A good friend and I chatted the other day about “toxic relationships,” buzz words that jumped into our vocabulary a few years ago and have taken up permanent residence. Who coined the term anyway? Silliness aside, there are several reasons to identify relationships as toxic. Here are a few:
- Diminished joy. Sapped energy;
- Erosion of self-esteem and confidence;
- Demand for time and attention, often while giving nothing back;
- Increased stress;
- Judgment, criticism.
Wow! Quite a negative list! And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Because my mind works this way, I wondered about the opposite of toxic relationships. Here’s the upside—what positive, healthy relationships include:
- Time apart.
Notice the stark contrast to the toxic list?
Okay, now we have two lists, and they’re all well and good, but what does the Bible, God’s word, have to say about relationships? A treasure trove! Feel free to find more, but here’s a few to enjoy:
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35, NIV)
Greater love has no one man than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I have learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:13-15, NIV)
So then, we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. (Rom.14:19, NAS)
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. (Prov. 17:17, NIV)
Bottom line, want a balm for toxic relationships? Want to enjoy healthy ones? Follow Jesus’s recipe:
- His relationship with His father was one of constant communion. We need constant, committed time with God.
- His relationship with His disciples and friends included instruction, rebuke, time apart and together, and always pointed the way to God. He reclined with sinners, friend and foe, and the poor and rich alike. We crave honest, fun, relaxed time with and apart from others.
- His relationship with His adversaries was forthright and public. He exposed their motives, corrected, and showed love. During His trial, He remained silent and then paid the ultimate price—death on the cross—atonement for the sins of all mankind. As Ecclesiastes says, there’s a time for everything … a time to hold our tongues and a time to speak. Knowing the difference is wisdom.
Some of our greatest disappointments and joys come from relationships. Jesus said, and I paraphrase, this isn’t easy street, folks. You’re gonna have trouble in this world. (John 16:33) Ah, but there is a balm: He has overcome the world! So nothing, including relationships, is impossible with Him! 🙂
By Amre Cortadino