Some animals excrete poison. And some people pour toxins on those around them.
Yet many toxic people think they have a right to attack and poison others with their words and attitudes. But that is far from the truth.
An infected sore is very tender. When bumped or touched it can ooze puss and goo. That’s how it is for some toxic people. They are sore on the inside and unhealed. When others come near them, or when they are under pressure, ugly stuff comes out.
When a sore is healed there is no goo to squeeze out. The infection is gone and so is the icky stuff.
But an untreated sore can remain inflamed and infected over the long term.
Some people are like a gun with a hair trigger. Instead of needing real pressure to pull the trigger they fire off at the slightest bump.
We might use the word “touchy” or “hypersensitive” to describe this kind of toxic person. They are a danger to be around. People have to walk on egg-shells (so to speak) not to set them off and become the target of their next outburst, accusation, irritation, frustration or the like.
One toxin sprayed by toxic people is disapproval. Those around them are often the target of annoyance, frustration, irritation and other expressions of disapproval.
And toxic people are very hard to please, so if you try to help them or meet their needs you are likely to come under their disapproval.
I jokingly describe these people as having the “Ministry of Disapproval”. It is as if they are gifted in finding fault and are able to share the sense of disapproval with all around them.
Toxic people can be very good at accusing others. Instead of recognising that they are toxic, they blame others for annoying them, putting them under pressure or bringing the irritation to the surface.
Thus they are grand accusers, ready to condemn, rebuke, find fault and so on. They cause pain and hurt to those around them because they blame and accuse people for things the people are not really guilty of.
Such accusations as, “You upset me”, sound as if the accused has done the wrong thing. However a toxic person takes offence and gets upset with people who have done no wrong except to inadvertently upset their selfish expectations or inner frustrations.
An Internal Problem
While toxic people think they are simply reacting to the actions and attitudes of others, this is not true. The toxins are coming from within them. And this shows that they are infected.
They might react to what someone else has done, but that does not mean the other person has done anything wrong at all. Being able to accuse someone else does not make accused guilty. The idea of a trial by jury is to ascertain whether there is any merit in the charges made against someone. Simply charging someone is not enough.
The real issue is the inability of the toxic person to show grace, control their attitudes, forgive, humble themself and become healed of whatever is itching on the inside of them.
It is an INTERNAL problem, not a response to external stimuli.
Much Troubled About Many Things
A classic event of history that exposes what I am sharing here is Martha’s accusation of her sister, Mary.
Two thousand years ago Martha, Mary and Lazarus became good friends of Jesus Christ. Jesus visited them, dined with them, used their home as a base and was concerned for their wellbeing.
On one occasion Jesus visited and as He taught a group of people Mary sat at His feet listening to what He said. Meanwhile Martha was busy serving. Burdened by her sense of duty Martha finally burst in on Jesus and demanded that Jesus instruct Mary to help her.
“But Martha was distracted with much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, do you not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.” Luke 10:40
Martha was upset with Mary and had toxic thoughts about her sister. We are not told the details but it seems that Martha resented Mary for not helping. Maybe Martha thought Mary was less than responsible and did not seem to care about meeting the needs of the visitors.
Jesus’ response to Martha is very interesting. He did not agree with her. Instead, Jesus challenged Martha that she was much troubled about many things.
“And Jesus answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen something good, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41,42
Get the Picture
Martha entered a room and expressed her upset feelings toward her sister. In just one sentence Martha managed to accuse both Mary and Jesus. “Do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”
From Martha’s perspective Mary had abandoned her, and Jesus didn’t care. So here is the loaded gun firing at two people in one shot. Here is the “Ministry of disapproval” striking out at both family and friend. Here is a toxic person attacking what others are doing because it doesn’t suit her.
If you were on Martha’s side you could sympathise with her. There is some justification for her claims. Mary did nothing to help. Jesus did nothing to prompt Mary to help.
And this is a major problem for toxic people. They can “justify” their attitudes and actions. They can point an angry finger and make ready claim that someone else is to blame, NOT THEM!
But the justification is based on Martha’s own internal view of things. Martha stopped seeing clearly and evaluated everything based on her own perspective. Martha saw some need to serve. Martha saw that her burden was not being shared by Mary. This may have been a pattern that occurred before. Martha became increasingly upset with her sister. Then Martha turned her feelings of anger and frustration toward Jesus.
