Dumping all the so-called “toxic” people in your life is an excuse.
In line for coffee the other day I overheard a woman urging her two companions to rid themselves of all the “toxic” people in their lives. It sounded like a New Year’s resolution conversation had collided with an annoying friend story, but who knows and who cares?
She was off and running, listing relatively intimate evidence that proved a certain friend was a “guilt trip assassin.” This person had to go, she reasoned. And the relief and freedom she’d soon be experiencing by taking action would no doubt be something her two companions would want to get in on. Of this she sounded sure, if vulnerably so.
Now, maybe it was the hand gestures, the loud-talking, or the sequined fedora, but this young lady sounded like a mosquito in my ear canal. Following a life-coach testimonial with gossip as your example of why Friend X should be dismissed only demonstrates your poor coping skills.
Get rid of the toxic people in your life? What, you have a list? And you’re gonna push the button on all of ’em? Have any idea how much demented resolve that takes? I’ve seen it done on prison yards, but never in coffee shops.
Besides, what monsters are we talking about? Psychic hostages? Emotional cripples? Abusers? Followers? Manipulators? Martyrs? Excluders? Stalkers? Downers? Demanders?
Some people aren’t looking for solutions: they’d rather be acknowledged and know that they matter enough to listen to. Every now and then, that’s fine. My problem is that it’s been happening so often lately, I figure it’s a sign I should stop accommodating those in my life who cling to the familiar rather than rise to the occasion. We all know people who are sitting in a mud puddle, but rather than stand up and get out of it, decorate and stay put. I wouldn’t call these people poisonous or toxic — they’re far too normal and human for that.
And although some are repeat offenders, I’m to blame for continuing to listen to their bullshit. I guess it’s a desire to be of assistance; these are generally people I care for. But when I start to feel like the line between being helpful and being a chump is being crossed, I get insulted and angry.
Still, tolerating 39 minutes of sulking or self-justification isn’t their problem; it’s mine. And what does it say about me if I enable someone like that, only to turn around and label them toxic and push the button on the ol’ heave ho? Don’t they possess other traits I once admired? No doubt.
So if some Toxic Avenger tells you to detach from all the wrong and awful humans keeping you down, consider for a second how well that person negotiates personalities and cultures different than their own (or, for that matter, any challenge to their comfort zone). Think about where else in their lives they might exhibit the behavior of a control freak or a finger-pointer.
Finally, ask them to cite specific examples of having swept through the plains of their life, eliminating people like a Level-5 prison yard Sharknado. How did that work out for them?
Refusing to squirm through other people’s wishy-washy rationalizations is at the top of my list of things to do this year, but nowhere on my list is turning my back on someone. Instead, I’ll practice what I always have: Loser Management.