say about isolating yourself? ›
Proverbs 18:1 – A man who isolates himself seeks his own desires; he rages against all wise judgment.Is living together without being married that sin? ›
St. Paul lists this sin – technically called “fornication” among the sins (whether within or outside cohabitation) that can keep a person from reaching heaven (see 1 Corinthians 6:9) Cohabitation works against the heart's deepest desires and greatly increases the chances of a failed marriage.Is it a sin to live together without marriage? ›
Marriage is God's design
Finally, living together in a sexually intimate relationship outside of marriage is displeasing to God. Frequently, in the Bible, God speaks to the topic of sexual immorality. “Flee from sexual immorality,” he says through the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 6:18; See also Gal.
For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so.What does God say about gaslighting? ›
In the 16th chapter of Romans, Paul gives warning against those who create dissensions and hindrances within the faith community. He describes such deceivers as ones who use smooth talk and flattery in order to distort truth and manipulate others.What are some examples of narcissists in the Bible? ›
One example of a narcissist comes in the form of a parable told by Jesus in Matthew 18:21-35; a reading that will be heard in many churches this morning! In this parable, a man receives unimaginable grace and yet, he refuses to extend that grace to others.What are the sins of a narcissist? ›
You will learn to recognize these hallmarks of unhealthy narcissism -- Shamelessness, Magical Thinking, Arrogance, Envy, Entitlement, Exploitation, Bad Boundaries -- and to understand the roles that parenting and culture play in their creation.What are the three biblical reasons for divorce? ›
- Adultery. Adultery is one breakdown Jesus specifically mentions. ...
- Addiction. Without treatment, addiction will consume everything in its path. ...
- Abuse. Most often, we think of physical abuse. ...
- Abandonment. Finally, brokenness can be a result of abandonment.
Potiphar's wife, in Genesis 39, repeatedly tried to cheat on her husband with poor righteous Joseph, and then in rage at being rejected she had Joseph condemned. Proverbs 7 describes the dangers of the adulterous woman, who attempts to seduce young men, saying, “I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.How long is too long to be unhappy in a marriage? ›
Most couples wait an average of six years before seeking help. There's an important question you both need to answer if you are facing an ongoing unhappy marriage or divorce. Are you motivated to save your marriage? If so, are you willing to do whatever it takes?What does God say about treating others who hurt you? ›
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” The Good News: Show kindness even to those who have harmed you.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.
In James 3:14 (NLT), he cautions those who wish to be wise, “. . . if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don't cover up the truth with boasting or lying.”
“Bless those who persecute you. Don't curse them; pray that God will bless them” (Romans 12:14, NLT).Can you forgive someone and still not want to be around them? ›
First, it's important to understand that you can forgive someone without resuming contact or picking a relationship back up. You can forgive someone even if you know you can never have the same relationship. Depending on the circumstances, you may even need to avoid contact.What is the root cause of narcissism? ›
It's not known what causes narcissistic personality disorder. The cause is likely complex. Narcissistic personality disorder may be linked to: Environment — parent-child relationships with either too much adoration or too much criticism that don't match the child's actual experiences and achievements.Who are the three enemies of the believer? ›
For hundreds of years disciples of Jesus have spoken of the “three enemies of the soul” – the world, the flesh, and the devil.What does the Bible say about making enemies your footstool? ›
Psalm 110 1
The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. Your troops will be willing on your day of battle.
Matthew 10:36 Amplified Bible (AMP)
and A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS [own] HOUSEHOLD [when one believes and another does not].
(7) Jealousy in God is that passionate energy by which he is provoked and stirred and moved to take action against whatever or whoever stands in the way of his enjoyment of what he loves and desires. The intensity of God's anger at threats to this relationship is directly proportionate to the depths of his love.What does God say about people being jealous of you? ›
But jealousy and envy are soul-enemies, and Scripture warns us against them over and over. We're told that jealousy is a fruit of the flesh (Galatians 5:21), an antonym of love (1 Corinthians 13:4), a symptom of pride (1 Timothy 6:4), a catalyst for conflict (James 3:16), and a mark of unbelievers (Romans 1:29).How to remove jealousy from your heart Bible? ›
“Don't do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves.” The Good News: Doing things out of jealousy or selfish reasons only takes us further away from God. A sincere and true heart is the way to go.