Rainbow + Toxic = ????

In recent interactions with friends, family, and others, it has come to my attention that I haven't yet addressed this topic.  Everyone comes across it at some point in life, to be honest - not just LGBT+ Mormons, but every single person reading this.  Due to its negativity, though, I have avoided writing about it.  However, I understand that some of you could benefit from the meager tools and knowledge I am about to offer you, so I have chosen to put this out there in hopes you will be able to identify and root out this issue - the issue of toxic people.  

Why would we benefit, though?  Because same-sex, platonic friendships are crucial for LGBT Mormons in living a Christ-centered, joyful life, as they meet essential needs both emotional and mental in nature.  Now let me be clear, this post does not dance around this topic by discussing people who annoy you, have occasional outbursts of temper, infrequently manipulate you or others, or anything like that.  This post is addressing the behavior of people who are consistently manipulative, negative, attention-seeking, and that sort of thing.  So on that lovely note, let's get started! :)

What is a toxic person?  Simply put, a toxic person is defined as "someone whose behavior and/or relationship with you is toxic, due to being deeply wounded and as of yet unable to take responsibility for said wounding, as well their feelings, needs, and problems in life."  So, the next question would be, what does this unaddressed wounding look like?  Here are some signs that you've got a toxic person on your hands:

  • You’re emotionally affected by their drama
  • You dread (or fear) being around them
  • You’re exhausted or you feel angry while you’re with them or after your interaction
  • You feel bad or ashamed about yourself
  • You’re stuck in a cycle of trying to rescue, fix or care for them.
  • The other person doesn’t respect the word “No” as a complete sentence
  • When you’re with them, you feel like you’re “walking on eggshells”
  • You ignore your own values
  • You emotionally “check out”
  • You feel like you’re being controlled, or you’re being overly controlling.
The next question is, of course, how do you handle toxic people and thereby cultivate positive, healthy friendships?

A few ideas include:

1.  Set limits with complainers by asking them (repeatedly, if necessary) how they plan on resolving their problems.  Picture such people doing something you find repulsive while complaining.  You'd distance yourself, right?  So, act accordingly when encountering these sorts of people.
2.  Stand your ground when necessary with toxic behavior, like in cases of personal insults. Otherwise, do NOT engage in the negativity. Keep doing what you're doing, and eventually those toxic people will let you be. 

3.  Keep in touch with your emotions, so that you can know when it's appropriate to respond to toxic behavior. This prevents you from blowing up or otherwise giving the toxic person what they want.

4.  Respond to facts of situations - not emotional chaos.  For example. if a toxic person blames you for his/her poor work performance or something, respond logically, not emotionally.  Think of them as a patient and you as a therapist - distanced emotionally, responding intellectually.  ;)

5.  Set AND enforce boundaries.  If you have asked a toxic person to stop sitting by you during lunch break, enforce it!  If you have ended a conversation and the toxic person tries to restart it, enforce that boundary!!  Wherever possible, set these boundaries in advance instead of once problems have 
started.  Toxic people thrive off of people who do not set and enforce healthy, necessary boundaries.

6.  Find a way to be happy for you that does not fundamentally involve others.  Toxic people often seek happiness by looking for attention, searching for approval from others, and trying to find ways to win admiration from people.  If your happiness is independent of your experience with people, handling toxic people will be WAY easier.  

7.  Remember that being nice doesn't mean being a doormat.  Toxic people will want 2nd, 3rd, and 20th chances... but they are not entitled to them!  You are not a doormat for them to wipe their negativity all over like dirty mud and snow!!  Have some self-respect, and choose to not engage in friendship with such people after getting burned by them.  You're worth that.  

All of this may seem strangely unrelated to the LGBT Mormon experience, but I promise you, it is 100% related.  Being in the unique position we are in, we have to get our emotional & mental needs met somehow, without depriving ourselves.  The only consistently effective way that accomplishes this without guilt, shame, and the like, is healthy, emotionally intimate same-sex friendship. 

Therefore, to be successful in our journey of following Christ, cultivating ground for healthy same-sex friendship is essential.  And so, preventing toxicity in friendship must be a priority for each of us! Do not think that such people are just meant to be "put up with" or whatever.  You can find healthy, intimate same-sex friendships, and get your needs met without enduring a bunch of drama, guilt-tripping, manipulating, etc, etc.  As I am fond of quoting to my friends and family, "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."  (Proverbs 17:17)  Love you guys!  Until my next post... :) :) :)

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