07 Jan Removing Toxic Relationships: Why It’s Okay To Let Go
I think almost everyone in their life has encountered someone who just seems to take, more than they give. You start to lose yourself and become drained whenever you’re around them. The relationship becomes detrimental to your emotional health and slowly the manipulation takes a negative toll on your heart. The realization that someone in your life (whether that be a boyfriend, best friend, or family member) is no longer good for you, is a devastating blow. All the “what ifs” and “what could have been’s” suddenly become “no longer’s” and your bright, glimmering future with a loved one comes tumbling down right before your very eyes. This awareness can be one of the hardest pills to swallow. Saying goodbye to someone you love is emotionally taxing. Sometimes the person you love the most, can cause you the most heartbreak. So why do we allow these emotionally toxic people to stay in our lives long past their expiration dates? Obligation? The fear of a future without them? Or do we simply not realize that it’s okay to walk away?
I know as a Christian, I tend to view love as bending over backwards for someone. I used to give way too many chances to people who continually hurt me. I wanted to help them, I want to show them unconditional love, I wanted to save them. Keyword: I. I was relying on my power, not God’s. So when do we draw the line? When do we take a step back and show them tough love? When do you we say I’ve done all I can do, Jesus take the wheel? While I do think that relationships are give and take and there is an element of sacrifice in any healthy relationship, we aren’t meant to give everything to someone who never gives anything back. Jesus never called us to live in a continuous state of emotional turmoil.
Cutting people from your life that continuously bring you down, exploit you, and take advantage of your empathy and compassion is something I have found to be an essential part of my life. It’s okay to put up boundaries and love them from afar if the relationship has become detrimental to your well-being. I know it’s hard to make the decision to remove somebody out of your life, but if the only experience you have with them is soul crushing, then it’s time to draw some lines. I know as Christians we are called to love everyone and help those who need it, but lines need to be drawn at some point if someone continuously takes advantage of the love you so freely give. What you allow, will always continue to be when it comes to these types of relationships. If boundaries are never guarded, then toxic people will continue to trample all over them. Stand your ground and realize it’s okay to put distance between yourself and someone who does nothing but use and abuse you. So how and where do you start to remove the toxicity from your life altogether?
- Start with forgiveness.
Forgiving someone that has hurt you emotionally is tough. It’s hard to not want to get even and hurt them back. It’s sometimes even hard to be nice when you see them on the street. Isn’t the old saying “don’t get mad, get even?” I think (if we are being honest) we all have had a moment in our lives where we have wanted to stand up for ourselves and hurt the person who hurt us. I know these aren’t our proudest moments, but hey, we are only human. I think we all know that that revenge doesn’t repair the heartbreak and we know it’s exactly the opposite of what Jesus calls us to do. I am not saying you have to verbally express to every single person who’s hurt you that you have forgiven them but getting your heart to that place is so important. Allowing yourself to let go of the emotional pain you’ve experienced takes some deep inner searching and healing that I know Jesus is eager to explore with you. Carrying around the anger and bitterness you’ve felt towards people who have hurt you in your past not only eats away at your soul, but it seeps into the relationships you have in your present and will hurt the relationships you will have in your future. If you continuously think everyone you meet is going to betray you, you miss out on the true intimacy that relationships are meant to have. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, and I’m not saying it’s going to happen right now. But the sooner you rid yourself of all the anger and bitterness, you can learn to leave the pain where it belongs, in the past. By forgiving you’re letting go, and by letting go you’re opening yourself up to a whole new level of healing.
- Create boundaries.
Respect yourself enough to create boundaries. Creating healthy boundaries with people is a form of self love. It’s a way of guarding your heart. It can be difficult at times, but after a while these boundaries tend to allow toxic relationships and friendships to fall to the wayside all on their own. You’ll have less tolerance for bad behaviour and certain actions will no longer be acceptable. You get to decide what behaviour you deem acceptable and what behaviour is no longer tolerable. For me, the scariest part of instilling these boundaries was the thought of losing people who I truly cared about. But if someone is exploiting and taking advantage of the love you so freely give by continuously breaking promises and hurting you, do they really care? It’s easy to become an emotional doormat to people who don’t care about your feelings, all because you care about theirs. Start small. Pray to God for strength and wisdom and I’m positive that He will show you the importance of boundaries. Find God’s plan.
- Find God’s plan.
Happy people are deep-down truly happy for other people. Someone who continuously tries to tear you down, keeps you below them, or incessantly tries to sabotage your happiness is the definition of a toxic person. Misery loves company after all, and if they can’t be happy nobody can. I’ve experienced that these types of people like to be in control. That sense of control often leads them to expressing to you what you should be doing to make yourself happy, and generally it’s in line with what will keep them happy. There always seems to be some negative spin on their reaction to anything good that is happening in your life. If this is a continual pattern in your life, please know that it’s okay to put distance between you and these people. I am not saying ghost them. Be fair and honest and explain yourself. It’s possible that communication is needed, and you can grow into a healthy relationship. But never let someone else’s view of what should make you happy, become your view. I believe that Jesus has a plan for your life, and that may make some people angry when they see His plan unfolding in your life. Jealousy is ugly, and we all experience it at one time or another. But the one’s who truly love you will support you. Sometimes that support comes in the form of a cold hard truth bomb that isn’t exactly what you want to hear, but ultimately it’s from a place of love. They want to see you succeed at the end of the day. There is a difference. Following someone else’s plan for your life is different than following the life God has planned for you. You can’t achieve all that He has for you if you’re living the way of someone else. It’s okay to say no. Find God, pursue Him. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or says. It’s not their life to live, it’s yours.
- Prioritize Your Emotional Health.
Personally, I have found that cutting toxic relationships from my life is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Saying no to people is not something within my comfort zone. I have a huge people pleasing side, especially when it comes to people who are not good for me. Like I said earlier: I want to help them, and I want to show them Jesus. I want to show them a better way. I tend to have a soft spot for people who are “broken” and I find that I continuously want to fix their messes. It’s hard for me to throw in the proverbial towel on someone, especially when I feel a deep connection to them. But I’ve also learned that allowing someone to take advantage of my empathy and compassion is not helping them, but it is harming me. Ultimately it is not my job to “save” them, especially when it’s effecting my emotional health. The realization that it is okay to let-go of someone who continuously exploits you doesn’t mean that you don’t care, it just means that you may have to disconnect yourself from going down a path that likely isn’t meant for you anyways. This disconnection may become an ah-ha moment for that person, or it may not matter to them at all. Either way there is only so much you can do to help someone who doesn’t see their damaging ways. “Let go and let God” has become my personal mantra these days. I’ve learned to remove myself from toxic people physically, but find my self continuously praying for them to find Jesus. I pray that they can find the true source of our contentment, and in turn find healing. The only person who can save is Jesus, the rest is out of your control. It’s okay to prioritize your emotional health by stepping back. The bible even tells us in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts, for everything we do flows from it.
Long story short: you’re not always going to play a permanent role in the life of every person you love. You aren’t in control of the choices of others, and sometimes people don’t see the damage they cause. I believe there is a lesson or a blessing in every relationship you experience. But I pray that you never feel the need to stay in a relationship that is long past It’s expiration date.