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As COVID cases go down and vaccination shots go up, so many of us have already experienced the joys of re-experiencing social interactions. But, in the same vein, others have been reminded of the not-so-good side of social engagement with the familiar toxicity that can easily be found within families, peer relationships, and school/work environments.
Here are four strategies to follow that will help protect you from those toxic relationships rearing their ugly heads again on the other side of COVID:
1. GRAY ROCK TREASURES
Unfortunately, toxic people feed off feeling powerful off the reactions of empathetic, kind people. What you would consider mean and unnecessary is often what toxic people experience as air to breathe. Sadly, your reaction to their toxicity only fuels the toxicity more so. Punctuated looks, scowls, tears, fake laughs, clapping back and any other verbal/physical response of that sort is the absolute worst way to react with toxic people and environments.
On the other hand, have you ever noticed a gray rock? Have you ever been taken aback by the sheer boredom of it? Chances are the last time you saw a bed of gray rocks it was so not memorable that you don’t remember it. You probably moved on to the next thing in your gaze without a second thought.
That’s exactly how you want to come across to those toxic people in your life – a gray rock. Be so boring to them, they’ll no longer get their breath from you.
2. SAY YES TO NO
For adults only. Throughout childhood and into adolescence, most of us have been indoctrinated with the value of obedience to authority, especially those who grew up in religious settings. Unfortunately, it’s my belief that during that time and then into adulthood, too many people in authority abuse that societal value. This theory of mine – if correct – easily paves the way for toxic people to manipulate and guilt subservient people into commitments or interactions that most would be better off by saying ‘no.’
What COVID taught us unintentionally was the necessity of building better boundaries to not do certain things that could put our loved ones’ health in jeopardy. It was literally life or death decision making. Some things you just said ‘no’ to even though it was uncomfortable to bear the process of what came natural. Too often today we don’t put that to use, however, when it comes to self-care and self-love, remaining in unnecessary and extended contact with toxic people and/or situations that does a different kind of killing – soul murder.
Sadly, in reentering society post COVID, we have abandoned that power we learned in saying ‘no’ to people/activities and continue to get infected with TOXIC-ity. That’s what happens when we go against our better judgement and spend too much time with a toxic family member – when just a meal with that person would have been better. Or, when we entertained for too long – or, at all – gossip at the workplace/school with others, knowing fully it wasn’t good for our spirit or the general spirit of the environment. Let’s simply start saying ‘no’ again and enjoy life with much more peace and much less stress from toxic people/environments.
One of my favorite pastors, a woman by the name of Cassandra Mack, recently elaborated on the Mark 11:20-25 verses – scripture in which Jesus curses a fig tree. Jesus saw a fig tree from a distance and assumed since leaves were visible from afar on the branches that there was fruit. When Jesus got closer, he was taken aback and angered by there being nothing to satisfy his hunger.
Too many relationships in our lives are much like these fruitless fig trees – they appear to have substance on the surface due to those moments of superficial friendliness whether it be from a family member, friend, or co-worker, but upon some COVID reflection, you get a sense of ultimate fruitlessness at the end of the day. Time and time again, reminders spring about of a familiar feeling that life would be better without these toxic individuals and environments.
So, if Jesus actually goes the lengths of cursing a fig tree and reaches the conclusion he wants nothing to do with it after feeling duped and unfulfilled, what’s keeping us in the continual entertainment of toxic, fruitless relationships? When you get some time in this reentering period, please review all your relationships. If you find yourself cursing some people out in your head, go ahead and do yourself a favor and block those same people from your lives moving forward. Forgive and love them from afar. Your peace of mind will thank you.
4. LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE
This is good practice just in general, but particularly important for those most susceptible to be on the receiving end of toxicity in relationships and environments. Chances are you’ve been told you’re too sensitive, thin-skinned, need to lighten up and all other sorts of dismissive insults. But, the truth is there’s probably such light inside of you that it makes you a target for those who get sadistic pleasure in bringing you down.
With that being said, some will think, “wouldn’t living my best life make me even more of a target to toxic people?” Probably so, but that won’t matter as much when the focus is on you, living out your purpose, and surrounding yourself with people who have a proven track record of reciprocated care and love for you. And, anybody outside of that, you’ve hopefully either blocked them or have limited interaction with them because they are fruitless and what remains on the proverbial fig tree will harm you (please read the first three blogs of the series for further explanation and instruction of that).
COVID forced us all to feel more comfortable with being isolated while reaching out to those we knew cared for us to carry us through. We wore masks, lathered up with hand sanitizer, and ate in regularly while maintaining our sanity and protecting our loved ones. COVID restrictions thankfully have eased these days, but TOXIC people are still out there strong, maybe stronger than ever. Be wise to keep yourself protected from that with same measure you protected yourself from COVID.