As a teen, I was part of a tiny Catholic youth group.
In that group, I was called “St. Francis” because I loved Lady Poverty, wore the crummiest shirts, the most horrid brown sandals, and prayed in the chapel the whole day. (Actually, I slept most of the time, but that’s just a secret between you and me.)
One of my friends was called “Brother Leo” because he imitated me, the way the real Brother Leo imitated his master, St. Francis.
If I prayed in a particular way—with my eyes closed, my hands clasped, my head bent down and tilted to the left—he’d pray in the same way.
If I wore an ugly shirt because of my love for poverty, he’d wear the same thing.
Because I was good-looking, he’d try to be good-looking. (Haha.)
One day, his family left for the US for good, and we lost touch…
Six years later, he returned for a visit. The old youth group was excited to have a little reunion. So we met up with “Brother Leo” again.
When I saw him at the reunion, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Nor could anyone in the room. Brother Leo was wearing a loud purple shirt with a gold band around his neck. And in thick slang, he greeted us, “Hey Dude!”
That wasn’t so bad.
While all of us were picking up our jaws from the floor, he said, “Let’s go out and look for a real parteeeh. Let’s look for some chicks! Man, I love girls!”
The transformation was unbelievable.
Where was the prayerful, quiet, humble, pure guy that we knew?
Here’s what I learned from life: We need to deliberately shape our outer world before it shapes us.
Here’s a story of someone who didn’t do this…
The Story Of A Wise King
That Wasn’t So Wise After All
The Guinness Book of World Records says that no one beats King Solomon when it comes to wives. The guy had 700 wives with 300 concubines.
Believe me, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes on Valentines Day. The chaos! While walking around his palace, he’d say to one, “I love you Leah,”; And to another, “I love you Rachael,”; And to another still, “I love you… uh, Melissa or Melanie?”
Here’s what the Bible says: As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God…
The wisest man on Earth didn’t choose his relationships well.
If you don’t want to commit his mistake, let me share with you 3 powerful steps to create your outer world.
Say No to Toxic People
There are many types of Toxic Persons, but let me focus on 6 types that you should avoid:
Toxic Person #1: Those who encourage your addiction
Toxic Person #2: Those who constantly hurt you
Toxic Person #3: Those who control you through force
Toxic Person #4: Those who control you through manipulation
Toxic Person #5: Those who pass their responsibilities to you
Toxic Person #6: Those who whine about life and invalidate you
Do you have Toxic People in your life? God says, Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.
Let’s heed those wise words!
Let’s find out if you have Toxic People in your life…
Toxic Person #1:
Those Who Encourage Your Addiction
You know this story very well because it happens too often.
My friend “Jim” was a drug addict. He entered a rehab for a year. In that entire year, Jim didn’t touch the drug. He went back home a new man.
Not a few days after, an old friend who used to take drugs with Jim visited him at home and offered him shabu. Jim said no, “I don’t take that anymore.” But as the days progressed, he kept on meeting his old friends. After only three months, Jim snorted shabu again—and his addiction was more severe than before.
Question: What caused his downfall?
Answer: He shaped his inner world, but he didn’t shape his outer world.
He needed a new set of friends. He needed a new itinerary. He also needed new hobbies, new music, new activities…
It’s pretty obvious. If you’re an alcoholic, stop hanging out with friends who drink. Hang out with new friends who don’t. If you’re a gambler, cut friendships with other gamblers. Hang out with people who don’t gamble. And so on.
Many people don’t use their power to choose their friends. They just accept the people who call up, visit, and appear on their doorstep.
Big mistake. Don’t do that. Jesus says If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
Go out and choose the kind of people you like to become. (More on this later.)
Toxic Person #2:
Those Who Constantly Hurt You
Do you avoid danger?
If you see a rabid Doberman, foaming in the mouth, sharp fangs exposed, racing towards you at top speed, would you run away as fast as Flash? Or would you stand there with a smile, stretch out your hand and say, “Here kitty, kitty…”
I bet you’d run faster than you ever did in your entire life.
Unless you have a death wish.
The Wise Book says a prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple (foolish) keep going and suffer for it.
Here’s a sad fact. After my years of counselling hordes of people, I’ve realized many have a death wish when it comes to choosing their boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, business partners, spiritual leaders, organizations, and friends.
Because they choose abusers.
They get physically abused. Verbally abused. Emotionally abused. Spiritually abused.
And after an abusive relationship breaks up, they jump into another abusive relationship. Insane, I tell you. But after 30+ years in ministry, it’s more common than you think.
