Let Go of the Toxic People in Your Life

Do you have someone in your life who makes destructive choices and refuses to change? Do their actions or words create a toxic emotional environment for you? Do you feel pressure to remain in a relationship because they are a family member?

Sometimes you’re the one putting forth all the effort and the other person remains the same. No matter how hard you try, nothing changes. You can become resentful if you’re the one who mainly takes responsibility and does all the caring.

There is a time to work things out with people and there is a time to let go. When you continue to take the majority of the responsibility, you end up enabling them to stay stuck and even hinder their growth.

You can interrupt the law of sowing and reaping by not allowing them to experience the consequences of their choices.  The classic book, “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud has some good insight on this principle. By the way, “Boundaries” is full of insight in relationships and I highly recommend it.

In healthy relationships, mutual caring and giving is the norm. When that isn’t happening, the relationship needs to be re-evaluated. Sometimes, you need to put some distance either physically or emotionally between you and that person. This is especially true if there is abuse. You may still be able stay connected but simply not trust them in the areas they’ve broken your trust.

At other times you need to pull away and take care of yourself. You may need to separate from the person for a season while you heal and later resume the relationship with healthier boundaries. In some situations, the relationship is too toxic for you and needs to be cut off.

This may be difficult for you and perhaps some other family members will protest or try to get you to change your mind but you need to consider your own health. You are not going to be any good to them or others in your life if the person’s poor choices and the way they treat you is destructive to you.

Think of it this way, if you lived in a house with black mold, it would make you sick and you can even die from it. Would you stay in an environment or go into an environment which is toxic for your health? The same principle applies to emotional toxicity.

You can’t change another person. You can only change yourself and sometimes the best choice you can make is to withdraw. This is not always easy and you may go through a grieving process while you accept things the way they are instead of the way you want them to be.

You may also have to work through some anger as well. Forgiveness may be a process for you and that is okay and normal. Sometimes you have to forgive over and over. Make a commitment to go on that journey because forgiveness is important for your own health. Also you can forgive without resuming the relationship.

Even if the separation is painful, be assured that what is best for you is also best for the other person. You’re allowing them the opportunity to make their own choices with the consequences. They will either choose to grow and change or they’ll stay the same. You give them the dignity of living with their choices. They will experience the results of not listening to advice and rebuke and will eat the fruit of having their own way as Proverbs 1 tells us below.

As for yourself, look for opportunities to grow through the experience. Be careful not to stay stuck in anger and resentment because then you create an internal toxic environment you carry with you. Work through your anger. Learn to forgive and look for the lessons learned.

Because they hated knowledge and
did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices. Proverbs 1:29-31

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  • Zina Hermez

    Sharon, this is so helpful. I’ve been in this situation. It takes a lot to realize we cannot change others, and letting go is great advice. I agree with you, practicing forgiveness is crucial. Thank you for this post. You are exactly right.

  • Deb

    Sharon:
    Thank you for these words of wisdom. It is so hard to let go of how things “should” be as opposed to how they are. I am struggling through a difficult time in my marriage, and my sister-in-law shared you blog with me. I am a woman of deep faith, but I seem to have a hard time just letting things fall apart and trusting in the Lord.