Handling toxic situations can be challenging, and if we don’t approach them differently, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We will be doomed to live like salmon swimming upstream, expending energy and effort, only to make a few inches of progress. The difference is, the salmon don’t invite the bears to disrupt their momentum, to push them back to the starting line, or to pick them and their friends off one by one and eat them for lunch. Every time we allow a toxic person to disrupt our lives and force us to start again, it’s like inviting those bears to lunch.
While toxic people are responsible for their actions, we are also responsible for what we allow in our lives. Although it’s understandable to accept apologies, if we continue to allow toxic people to stay and wait for them to change, it will poison the whole stream and cause innocent people to suffer. We bear some responsibility for the harm it brings to our journey. While the intentions are good, and some people love deeply and want everyone to be happy and thriving, continually living with toxicity while hoping things will change will never bring peace.
Everyone handles personal boundaries differently. Some have no boundaries and take on the burden again and again, some allow those lines to blur depending on the person crossing them, and some fiercely enforce their boundaries and protect their peace. There are even people who invite the bear to lunch, and we’ve all had toxic people slip through our radar. In these moments, it’s often not the toxic person paying the price and being given a chance to grow and learn, it’s innocent people, good people, suffering again and again. We have to see these moments as opportunities to learn and strengthen our boundaries.
Not everyone who is toxic is evil or cold-hearted; many believe they are coming from a place of love. Often, it’s a learned behavior or a response to trauma. We’ve all exhibited toxic behavior at some point in our lives, but the difference is, we learned from our failures and grew from the experience. We must be willing to force the hand of those who are harming themselves and others, even if it means letting them go to create space for growth. Sometimes it’s necessary to break the toxic cycle and prevent them from stealing joy and energy from those around them. As a friend, I won’t blindly support everything you say you want on this journey. I’ll always meet you where you’re at, but I expect the same in return. It’s essential to expect what someone is capable of and not accept anything less. We must love someone enough to challenge them and push them to grow, even if it’s uncomfortable in the moment.
If you want a friend who won’t be honest when you’re hurting yourself, me, or others, I’m not her. But if you want a friend who will fiercely support all of your efforts to become the person you want to be, sign me up.