In a recent “ask anything” segment with my teenagers, I was asked “how do I removed myself from toxic relationships without being the bad guy?”

This excellent question assumes that we know a toxic relationship when we see one.  Unfortunately, that’s not always true.

We discovered principles from six verses in Proverbs 20 that gave us clues on the types of people to avoid:

The Manipulator

Unequal weights and unequal measures

are both alike an abomination to the Lord.

Proverbs 20:10

The manipulator inflates and twists words, situations, and emotions to their own advantage.  Blowing some things out of proportion while minimizing other serious issues, the manipulator applies unequal weights and measure to get what the want out of people.

The Addict

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,

and whoever is led astray by it is not wise

Proverbs 20:1

To an addict, people stop becoming people and start becoming means to an end. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, pornography, or social media addiction, an addict will dehumanize those around them and begin to see them as commodities.

The Deceiver

Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, 

but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel.

 Proverbs 20:17

People that lie over little things lie over big things.  If your friends lie to their parents, loved ones, or authorities for the sake of convenience, you can be sure that they will lie when more important issues are on the line.  Connect to these individuals at your own peril.

The Gossip

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets;

therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.

Proverbs 20:19

If someone gossips about other people to you, they are gossiping about you to other people.  Keep these people as friends only if you enjoy being torn down behind your back.

The Arguer

It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife,

but every fool will be quarreling.

Proverbs 20:3

For some people, arguing is a hobby.  They are more interested in being right than protecting relationship.  If you are close friends with an arguer, prepare to be exhausted on a continual basis.

The Slug

The sluggard does not plow in the autumn;

he will seek at harvest and have nothing.

Proverbs 20:4

The real problem with slugs is that in human relationships they often morph into leaches.  Beware of people who have no work ethic, they will happily drain your resources while feeling no responsibility to contribute themselves.

These six types of people form a toxic brew of relationship that’s easy to remember when you see them all together:

Manipulator

Addict

Deceiver

Gossip

Arguer

Slug

As a parent of two boys, I can tell you that there’s nothing more toxic than MAD GAS!  Don’t be these things, and avoid close associations with these people!

Once you’ve identified the toxic people in your life, how do you get out of these relationships?  Here are some quick thoughts, especially geared towards your kids:

  • First, you need to identify why the relationship is toxic.  Sometimes is just a matter of being around the same people too much.  Too much of most things become toxic.  For example, too many bananas can kill you.  So can too much salt.
    • If this is the case in your relationship, Diversify and Dilute
      • Diversify: go be a part of different friend groups
      • Dilute: add new friends to your current relationships to dilute the power of any one or two people in that group.  New people in the mix can change the entire dynamic for the better.
    • Sometimes an honest conversation can change the direction of a relationship.  You might have fallen into some of these habits with your friends, and simply acknowledging that can often wake the group to straighten up.
  • But in the end, you have to understand that some relationships (and people) are just poisonous for you. If this is the case, get out.
    • Throw your parents under the bus: Parents, if you can encourage your kids to let you know when they are over their heads relationally, you can relieve them by being the “bad guy” and adding rules or restrictions that will cut those ties. I’m aware that sometimes my children are going to encounter powerfully controlling people, and I’m glad to bare the blame of being the mean dad if it helps remove my child from those relationships.
    • Start doing (good) things they don’t like: One way to remove lying addicts and slugs from your life is to start spending your time doing worthwhile things.  Get involved in service projects, spend more time with your family or church family.  People pursuing darkness don’t like to run in the light.
    • Be the bad guy/girl, cut your losses.  In the end, you can’t always get out of a toxic relationship without being the bad guy/girl.  Because some people are just mean and manipulative.  But the key point is that the relationship is TOXIC.  It’s poisonous.  When it’s all said and done, I’d rather look rude as I remove myself form a poisonous situation than politely stay and kill my self or reputation.

Identifying and avoiding toxic relationships is an advanced life skill.  Knowing when you’re in the midst of MAD GAS is a great first step.

Own these principles, teach your children, and pray for God’s help in applying them to your lives!

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