Updated date:

We Are All Toxic (and Why Forgiveness Is Important)

Holley Hyler is an IT consultant and published freelance writer living in New York.

Come on, Gladys, spill the tea!

Come on, Gladys, spill the tea!

It Seems Like Everyone Is Toxic

Lately I have seen a lot of people regarding someone who was once close to them as "toxic." I often hear sentences start like: "My toxic stepfather..." "My toxic ex-boyfriend..."

It seems we have all done this, and I am not saying it is never warranted. However, knowing what I do now, I would exercise caution before using such a term. As easy as it is to think that another person caused a relationship to break down, it is hard for us to hear the other side of it. It is hard to hear the things we did that may have been hurtful to someone else.

We Are All Toxic Sometimes.

Relationships can bring so much joy, color, and art into our lives, but it is hell when they hit a snag or break entirely. Nothing compares to the happiness and peace a kindred spirit can bring, but after we have known someone for a while, we also tend to notice more the things about them that bother us. We see through the lens of our wounds from the past. We can hone in on these qualities or make them mean something that is not true, and just like that, the past is perpetuated.

"I should have known you would turn out like all the rest" is a horribly toxic statement. It is unfair to project our past trauma onto others, no matter what we perceive as their crimes against us. Yet, we do it all the time. I am no exception.

Sometimes people really are so harmful to our sense of self-love and esteem that we do need to stay away from them, but I would venture that most of the people who have been called "toxic" are not of that caliber. If I am right, then I will say it again...

We are all toxic. Maybe not all the time. Maybe only in a certain mood or only to a certain person, just once. You're human and it happens.

No matter who you are, there is probably someone out there who has referred to you as toxic, and the feeling may be mutual for you.

Do Friendships Always Have to Meet Our Expectations?

There have been times that I have been tempted to write off a friend as toxic simply because he or she did not respond to me in the way I wanted or expected.

Maybe you have been working toward your ideal weight and decided to share your latest gym venture with your best friend, only for her to make a joke about how she was "concerned about fitness pizza into her mouth." While it is humorous, you may have felt like your friend was not really cheering you on or did not care about you reaching your goal.

Maybe you had a cool achievement, like getting a story you wrote published in a highly-esteemed journal. When you wanted your friends to read it, none of them seemed interested. The ones that claimed to read it offered no feedback to indicate they actually did read further than the first paragraph.

With friends like that, who needs enemies, right? Go on and say it. They're toxic. They obviously did not care about you achieving something important to you.

Here is a question to consider: are you more concerned with getting a response than you are with your actual goal?

If so, that might be why your friends' responses (or lack thereof) are bothering you so much. The thing you are working toward may not actually be important to you. If you are going to the gym or getting published, it will only be fulfilling if you are doing it for you.

It is toxic to write people off because they are not saying or doing what you want them to.

I am using "toxic" in a tongue in cheek way; I hope you know that. I try not to take myself too seriously. If you like my articles, then you are probably a sensitive soul, much like me. It is hard to take life with that grain of salt and not care so much about what people think.

Because we are all toxic, and we have our own problems and things that have hurt us before, which cause us to react from that place of pain on occasion, none of us deserve to be taken so seriously when another human being's self-love and self-worth is at stake. When one is making a choice, the opinion of others should be the last thing up for consideration. We tend to make it one of the most important factors.

If you are happy with your achievements, then I am happy for you. My response may not show that, because when you text me or tell me about it, I may be having a bad day or otherwise have something going on that keeps me from responding the way you would like a supportive friend to do.

The Antidote

You will meet many people in your lifetime, some of them easy to love, others not so much. It can be tempting to write off the ones that are not our cup of tea as toxic, a bitch, a hopeless case, a douchebag, etc. The names seem to get worse, the closer one was with the person. Even if we no longer feel love for someone, they can still strike a deep chord with us and not in a positive way. And that's okay.

If I have one wish for humanity, it is that we can find a deeper tolerance and sense of compassion for those who have royally pissed us off and broken our hearts. This encompasses those who were once best friends or romantic partners and strangers on the Internet. No matter the duration of the relationship or acquaintance, we would all do well to exercise a little more tolerance and understanding. If you cannot understand someone, then you can accept that they have a way of thinking and feeling that you do not relate to, that you cannot meet with your own sense of reason. This does not mean you have to talk to or listen to them. You can wish them well from afar.