With that in place Martha disturbed what others were doing, interrupting the session where Jesus was teaching. She blurted out her double-edged accusation, against Mary and against Jesus. And Martha felt completely justified for her selfish and toxic attitudes.
The Bigger Picture
Jesus did not rebuke Martha for what she did, even though she was insensitive, demanding, accusatory and toxic. But Jesus revealed the bigger picture.
First Jesus revealed the inner burden behind Martha’s intrusion and selfish outburst. “You are anxious and troubled”. Jesus pointed out to Martha that the problem was not what Mary did nor was it what Jesus did, but the problem came from inside Martha.
The real problem was on the inside of Martha, not in the room where Jesus taught, nor in the kitchen where Martha worked. It was an internal problem. Toxic people have failed to deal with things going on INSIDE them. The issues are not what others are doing, but how the toxic person chooses to respond.
A Matter of Choice
Once Jesus pointed out to Martha that the real problem was what was going on inside her, making her anxious and troubled, He addressed the matter of choice. Martha was where she was because of the choices of her will.
Jesus told Martha “Mary has chosen something good”. Mary made a choice, Martha! And Martha, SO DID YOU! And Mary’s choice is a good one. Martha, doesn’t that challenge you about the choices YOU have made?
Mary chose to respect the fact that a remarkable and rare opportunity presented itself. Jesus, the Master, was teaching. Nothing could be more important than to listen to Him and absorb what He said.
Martha chose to be slave to her sense of responsibility. She may have found comfort and meaning in her sense of duty and in serving people well. But that led her to make a choice that was not as good as Mary’s choice. Mary was free to respond to the moment. Martha was enslaved to anxieties and troubling thoughts on the inside that kept her from that precious moment.
Toxic people are often enslaved to their ideas about what should be done and how it should be done and when it should be done. They tend to be enslaved and to resent others who are free of those anxious and troubling internal motivations.
Note too that Jesus said “No” to Martha’s demands.
It is a dangerous thing to give in to demanding people, because that may lead them to think they are right and that their selfish and toxic attacks on others are justified and not out of place.
Jesus told Martha He would not take from Mary the blessing she had chosen. Jesus was going to keep on teaching and Mary was going to keep on sitting in the crowd of listeners. Martha’s demands would be unmet.
Jesus did not make any demands of Martha. He did not tell her to stop serving or to sit at His feet. Martha had to make her own choice about those things. But Jesus did reveal her true condition, and He did show that it is a matter of choice, and He did refuse to give in to her demands.
And here is a final word for those toxic people. Your real issues are not all those people who upset you and annoy you by what they say or do. Your real issues are internal, the unresolved attitudes, thoughts, fears, pressures and so on that are on the inside of you.
Jesus pointed this out by saying it is what comes out of you that defiles you.
“And he said, What comes out of the man, that defiles the man.” Mark 7:20
When the toxic person expresses their upset, anger, frustration, accusation, contempt, intolerance, demands, resentments, and so on, that reveals what is defiling them. Their mouth reveals what is going on in their heart.
“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34
That verbal attack fired out by the toxic person exposes that on the inside of them they are anxious and troubled. The person upsetting them may or may not have done something wrong. But the real problem is not that person, but the heart response pouring out like puss from the toxic responder.
God Heals the Toxic Heart
God heals the broken heart and He restores our soul. He teaches us to forgive those who have offended us and to give to others the same grace God gives to us.
If we don’t do that we end up with a root of bitterness that not only defiles us, but causes us to be toxic to those around us.
We have no excuse for being toxic, even though most of us at some time or other will express some form of frustration, intolerance, anger or the like toward others.
We are to bring our problems to God’s throne and become healed, so there is no more puss to come out and no internal pressure causing hair-trigger reactions from within us.
So listen to what comes out of your mouth. If you are a frequent accuser, or if you often express disapproval or frustration, or if you regularly demand that others fit in with your plans, to meet the internal choices you have made, then you are a toxic person. You need help from the only one who can truly set you free.
Cast your cares onto God, because He cares for you. Let Him heal your damaged heart and restore your soul. Learn to apply His grace to others, in forgiveness. And break the power of those things that enslave you on the inside and make you want to enslave others to your demands.