The Problem with Calling People ‘Toxic’

One of the (many) things which my ex-friend said to me recently was, “Life’s too precious to deal with toxic people.”

He was referring to me.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been called toxic before, or if a (formerly) close friend has ever said something like this to you… but let me tell you, it feels devastating.

There are some good reasons not to dismiss other people this way:

Firstly, you are saying that the whole person has no redeeming features. They are bad, evil, a waste of your time and attention.

Nobody is 100% bad.

“The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

In other words, all of us have the capacity for good and evil inside us. Every day we face a choice: do we want to run with the dark side of ourselves, or the good side?

(Woah – that sounds a bit like Star Wars!)

No-one is 100% bad. I may do some things which are disliked by others, but that doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.

Comment on the specific behaviour you don’t like, don’t over-generalise and write off the whole person.

Secondly, who the fuck are you to judge other people? Are you a saint, who never puts a foot wrong?

Why are you placing yourself on a moral high horse? Do you have no faults of your own?

Don’t be so convinced of your own moral superiority.

Thirdly, you’re making the classic mistake of throwing the baby out with the bath water. If no-one is 100% bad, that means they must have some good inside them. That’s goodness that they could share with you. But now, by calling them “toxic” and dismissing them from your life, you are missing out on sharing in the goodness that they could offer you.

Is anyone’s life really so fantastic that they are willing to say, “I’ve got enough good/love/joy/happiness in my life right now, I don’t need any more! I’m too busy!”

I didn’t think so.

If you ask me, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone is human. Everyone deserves to have their sins forgiven and be given the chance to atone for their sins.

Everyone. Even a wretched sinner like me.

(Sure, by all means set healthy boundaries. Doing so is the essence of compassion. But don’t write other people off completely. Give them a chance to make things up to you. Please.)

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