No, it's not easy, not at first. You get better with practice.

We need to be conscious of the ways we can improve our treatment of others, but most importantly, we need to forgive ourselves. The way you treat yourself is radiated outward so that everyone benefits (or suffers).

If you have a pattern of cutting off friends because they are toxic, what does that say about the way you think of you? It may be a sign that it is time to stop taking others so seriously and start listening to your inner voice.

© 2020 Holley Hyler


dashingscorpio from Chicago on May 17, 2020:

Toxic isn't always about the other person.

It's about how you feel about yourself when you're with them!

Strawberries, peanuts, and shellfish enjoyed by billions of people while others might die if they ingest them. It's toxic for (them).

Each of us gets to (choose) who we spend our time with.

"If you have a pattern of cutting off friends because they are toxic, what does that say about the way you think of you?"

It usually means you have never taken the time to do some serious (introspective thinking) to figure what traits you want in a friend or mate. Odds are you allow "impulsive connections" and "happenstance" to dictate your relationship decisions.

It's the equivalent of going shopping without a list!

Each of us (chooses) our own friends, lovers, and spouse.

If you go to the grocery store to purchase an apple but buy an onion instead whose fault is that? Do you curse the onion for not being an apple? No! You learn to become a "better shopper".

People often ask: How do I stop attracting the wrong person?

It's not about who is attracted to you but rather who YOU are attracted to. Nothing happens until you say "yes" to someone. Some people are attracted to toxic people! Suffering is optional.

When we change our circumstances change.

Holley Hyler (author) from Upstate New York on May 17, 2020:

@ Kyler - No need to apologize and I'm glad you enjoyed this article. It came about when I started thinking of how I can't always be what my friends need, and I've experienced the other side of that too. I don't think anyone ever intends to be toxic; still, we come off that way despite our intentions. I like how you don't shy from controversy in your writing, though I'm sorry about losing friends. That's never easy no matter the circumstances. Thank you for reading!

@ greg - That's an amazing compliment and I really appreciate it! I completely agree that way of viewing things does help manage expectations. I should ask myself that question before I take anything on, but I don't always remember to follow my own advice. ;-) Thank you for checking out my article.

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on May 16, 2020:

Holly - part of this really struck home with me, made me think of sophomore/junior year in high school. We had a coach who always asked us as he was pushing us through football drills: “Are you here for achievement, or are you looking for recognition?” I have carried that with me for more than 40 years now. It is a fantastic question, and the right answer to it can and will help ease frustration, manage expectations. Also, as an aside and for what it’s with, I read every word because your conversational writing style is very engaging and enjoyable.

Kyler J Falk from Corona, CA on May 16, 2020:

I recently had a fall-out with two people I thought were friends, it was highly public and speculated upon by many. Rather than dip out on the conversation after it became tense I egged it on for publicity purposes, and it worked splendidly. Before it blew up publicly, however, I simply told the people I was done speaking to them on a personal level because they brought more distress to my life than they brought joy.

Knowing myself, my toxic traits are to cut people off at any sign of "performative cruelty" and disallowing any further contact if they cannot reel it back. Even more toxic I will engender controversy through writing about it so as to gain exposure, although I do try to present it as fair and impartial as possible. The only redeeming quality here is that I seek recourse and to apologize for the misunderstanding before I turn it into an attention stunt should they not retract what they have said.

That disconnect between the self and what we preach is so fascinating to me, but it hearkens back to the article you wrote about the value of the meaning we place onto things. Most recently for me as mentioned, someone referred to others insensitively as, "PC social media crowd of WEIRDOS," and I asked them to dial it back and present that statement fairly so I wouldn't have to babysit my comments. I felt it was a reasonable request, one that could have been adhered to without changing the statement.

Like, I would've said, "this seems like a way for people to infringe upon the freedom of speech of others unfairly, and the people who do that tend to be a despicable bunch," but I was met with harsh criticism from the majority for my request to not call people weirdos.

Though I wish it had turned out better on all sides, the publicity stunt gained me a fair amount of exposure and I'm left compartmentalizing that through moral relativism.

Ugh, pardon my verbosity, this article is just timely and resonates with me. It's a good one!

Related Articles