I have only one explanation for this crazy phenomenon: Victims like being victims. Why? Perhaps because they want to pay for their sins. Or perhaps they feel they deserve the punishment. Or perhaps they feel superior to the abuser. Or perhaps that’s how they get the empathy from other people.
But this is sick.
Let me shout this to the rooftops: Get rid of all abusers in you life!
Don’t Just Stand There—Do Something!
If your spouse is an abuser, get away as far as possible from him or her. I’m not saying get a divorce right away. But don’t live in the same house with an abuser until the person gets help and gets healed.
If your boyfriend or girlfriend is an abuser, what are you doing still sticking with that person? You should have left the first time abuse took place.
If your organization, fraternity, club, prayer group, or church demeans you, manipulates you, drains you, abuses you—why are you still there? Look for a group that blesses you and nourishes you.
If your business partner steals from you, cheats on you, or disrespects you—get out, sell out, and find another business partner.
Remember: When you’re with an abuser, you create more inner pain, and inner pain can produce more hidden addictions.
Jesus says, Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. You are sacred. You are the pearls. So don’t throw yourself to dogs and pigs.
Some people however may not be obviously abusers, but they abuse you in a less obvious way…
Toxic Person #3:
Those Who Control You Through Force
There are people who control you through subtle aggression. They intimidate you. They’re bigger. They’re louder. They’re scary. They’re bullies in nice clothes.
The Controller could be your husband. Or your grandmother. Or your friend. Or your boss.
Let me tell you a story I read recently…
One day, a young guy was walking on a dark street. Suddenly, out of an Acacia tree, an old man wrapped in a black robe appeared. His eyes were fierce, his face pale, his beard unkempt. He pushed a black book towards the young man and ordered, “You need to read this book! Buy it for P700.”
The young man was shocked and mumbled, “I don’t have P700…”
But the elderly man spoke with a louder voice, “You need to read this book! Give me P700.” So with shaking hands, the lad fumbled with his wallet and handed P700 to him. The mysterious man placed the black book in the chap’s hand and said, “Whatever you do, never look at the last page. Or you will regret it.” He then walked towards the field behind them and suddenly disappeared!
The young man went home, shaken to the core. In the evening, he started reading the book. It was all about ghosts and werewolves and vampires! After awhile, he grew tired, closed the book and went to bed.
But he couldn’t sleep. Tossing and turning, the young man could only think of one thing: What was on the last page of the book? What will I regret seeing there?
Finally, he couldn’t take the suspense any longer. With every ounce of courage he could muster, he grabbed the black book. With trembling fingers, he opened it to the last page…
And when he saw it, at once, waves of regret filled him!
The last page was empty.
Except for a small note that said, “P49.50, National Bookstore.”
Friend, never get intimidated to do what you don’t want to do.
Because often, you’ll get robbed.
Toxic Person #4:
Those Who Control You Through Manipulation
There is another kind of Controller that doesn’t do it through aggression but through manipulation. In an even more subtle way, they will control you.
My example is Delilah, the girlfriend of Samson.
The Bible says Samson loved Delilah. But it doesn’t say that Delilah loved Samson. Instead, Delilah used Samson. Delilah neededSamson. (When will we realize that need is different from love?) As you read the story, you realize that Delilah never loved Samson at all.
Remember, “Controllers” are “Users”, and Delilah was a Controller. (Do you know of any “Users” in your life?)
One day, Delilah was approached by her Philistine leaders. They wanted to capture Samson but couldn’t because of his magical strength. So they offered her 1,100 Shekels from each of them if she could discover the secret of his supernatural strength.
So she went to Samson and asked, “How can anyone capture you?”
First, he lied. Samson said, “If you tie me with brand new ropes, I’ll be as weak as any man.” And while he slept, Delilah tied him up with brand new ropes and called the soldiers of the Philistine leaders to capture him. But like snapping thread, Samson broke free from the ropes and chased after the men.
Wasn’t that enough proof for Delilah’s deception?
If I were Samson, I would simply have said to her, “Delilah, you’re a snake. You don’t love me. This relationship is over. Get out of my life!”
But Samson didn’t do it. He tolerated her. And so Delilah sat on the lap of Samson and with a pout and a hurt look, she said, “You don’t love me, Samson…” (Her finger probably toying with his hair.)
“But I do!” Samson said defensively.
“No, you don’t,” she purred, “You lied to me. You haven’t told me the secret of your strength.” (Controllers like turning the table and pointing your mistakes, while hiding their glaring mistakes.)
Finally, out of exasperation, Samson says, “Okay, okay! Cut my hair and I’ll be as weak as any man.” And while he slept, Delilah cut his hair. We know the end of the story. Samson was captured, his eyes gouged out, and he was imprisoned until he died while pushing two pillars.
Because Samson loved Delilah, he was desperate to believe in the lie that she also loved him. But she didn’t.
Who are the Delilahs in your life?
Here’s the truth: Samson may have been romantically attracted to Delilah, but he really didn’t love her. If he really loved her, he would have told her off and shooed her away. That was the kind of love she needed.
Toxic Person #5:
Those Who Pass Their Responsibilities To You
One day, a woman was chatting with her neighbor.
“I feel really good today. I started out this morning with an act of unselfish generosity. I gave a five hundred Peso bill to a bum.”
“Wow, you gave a bum five hundred Pesos?” her neighbor asked, “My gosh, that’s a lot of money. What did you husband say about it?”
“Oh, he thought it was the proper thing to do,” she said, “my husband said, ‘Thanks.’”
Many people are just like that woman. They have bums in their lives, and these bums are friends and family.
In other words, they are hosts to parasites.
Remember: In biology, parasites can’t exist without a host. So the reason there are parasites is because there are people who like to play the role of host.
Are you a host to a human parasite? Someone who depends on you for mone? Or for housing? Or for your service?
The human parasite isn’t a quadriplegic lying down in bed with a feeding tube stuck to his throat. The parasite is an otherwise healthy human being that simply wants you to be responsible for his life, period. He doesn’t want to take responsibility for his own life. He looks to you for his sole salvation. If you don’t help him, he’ll die.
Deep inside, you feel used. You really want to say “No more!” but you can’t because you feel guilty. In the process, you have lost your boundaries. When you do, there is so much inner pain within, and you escape through your hidden addictions.
Bad news: You think you’re doing good, but you really aren’t.
There’s A Difference Between
Feeling Good And Doing Good
Giving to a parasite makes you feel good.
But that doesn’t make it good. (Yep, there’s a difference.)
It assuages your guilt. But in fact, you’re causing more harm than good. You’re really a thief. You’re stealing their self-worth. More than that, when you take away the bad consequences of their irresponsibility through your constant rescuing, you take away the fuel that would have forced them to change.
Some justify helping a parasite by quoting Galatians 6:2 when St. Paul says, “Carry each other burdens…” But 3 verses later, St. Paul also says, “Each one should carry his own load.” That means if a parasite asks for your help, the best way to help him is to say No.
I give a lot. Dole outs are fine when there’s a real emergency. But I stop giving when his daily life becomes an emergency. Because most of my giving is focused on teaching people how to fish, not just giving fish. I give when I know the person will learn how to stand on his own two feet one day.
Finally, there’s a last type of Toxic Person you need to avoid…
Toxic Person #6:
Those Who Whine About Life and Invalidate You
There are people who are constantly negative—and they suck your energy dry. Believe me, after talking with them, you feel as though the sky is darker, the world is uglier, and life is more miserable than ever.
Whiners complain about everything. The heat. The cold. The boss. The money. The government. On and on and on. It never stops.
Whiners are bad, but invalidators are worse. Invalidators are whiners too, but instead of just criticizing the world, they specialize in criticizing you. When you mention a plan, a dream, or an original idea, you’ll hear an invalidator say, “You? Do that?” He’ll roll up his eyes, shake his head, and smirk. These pompous know-it-alls believe they know you and your future more than God. Before an invalidator, you’ll always remain small. Size up the invalidator’s “friends”, and you’ll discover other “small” people who bow down to his majesty.
Whiners will steal away your joy. Invalidators will steal away your dreams. If you don’t watch out, they’ll infect you with their virus and you’ll become a professional cynic like them.
Whiners and invalidators are losers. If your friends are losers, get a new set of friends. I’m not saying that you dump them. God wants you to love them. But you don’t have to hangout with them. Instead, hangout with people who respect you. And people who inspire you. And people who put their energies to build up rather than destroy. And people of life and beauty and love.
By The Way, Are You The Toxic Person?
Avoiding toxic people is difficult.
Avoiding being the toxic person is even more difficult.
What if you’re the abuser, or controller, or manipulator, or parasite, or whiner, or invalidator?
Ask people close by for their honest feedback.
If they say, “Yes,” own up to your behavior, quick. And get to work!
May your dreams come true,