Guard Your Heart from Toxic People
Have you ever been hurt by a toxic person?
Maybe you’ve tried helping someone who only ended up hurting you in the end.
As Christians, we can get caught up in trying to change people because we see the good in them that perhaps they can’t see in themselves. We make the mistake of assuming that everyone wants to grow personally and spiritually. So we give of ourselves…we give until it hurts. And toxic people will be more than happy to TAKE from you.
That’s why it’s important to protect yourself. Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” And many think this means that you put up an impenetrable wall to keep yourself from getting hurt.
But to guard your heart isn’t so much related to the external as it is the internal. It isn’t about closing yourself off from every toxic person on the planet (which is not possible, btw).
It also doesn’t mean closing yourself off to negative emotions.
To guard your heart means that you do not allow bitterness, resentment, and negativity to stew inside of you.
Once you’ve made that commitment, it’s time to move forward in the steps to guard your heart from toxic people.
Step 1: Identify
Ignorance is not bliss and hope is not a strategy.ly If you walk blind into a toxic relationship, you are for sure going to walk out with some serious battle scars.
It’s important to know two key elements to be able to protect yourself from toxic people:
- Your needs. If you don’t know or won’t truly be honest about the need you are trying to have filled in this toxic dynamic, you will continue to repeat the same cycle. Dig deep here. It usually has something to do with a deep internal desire that you don’t want to admit. I want to be her hero. I want him to say, “She never gave up on me.” I want to be admired for my xxxx (fill in blank).
As much as we would like it to appear that we are selfless, when we keep persisting with toxic people, it’s usually because of a selfish need that we have that we’re now upset that they can’t meet and make us look the way we desire to look. Hard to hear, I know, but once you identify your need you can go to God and healthy people instead of this toxic person to meet it.
- Your old wounds. Do you wonder why you’re always getting hurt by toxic people? It could be your old wounds rearing their ugly head. I’m not saying it’s your fault, but there could be a wound in you that you are looking to them to heal whether you realize it or not. Dad could have been an alcoholic who abandoned you, and now you find yourself in a toxic relationship begging for love. Once you identify your old wounds, Jesus is faithful to bring healing.
Step 2: Manage
In Galatians 5, the Bible refers one of the nine fruits of the Spirit: self-discipline. Your interactions with toxic people don’t need to be left up to chance. To effectively guard your heart, there are three key areas that you will want to manage to stay bitter-free.
- Your expectations. Ask yourself “What am I truly looking for from this person?” If you’re honest, you’ll likely find that it’s a hope they can’t (or won’t) fulfill. If you keep going to the orange tree expecting apples, you’re going to be frustrated every time.
- Your interactions. Despite popular Christian belief, you don’t have to give whatever anyone is asking of you. God says He loves a cheerful giver, not a constant giver. If you need to limit your interactions with this person, then set your limit and stick to it.
- Your emotions. Toxic people have a way of bringing out the worst in us. But the key here is to own your own emotions. They aren’t bringing out something that isn’t already in you. Recognize the emotion, then apply self-discipline to not let it get out of control. Seek help from a counselor if needed.
Step 3: Establish
Despite what the toxic person will cause you to believe, you do not exist to please them. God has given you a purpose in life and Satan would love nothing more than to use the toxic people in your life to keep you from moving forward in all that God has for you.
When guarding your heart there are two important areas that you need to establish.
- Your boundaries. Boundaries tell where one person ends and another begins. If you feel enmeshed with this toxic person, it’s time to set boundaries. Check out this blog on How to Set Boundaries with Toxic People.
- Your support system. Keeping your heart free from the bitterness of toxic people can be exhausting and sometimes the pain penetrates even when you don’t want it to. It’s important to have intimate prayer time with the Lord to release your pain and receive healing. It’s also helpful to find a good support system through friends, prayer partners, or support groups that you can lean on when the burden gets too heavy. (Hint….your support is not found in the toxic person!)
Guarding your heart doesn’t mean that you have to cut people out of your life, but it also doesn’t mean that just because you give that you’ll get the same in return.
You could put a ring on a rhino, but it doesn’t mean it will be committed to you.
Identify what’s inside of you, manage your expectations, and lean on Jesus and you can guard your heart in a healthy and godly manner.
Toxic People Survival Guide