There is a fallacy that I have to like everyone. That I have to find some reason or way to enjoy every person that I come in contact with. Aside from being a very pollyanna view of life, it is an impossibility and an impossibility that, if followed, could bring harm to me – to myself as a person. There are just some people that are not going to get along with me or I with them…even though I will try.
There is also another group that can really cause problems – especially with friendships or relationships. These people I refer to simply as toxic. When I open the door for friendship at a level beyond mere acquaintance, I am opening a door for possible hurt, harm or pain. There can be an emotional price for being open, caring and honest. However, toxic “friends” can be among the most damaging, harmful and painful people to deal with. A harmful friend or a toxic friendship can be one of life’s hardest relationship tribulations to forgive and forget. Toxic friends often come back to haunt you for a long time.
Sometimes I know beforehand what they are or can be like. Sometimes, there is a mask that can hide very well what is beneath the surface. And just as a toxic substance barrel can begin to leak – the mask can begin to slip and reveal what’s underneath.
I noted a few types of toxic friends–some of these people were those whose friendship hurt me eventually. Knowing the categories of toxic friends helps to avoid them. However, becoming friends is risky and there is never a guarantee you will not be hurt by a toxic friend. The only way to avoid any kind of hurt or pain in this journey of life, would be to become a hermit and deny all contact with any human at all.
This person only has friends as long as they can be used for some purpose or goal of their own. This person could be one of the most harmful of toxic friends as the purpose of the friendship doesn’t become easily seen. However, after the purpose has been accomplished, then the reality of what’s happened becomes crystal clear…painfully crystal clear. I’ve seen careers halted and marriages literally destroyed by these people.
Nothing hurts more than a friend who betrays you. The betrayal can be as simple as gossip or as deadly as character assassination. It can be tied to broken promises, harmful revelations or taking someone that you thought was yours.
The Control Freak:
The control freak is a friend as long as they are in control. The control freak only wants to help you. With a smile on their face and the right words on their lips, they have the plan that will make it all better. Or, they simply know the better places to eat, live and ways to think. Refuse that help or break that control and find out what toxic control freak friendship really means.
Ever judgmental, ever critical, this friend can erode your self-esteem. The judge is a fault finder. You can rarely do anything completely right with this toxic friend. I sometimes refer to them as people that ‘should’ all over me. You know the type: “Well, what you ‘should’ have done…”
The Promise Breaker:
This person rarely does what he says he will do. If you have a date, the toxic friend is often a no-show. If you have a serious agreement about something, they either will break the agreement or find a way to pretend it never happened. A general lack of dependability makes this person completely toxic and can be very wearing, frustrating. It also, sadly, shows how little regard they have for the person they treat this way.
The gossip will eventually betray your trust and become a toxic. Gossips are easy to spot so beware friendships with them. I used to joke: “If can’t say anything nice about anyone. then come sit by me…” I don’t anymore. These people are especially toxic when what they don’t know – they make up, and pass off as truth.
The Self-Centered Person:
Someone once wrote: When the center of the universe is discovered some people are going to be very disappointed to discover they were not it. Self-centered people can’t think of you as they are too busy thinking of themselves. The conversation almost always swings their way – and what they are doing or want to do will take center-stage and be what others are expected to talk about and/or acquiesce to eventually (and for them, the sooner the better).
The competitor is always looking to be “one up.” Although competitiveness is normal, fun and healthy in friendships, it should never be carried to excess. No one in a friendship should be made to feel “lesser” or “less than important” in a friendship. These are the people who have always done something a little more than you have, have a better ending to the joke you’ve told, takes your date and the brother as well…and probably knows someone who died from the cold you have. These people are toxic.
The leaner is a very needy friend who clings and may be at your doorstep every day. They usually want all of your time and can become extremely jealous if you begin to have plans that do not include them, or that will cut into the “hold” they have on your time.
Sometimes people we know are combinations of these types and I’m sure there are types I haven’t listed here.
Also, very important, is that these types are toxic only when it is something that is continual, ongoing or never ending. Each of us has at some point been a gossip, leaned far more on someone that we needed to,etc.
But I need to be careful I don’t make a condition out of an incident. While I was working for a major airline, I was appointed to a committee (now there’s fertile ground for toxic!) to deal with an attendance policy over 50 single spaced pages. That’s right – fifty! The reason it had become so bloated? Each time something unusual would happen, it found its way into the policy. Even though no one could remember if it had happened more than once – it happened, therefore it was a condition.
Sometimes I can be friends with these people on a less deep level or a very surface level. This leaves room for them to change – or me for that matter. And with all friends I have, I also work to make allowances as I hope they do with me – for those times when any of us behave in a manner that’s not really how or who we are. I have a saying that I love to remind people of in those moments (I’ve posted it here before): If I can’t accept you at your worst, I have no right to see you at your best.
After a while you learn
the subtle difference between
holding a hand and chaining a soul
and you learn
that love doesn’t mean leaning
and company doesn’t always mean security.
And you begin to learn
that kisses aren’t contracts
and presents aren’t promises
–Veronica A. Shoffstall