Toxic Sludge and healthy boundaries: Is there a need?

I’ve been pondering extending boundaries in my life.  Drawing the line.  Separating myself from those I find toxic.  This is an incredibly hard thing for me because I can be a people pleaser.


I used to be believe those in my life, had a “right” to be on the “inside” of my life.  Through recent years, I have learned that not to be true.  No one has the “right” to your life.  


Throughout the past few years I learned a lot about toxic relationships.  I never realized how many of my relationships were toxic until the floor fell from beneath my feet.  I was totally unaware of the shallowness of the relationships I found myself in and in the end, shocked by it.


I spent time examining the people and relationships around me.  I have slowly distanced myself with many and am beginning to place more healthy boundaries around myself  to keep out those who cause harm.


Now let me say a difference exists between toxic relationships and those simply challenging us.  I’m not speaking of those challenging relationships in this post.  Totally different topic.


So what might a toxic relationship look like? This is my list.  What I’ve put together over the course of the last few years in an attempt to “weed out” those healthy for my family.


  1. Always giving advice:  The need to fix everything and everyone.  The one who is critical and sees everything and everyone as broken. The one who can do it better and has all the answers.  Now advice giving is not wrong.  Everyone needs advice at times but there are those who talk and talk but never listen.  They are quick to speak and ready to pounce the minute you finish your sentence. So if someone never waits to be asked but is ready to give, and lacks any sort of humility or respect in their approach, they might be toxic.
  2. Over the top:  From the instant they first appear on the scene, everything is wonderful.  You are wonderful.  You are the only person who “gets it” in their life.  Everything you say is “spot on.”  BIG FAT RED FLAGS in my book.  They are trying way too hard.  My question becomes why?  I know I am not that great and everything I say is NOT spot on so why the big production.  Tread carefully.
  3. Center of attention:  This one is not typically hard to recognize.  It can more than just being the one to talk the most or loudest in a group.  It can also include the person who instantly cites their resume to you on first meeting.  For me I’ve found when serving with someone, if our first meeting includes a list of their qualifications, I’m running.  There needs to be humility.  Allow others to discover your “good works.”  Nowadays social media has also become a great tool for spotting this type as well.
  4. No room for grace:  This one is huge for me.  They are quick to point out the failures in others yet can somehow magically miss the huge plank in their own eye.  They shun or judge others they do not truly know.  They cause disunity among community and family.
  5. Those who “fake it”:  I have become acutely aware of those who will smile and hug me like they love me and the second I leave the room, talk about me.  I can spot a fake smile and hug and when I come across them,  boundaries are placed. I also look out for those who say one thing about their life to me but when in the presence of people they feel are important, talk a totally different game.  And I never forget the old saying, “those who gossip to you, gossip about you.”
  6. Manipulators:  A no brainer but sadly I missed it for years.  It is those who spend their time attempting to change the perception or behaviour in others by using deception or underhanded ways.   Among the various methods used,  I have fallen for the lying or guilting me into doing what they want me to do method.

Now for me, these on their own do not signal a toxic person.  However mix several together and you are probably on target.  I have learned to set my boundaries and observe from a distance.  It usually does not take long for true character to reveal itself.  In the end, you may see things in a different light.  Until then, guard your heart and mind while keeping your eyes wide open.


Any place where you find jealousy and selfish ambition, you will discover chaos and evil thriving under its rule. Heavenly wisdom centers on purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy and other good fruits untainted by hypocrisy. The seed that flowers into righteousness will always be planted in peace by those who embrace peace.

James 3:16-18

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