One day, I posted this rant on social media:
There are so many conversations these days about toxic relationships, situations, or people. I don’t get it. If name-calling and dehumanization is wrong, what in the world could be more degrading than calling someone poisonous?
We feel best when we are at home with one another, connected, and forgiving of mistakes. That doesn’t mean relationships can’t change over time and that we can’t say goodbye to people that we don’t get along with.
But wow… the fact that it’s normal to think of people we are around as toxic is one of my absolute least favorite things about the world today. It’s a socially acceptable way of making someone inferior. “Energy vampires” is another phrase that hits me right in the gut.
I think we can have smarter thoughts when someone disturbs our peace and I hope we do.
The reason I wrote this post is because I entertain daily conversations where it’s assumed that I should understand what’s meant when I’m told someone is toxic, or that a workplace is toxic, etc.
Everyone these days seems to assume toxic is a THING.
Meanwhile, I wonder…
How would I feel if someone thought of me as toxic? If my words sounded dark to them? If my truth sounded like criticism or condescension? Or, if someone just plain didn’t like or trust me… and decided there was something wrong with me… and then pushed me away?
Yep. That’s why I don’t give over to the idea that someone could be toxic. I don’t want to be lesser in someone else’s eyes. I feel badly when someone does treat me as inferior and I don’t want to make anyone else feel that way.
I have a somewhat related issue with the idea of boundaries. Many people talk about “healthy boundaries” as a priority for their relationships, for their work, etc. Most people today assume boundaries are an important part of the job of being human. As if we are weak and susceptible instead of powerful and resilient. As if other people are harmful and unsafe. As if we can actually control and manage the details of our lives.
The reason I’m skeptical of boundaries is because I am curious to explore oneness. I want to experience what it is to love big and to break down walls. I want to embody MLK’s dream, and the dream of everyone else who gave up their lives for peace & love on behalf of our human family. What I enjoy is feeling like you and I are very much alike. Two hearts in two bodies, yet blissfully united as brothers and sisters.
I got good at this practice when I was a professor. I decided to love all of the students equally,. The only way to do this was not to think about what I liked or disliked about them, but to love them for no reason. What I found is, everyone that’s loved unconditionally blossoms, and they in turn become very easy to love.
This doesn’t mean I let people step all over me. (But when I do, it’s because I’m strong, and because my love for others is bigger than my need to be right.) I struggle with my relationships, too, sometimes. What I do when I’m challenged is, I try to be honest with myself. I take space. And I always leave the door open for conversation.
People are very good listeners for the most part, which means I better be ready to speak the truth when we re-connect. Amongst those who aren’t good listeners, there are infants and toddlers, yet we love them anyway. So why not the walking-talking kind of human beings? Why can’t we love them anyway, too?
I think we believe most in toxicity when we are unclear about how to get what we want. Perhaps we don’t feel supported at work, or a relationship feels forced or unhappy. Usually, we persist in these spaces even though we’re complete. That’s when we search for reasons to dislike it, and end up with words like “toxic”. Anyone who’s comfortable with change doesn’t need to persist long enough to create a list of reasons to justify their feeling that it’s time to GO. The experience of “toxic” is so often a call-to-action for change. If we don’t view the people involved as, in essence, terrible, we might even have a single conversation that would change everything for the better.