Day Ten: Setting Boundaries Within Toxic Relationships, Part Two

*  Please note this is a series – should you desire to read from the beginning, click on “Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Makeover” under the header above and read away!

Nothing like starting our week on the very light topic of “Toxic Relationships” so let’s just dig right in and start where we left off on Friday, shall we?

You know who they are.

They make you feel tired after five minutes of conversation.  They’re, as my grandmother says, “CC’ers” (Constant Complainers)  and try to manipulate you to do the same.  Passive aggression reigns and bitterness and unforgiveness are the byproducts of their own immobilizing fear.  Because they are paralyzed by this rooting fear that controls their every move, they are wounded souls at an emergency-level.

And hurting people hurt people.

Yes, I realize how heartbreaking this is.  I have immense compassion for those who fit into this category because they are broken-hearted, insecure, and so knee-deep in their own self that they can’t even entertain the possibility of seeing the world beyond their own sphere of influence.  I’ve been there.

On Friday, we discussed how Jesus set boundaries and it’s not only a healthy choice for us as well but a “holy” choice.

If we continually allow someone to trample our hearts by refusing to forgive even the mildest of missteps or walk on eggshells because we never know when the next bomb will drop  (I like to call these “land-mine” attacks because they’re sporadic and you never know when they’ll hit) then our own stinkin’ thinkin’ will kick into overdrive because we’ll be more exhausted than if we ran two marathons in one day.

Nothing sucks the energy out of you more than a toxic person. Nothing.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. – Proverbs 4:23

Do you see those words?  ABOVE ALL ELSE.

How about “for it is the wellspring of life?”

So can we conclude that if we don’t set healthy boundaries and guard our hearts above all else, the wellspring of our lives will be trampled?

Webster defines the word “wellspring”as “a source of continual supply”.  Answers.com adds that is can also be “the head or source of a spring, stream, river, etc.; fountainhead.”

Our hearts are a continual supply of the pouring-out of our soul.  It’s the fountain of what is within.

If that wellspring is damaged, what pours out isn’t going to be as abundant or as good as it was before.

So how do we guard our hearts in a toxic relationship?
If something has happened with someone else and you need to discuss it, follow Matthew 18 and go to the person first.  If they don’t respond, go to the person with one or two other believers (preferably those in church leadership) and if that doesn’t work?  Boundary time, sister. (or brother – ahem. Mark.)
1.  If it is a friendship relationship, a more casual relationship may need to be enforced.  Saying “hello” in passing or even talking at the surface level may be the wisest choice.
2.  If you begin to face disrespect of your boundaries (harrassment via phone, email, text, or online) then it’s wise to simply block all communication with this person. This must be examined at the heart level – if you are trying to simply give the “silent treatment” because you are angry, this is not OK.  If you are cutting off communication for your own health and well-being, it’s more than OK.
3.  If it’s a family member that you need to place a boundary around, try to steer the discussions away from negativity or whatever else might trample your heart.
4.  If that doesn’t work, you may need to be a little more firm and share, in a loving way of course, that you no longer want to be a part of discussions such as these.
5.  DO NOT fight back.  I’m just telling you right now – it won’t be pretty. It will likely escalate and you will finally give the person the ammunition they have been trying to obtain in the first place.   The person you are dealing with is likely emotionally unhealthy and might twist your words to make you look like the “bad guy” and themselves as the “victim”. Remember that their sin doesn’t give you the freedom to sin.  Though you might want to kick and scream and spew venom right back, self-control is a must when dealing with toxic people.  Trust me, I know how difficult this one is, friends, but learn from my mistakes.
6.  After time, you will begin to feel peace.  Enjoy it and feel good that you choose to guard your heart and have healthy and holy relationships.
Disclaimer: If you choose to establish some of these boundaries, your toxic friend may call you unflattering names. You may be made-out to be the “bad guy.”  And you may be talked about because toxic people love to enlist others in their army.  Don’t take the bait – this is between God and the person.  Let Him do His work and don’t get involved.
Instead, read Psalm 62.  Remember that your honor comes from Him.  And relish in the peace that will come from weeding out the unhealthy relationships in your life because I’m here to tell you, it will come.
And it’s beautiful and you’ll walk wiser and deeper and, as twisted as this sounds, you will be thankful for the toxicity that actually made you more able to enter into healthier relationships.   Seriously. You will.
What about you?  Have you ever had to set healthy boundaries in relationships?  How did you feel once you established them? 
PS – I have no idea why suddenly there are no spaces in the bottom half of this post.  Sorry for the scrunched text – I can’t seem to get it to cooperate!

10 Comments

  1. Oh, Natalie. This post helps so profoundly in a toxic family relationship. So difficult, but seeing how to break it down and deal with it is a true blessing. Thank you!

    Reply
    • You are welcome – it’s tough stuff but so worth it. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jen!

      Reply
  2. A.MEN! SISTER!!! Amen! Thank you for your words of truth spoken in Love.

    Reply
  3. I have learned how to set these boundaries and also to say NO firmly but friendly or those would like to take advantage for their benefit. What a wonderful feeling to have people who are true friends in my life! It is uplifting! Well written Natalie!

    Reply
    • Look at you, cute Jen O’Connor, a blast from my past!

      Amen – love the “saying NO firmly but friendly”! YES!

      Thanks for reading and commenting – so good to see you here!

      Reply
  4. Great post Natalie, thanks for writing. It’s almost odd how much this applies to my current and unusual life circumstance. I so needed that Proverb today!

    Reply
    • I know, girl. I know.

      Can’t wait to spend more time with you next week!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Reply
  5. this post has blessed me SO much! I had been praying for MONTHS about a toxic friendship that I was in! My toxic friend is a Christian, so it was difficult for me to believe she was doing what she was doing (which are the very same things listed above: complaining, chronic passive agressiveness). What makes it worst is that she would try to use the Bible to convince me that what I felt about her was MY own bitterness and misperception of her. She made me feel like choosing to stand up for MYself and setting a boundary was me giving up on our friendship. I kept communication down to a minimum over the past year and prayed DAILY! I finally made a decision to redefine our friendship so that we can still communicate, however, we wouldnt be AS close as we were before. I felt SO guilty about doing this. Mainly because I was so caught up in thinking that if I didnt accept our friendship as it was, I didnt forgive her. I felt horrible! Unkind and UnChristian. But, I continued to PRAY! and God revealed Proverbs 4:23 to me. and I had to pray some more! and God revealed the worlds “healthy boundaries” to me. And I thought, “thats it!” I dont mean to cut her out, I just need to maintain a HEALTHY BOUNDARY! that doesnt mean I dont love her or dont forgive her. Its just time to redefine our relationship. So, I googled Proverb 4:23 and “healthy boundary” and it brought me here!!!! This confirmed everything I had been going through and feeling and I finally feel like I move on without the weight of guilt! Thank you SO MUCH for this!

    Reply
    • J, so thankful God led you here. You are wise in creating space if the relationship is unhealthy.

      I’m currently writing a book on this exact topic so stay tuned!

      Thanks for reading and commenting. You have blessed me.

      Reply

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