How to Respond When Toxic People Push Your Buttons

Toxic people can really push your buttons whether they’re twisting scripture for their benefit, playing the victim to make you look bad, or gaslighting every negative emotion that you experience.  Trying to be in a relationship with the seemingly devil-sent individuals requires an extra dose of grace, but what do you do when that doesn’t even seem to be enough? 

So what are you do when your pressure cooker blows and you explode in anger and frustration? Rightfully so, but it leaves you looking like the bad guy. Look, I get it, I wish I could say that I have never been triggered by self-centered entitled egotistical people, but that would be a lie. The truth is they have gotten the better of me on more occasions than I care. 

Count the one day during my devotional time. I came across Proverbs 14:29 and it changed my life. Here’s what it reads. “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”

In other words, those who react are fools. What a blow! Here I am looking at these arrogant, self-righteous, manipulative people that they are what I was just as bad as I was responding as a fool, not as a child of God. My friend, it snapped me right into place faster than a toddler with a Lego set. And from that day forward, I was determined to learn how to respond in a healthy and Godly manner that exposed their foolishness but kept my integrity. And that’s what I’d like to share with you today. 

So, the first thing that I want you to do, as we begin to journey in how to respond and not react is to first recognize many of our reactions happen on a subconscious level whether they’re from past trauma or trained patterns. 

Many of our reactions today are, as a result of what I call a default system, and your default system could control compulsivity cowering there, any number of responses but the point is, is that your body overrides your mind. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, not all reactions are bad.  Look, if I’m being chased by a criminal, I want to have a split-second reaction. And in that case, it would be run, but in other less threatening cases where we react with the same intensity to say, I don’t know, somebody, accusing, you of something that you didn’t do. This can actually hurt more than it helps.

So how do you recognize what you don’t realize? 

Number 1: Check your reactions. 

Here you’re looking for your outside reactions. They will reveal the temptation that you’ll need to resist. Maybe it’s one to blame others for your reactions. For example, you made me so mad. I don’t know. My friend, you’re mad and that’s okay. The difference between you making me mad and I’m mad is ownership. 

Now if you feel that your reactions are not your responsibility, you are always positioned as the victim, and Galatians, 5:22-23, reminds us that “the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control against such things there is no law.” 

If the reactions coming out of you, lack fruit, you have to first recognize what’s in you. Because remember, whatever is in you is going to come out of you. 

Number 2:  Repent.  

Isn’t it the worst when toxic people sin against you and then you sin in your reaction to them? Now, you look like a fool in the embarrassment and shame get piled on top of the already unresolved issues and as much as you want to shift the blame towards them for causing that chain reaction, the truth is, you must own your sins and shortcomings.

If you want to be right with God, the good news is that Jesus makes this very simple for us.  1 John 1:9 reminds us that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  

My friend, their toxicity, doesn’t cancel out your bad reaction, wipe the slate clean and repent, for whatever you need to repent of. 

Number 3: Rewind. 

If you’ve ever tried to change your behavior at the moment, you know, how difficult it can be. That’s like a dancer trying to learn new moves in the middle of her performance and much like a performer or an athlete will review the videotape and watch themselves to see where they can improve.

We too can benefit from taking a toxic interaction and rewinding the tape, recognizing where you got triggered, working through those feelings that got uncovered, and again, if you can resist the urge to blame the other person. Friend, you can really learn a lot from that interaction and what’s going on inside of you, 

2 Corinthians, 10:5, remind us to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.”  

Rewind and reflect on what triggered the reaction and surrender those frustrations to the Lord also in rewinding, actually begin to recognize even more.  

Number 4:  Renew.  

In order to change your reactions, you must change your thoughts. Romans 12:2 instructs, us “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is his pleasing and perfect will.”  

This is the time that you take the feelings that were revealed and you line them up with God’s truth. If your thoughts and feelings match biblical truth, my friend, they get to stay, but if they don’t, they must be renewed now. Sometimes people will be like, okay that’s not biblically, correct so I’m just going to forget about it and while some thoughts need to just be cast out, others need to be renewed. 

And when you think according to biblical truth, you begin to embrace the hope that you have in Christ. You learn to rely on God as your Source, you trust that God holds your today and tomorrow. And when you put the truth in you, when it’s go time, my friend, the truth will now come out of you not some old toxic default pattern, that leaves you feeling, shame and embarrassment. 

Number 5:  Rehearse.  

Just like a dancer needs to practice her new steps before getting on stage, you too must rehearse your new reactions until they become second nature. No, I don’t mean obsessively ruminate over the situation. I mean, practice speaking God’s truth to yourself, your situation, and to others. And when you meditate on the new thoughts and God’s truth, they now become a part of you. 

So the next time when that launch sequence is activated, you’ll be less likely to react out of your past pain and more likely to respond from God’s truth. Let Psalm 119 15 guides you, it says this, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your way.” 

And if you are struggling with stinking thinking, I want to invite you to take our toxic thoughts quiz. 

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