Don’t Cancel Toxic People

We’ve all been there, and we’ve all heard the comments before: “You are a toxic person, and I need to get you out of my life.” Or “That person is so toxic; you need to get them out of your life.”

This can even be more prevalent around the holiday season because so many people in our families can be deemed toxic. Perhaps you have an uncle or an aunt, a parent, or a sibling, who, in your opinion or in the opinion of others, is toxic. What should we do when we find ourselves engaged in a relationship with these people?

Built into this question is the idea that you need to look out for you. Because they are “toxic,” you should not allow them into your life, or, at the very least, consider how to manage that relationship in a particular way because of their “toxicity.” While that sentiment is understandable at face-value, thoughtful Christians should really ask themselves is this idea biblical?

To put it another way, should we get toxic people out of our lives? In order to answer this question, we really need to consider for a moment what do we even mean by toxic, and then we need to consider would Christ want us to remove such toxic people from our lives?

What Do We Mean by Toxic People?

For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to define a toxic person as “a perceived person that, as we engage with them, we enter into a state of emotional distress.” I’m not saying this is the definition, but one that I am crafting and using.

I was very careful in that definition to make sure that we are saying that this person did not place us in a state of emotional distress or anything like it. I’m trying to highlight that it is our own response to this individual that leads us to enter into a state of emotional distress. It would be very easy to write a definition that blames the other person: “they place me in a state of emotional distress.” However, I don’t think that that definition is possible.

As thoughtful Christians, we believe that we are responsible for our own hearts. In other words, we cannot say that my husband makes me angry. That is not true. It’s not true because you are responsible for your own heart according to James 4:1-2. James teaches us that our own heart is the problem here, not someone else’s. So, we cannot say that person makes me angry, this person makes me sad, that person makes me anxious, or anything like this. The only thing we can say is that my own heart responds in this particular way when I am around or encountering a particular person.

This is important for when we define what toxic people are. While it might be convenient to blame them in one very real sense, the reality is that it is our own heart’s response to these individuals that is causing the problem.

Should I Be Around Them?

Well, the answer to that question is maybe. The answer to that is maybe because you are a sinful, flawed, weak creature, just like that other person; and there are a number of principles that are guiding you to make such a decision. I would like to highlight four of them that I think can help us.

Principle #1: Striving to Love All

The main idea in the Christian walk is to love God and love others. Christ highlights this in Matt. 22:36-40 and other places where He reminds us how the law can be summed up. Meaning, the main interpretive grid that we should view all relationships through is: “How do I love this person?” The interpretive grid is not, “How do I love me?” but rather, “How do I focus on them?”

Principle #2: Wise Associations

There are, however, other aspects to associating with people. One such example from the Bible is Prov. 13:10 where we are warned against having foolish friends. There is a level in which we all must be careful who we allow to shape and impact our hearts. If we allow fools to have a certain place in our hearts, it will no doubt lead to our own ruin.

Principle #3: When to Remove Yourself from Someone

More still, there is a place in the Bible that warns us to not even associate with certain types of persons. For example, in Matt. 7:6, we are warned not to “throw our pearls to pigs.” There are passages that warn us against being tied together with someone who is not of the light (2 Cor. 6:14-16). However, in all of these passages, there isn’t a thread of self-preservation, rather a focus on the glory of God. Consider then that there is a time and place to remove a person from your life, and the driving factor is the glory of God, not your own personal discomfort.

Principle #4: When to Admit You Are Too Weak

Lastly, there is a place to admit that you are a weak Christian, and therefore, right now, as you attempt to grow, it would not be best for you to be around that person. Passages like Romans 14 help us think through how to consider our weakness and the weaknesses of others, but built in there is also a belief that you will grow. Peter reminds us at the end of his life, “Grow in grace” (2 Pe. 3:18). There may be a place in your life when you need to say, “I’m too weak to be around that person.” But you can’t say that forever. If you are claiming, you are weak for 15 years in a row; something is very wrong.


Ultimately there may be a place in the Christian walk, for a season and for specific reasons, to not associate with a particular person. However, every thoughtful Christian should be asking, “Am I just not dealing with my own sinful heart?” If you find yourself regularly cutting toxic people out of your life, then the problem is…you yourself might be that toxic person since you are not growing.

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Joshua M. Greiner
Josh has been on staff with Faith since 2010. He graduated from Purdue University with a BA in Political Science (2008) and from Faith Bible Seminary with a MDiv (2013), The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a ThM in Biblical Counseling (2017) and is pursuing a PhD in Counseling from SBTS as well. He serves as the Pastor of Faith West Ministries, the Chaplin of the West Lafayette Fire Department, an instructor with Faith Bible Seminary, and a Fellow with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). He is married to his wife Shana, and they have four children together.