How to Pray for the Toxic People in Your Life
By Gina Smith, Crosswalk.com
There are many phrases used in our culture that we may not completely understand or that might be used as a broad brush label for people who either have certain character traits or behave in a particular way. We need to be very careful with how we use these phrases so that they aren't overused and we don't mislabel someone.
One of these phrases refers to someone as being a toxic person.
What Are the Qualities of a Toxic Person?
I researched the behaviors that might be found in the daily life of a person who would be considered to be toxic, and although this is not exhaustive, I have compiled a short list to read and keep in mind:
-The person might have a victim mentality and feel as though they are always the one being treated poorly or that they are the one who is always being wronged.
-They might thrive on gossip and slander, talking negatively about others and often spreading lies and ruining the reputation of others.
-They might be a person who does not know how to treat others in a loving fashion and might even be abusive in some way – emotionally or physically.
-There will be a level of control over the people in their lives, and you might feel like you cannot make your own decisions, think the way you want to think, or do what you want to do.
-They are very manipulative people and will do what it takes to get you to do what they want you to do.
-They will be critical and negative of others, unable to see anything positive in others or circumstances.
-They like to get their way and will often belittle those around them in order to get what they want.
-They might relate with a lot of sarcasm and are not sensitive or caring about the feelings of others. If you bring it to their attention, they will make you feel like you are too sensitive.
-They might have an addictive personality, using a substance or bad habit to fill an unmet need. They might try to pull you into their addictions to make themselves feel better about what they are doing.
When you are around a person with all or some of these traits, you will probably walk away feeling stressed, anxious, and generally negative. There are many reasons why a person might have these personality traits or behaviors, and those reasons are probably too many for us to delve into in this article. Still, I would venture to say that they are people who are dealing with their own hurts, past traumas, or stresses and have not been able to process them correctly. They probably don't even realize how they are behaving toward others, as they might even be in survival mode!
How to Pray for the Toxic Person:
The first (and best) thing we can do for people exhibiting toxic behavior is to pray for them.
God is in the business of opening people's eyes and changing them. Only God can turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. Pray that He will make them aware of their sinful behavior and change them.
"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36)
Pray that God will show them what is behind their behavior. There must be a reason why they act the way that they do. Ask God to expose the motives, trauma, or hurt that might be causing them to act in a way that could be labeled toxic. Ask Him to let them see what is going on in their hearts.
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? "I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds." (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
"Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart…" (Matthew 15)
Pray that they would be open to loving confrontation from you or another godly believer. If he is not ready, it will be unprofitable.
"Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning." (Proverbs 9)
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother." (Matthew 18)
"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6)
You Must Relate to the Toxic Person in a Biblical Manner:
After confronting them and bringing to their attention how they behave, be prepared to bring other godly believers with you if the person will not listen to you.
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matthew 18)
Although you might need to walk away from a relationship with a person with toxic qualities, as a believer, that should be the last resort. But you do need to be careful to relate to the toxic person biblically. There is room for protecting yourself and following biblical principles in how much time you spend with them and whether or not you make them your "companion."
"Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." (1 Corinthians 15)
"Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." (Proverbs 13)
"Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare." (Proverbs 22)
You must prayerfully and carefully consider how to handle all relationships, use the Word of God as your guide, and keep in mind that we are all sinful human beings. We are not going to be perfect. Toxic behavior is a heart problem, and we all are capable of exhibiting these behaviors if we are not in fellowship with God.
None of us have grown up in perfect homes, experienced perfect relationships, or are immune from situations that can hurt us or cause emotional trauma. We need to remember to treat the "toxic people" in our lives in the way we would want to be treated if we were behaving in this way because of something we have gone through in our past.
We need each other, and God uses us in each other's lives to help us see our areas of need. That is how the body of Christ is meant to function.