One of life’s greatest challenges is learning to deal with people who are draining, unsupportive, difficult, and adversarial; with people who are bent on systematically diminishing—and even finally destroying—your inner life. And, given the teeming ecosystem of toxic people laid before us in history and public life, how can we go about identifying the archetypal specimens, classify them according to their kinds, and respond to them in a way that comports with the Christian life?
In this series of posts, “Toxic People: A Field Manual for Christians,” I seek to answer that question. The series begins with an exploration of Jesus’ life and how he responded to toxic people. In the next three installments, we discuss how to identify toxic people, delineate different styles of toxicity, and address toxicity within biblical-theological categories.
My hope is that the series will help the reader develop a plan for managing their interactions with toxic people. Toxic persons tend to torment acquaintances and destabilize small groups. They are troublesome because we find it difficult even to understand what an appropriate and effective response would be, much less to actually produce such a response on the spot. Thus, we need to be prepared for such an encounter beforehand, viewing “toxic person management” as akin to the martial art of aikido, which allows a targeted person to absorb the force of his attacker by turning the attacker’s own momentum against him, in order to protect oneself from injury.
Toward that end, here are the four installments: