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19 June 2014
I like Pinterest. I like all the colorful pictures and home decoration ideas and recipes. But, because I am a writer most likely, I find myself drawn to the “quotes” category more than the others. I scroll through, rolling my eyes at the slurpy love quotes, being annoyed by the coarse jokes and stopping in wonder at some of the gems of thought I find after a thorough search. But then, there are those other quotes, those statements taken out of context, those half-truths that do so much damage to susceptible minds. I’m often tempted to add them to my quotes collection but don’t because there are either fatal flaws in the ideas or the ideas only represent a grain of truth or the ideas are flat-out wrong to begin with no matter how well-written. It wouldn’t be a good thing to take them to heart because, to quote Richard Weaver, ideas do have consequences.
Consider the topic of toxic people. I’ve noticed a lot of “wise” words about “toxic people” lately, and they tend to bother me. For instance, “Don’t let negative and toxic people rent space in your head. Raise the rent and kick them out.” (Robert Tew) At first, it sounds like a reasonable motto. But what exactly are toxic people? Well, judging from all the wise words I’ve heard on the subject, toxic people are the kind of people that make you feel bad about yourself, those who love you too much, stifle your creativity, impose their standards on you, are negative and so on and so forth. Here’s a helpful diagnostic from Daniell Koepke, “Not all toxic people are cruel and uncaring. Some of them love us dearly. Many of them have good intentions. Most are toxic to our being simply because their needs and way of existing in the world force us to compromise ourselves and our happiness. They aren’t inherently bad people, but they aren’t the right people for us. And as hard as it is, we have to let them go. Life is hard enough without being around people who bring you down, and as much as you care, you can’t destroy yourself for the sake of someone else. You have to make your wellbeing a priority. Whether that means breaking up with someone you care about, loving a family member from a distance, letting go of a friend, or removing yourself from a situation that feels painful — you have every right to leave and create a safer space for yourself.” There you have it. The definition of a toxic person…and subjectivity overload. I guess everybody just has to figure out who is toxic to them and eliminate accordingly.
Besides the fact that I object to referring to human beings as toxic which sort of puts them on the same level as the chlorine in our water and the fluoride in our toothpaste and just that disposable, here are my main concerns with the “freedom from toxic people” attitude.
So the next time you see some words like these, “Toxic people will pollute everything around them. Don’t hesitate. Fumigate, (Mandy Hale)” do yourself a favor and toss them in the garbage heap where they belong. (Not Mandy Hale, by the way. Just the words.) In closing, I’d like to share a few words that a Facebook friend, Julie Beeman, said about this subject, “For one thing it [toxic people mentality] presumes that each person’s highest aim is perpetual personal happiness, and that the people around them serve toward that end….a completely unworkable social construct. And it ignores the ‘kingdom’ characteristics of mercy, longsuffering, and forgiveness.” I couldn’t have said it better.