Toxic family have a way of making you feel like you owe them something. Whether it’s overt demands or covert manipulation, their requests often leave you feeling more obligated than appreciated.
Perhaps you struggle with a brother who always borrows but never pays back, or maybe a sister in law whose go-to tactic is guilt. Or perhaps your own mother brow beats you with comments like, “After all I’ve done for you.”
You feel drained and used. It feels like it’s never enough but you have to keep giving because “they’re family.” You want to say NO, but you struggle because of scriptures such as:
“Honor thy mother and father.”
“Turn the other cheek.”
“It’s better to give than to receive.”
But Matthew 10:34-37 paints a different picture.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
So Jesus does NOT say “family above all else.”
You may be saying, Great Kris but how do I say no, because you have no idea how they make me feel when I do?
So let’s talk today about 6 ways to say no to toxic family members, and to do it biblically.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
You are likely a caring, giving person. I’m guessing saying no doesn’t come natural for you. When learning to say no, pay attention to what is going on inside of you. God is likely trying to reveal an area of your life that needs healing and/or maturity. Allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in you and ask Him for the discernment you need to determine when it’s ok to say yes or no.
Determine what YOU want to do.
God never said we had to always be giving. He did say that when you do, do it cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7). so here’s a good rule of thumb, if you can’t do it cheerfully (without reluctance, coercion, guilt or fear) than the answer should be NO.
Make NO your ‘go to’ response.
It’s likely that you’ve been on autopilot with your yesses. There’s nothing wrong with yes, IF you’re willing and able to uphold it. But the problem is, you likely don’t take the time to asses if it’s something you want to do. Instead, practice NO as your initial response. Then take some time to think about it. If you change your mind and wish to help, it’s always better to switch to a yes than it is to remove it.
State your NO and stick to it.
What good is a boundary line if it’s constantly erased? You don’t owe someone an explanation. “No, I can’t help with the food drive this time” is a suitable no.
But boundary stompers will ask loads of questions like, “Why not?” They do this to seem helpful, but their questions are so they can make suggestions to ‘help’ you figure out a way to get their requests granted.
Respond don’t react.
Responses are for those who master their emotions, reactions are for puppets. When you react, it’s because you are emotionally entangled.
I understand that the people you are dealing with are likely intense, perhaps even bullying. You can still take control of your emotional state. Proverbs 16:32 says, “ Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”
Slow your mind down, think a moment before responding, and you’ll even find that sometimes, there’s no response needed at all. Let them drain their emotional energy, you can keep your peace.
Pull from Jesus.
God did not give you a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and a sound mind. And Phil 4:13 reminds us that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
You don’t have to give in to toxic people, even family. You don’t have to enable their poor behavior or endure their endless barrage of manipulative tactics. Keep your connection with Jesus and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will wash over you.
Satan will often use demands and distractions to keep you from your destiny. And what better way to do that then giving until it hurts and what better person to use than those closest to you?
Are you struggling with toxic people in your life? Grab your FREE Toxic People Survival Guide to help identify and deal with toxic people.