The term toxic personality, toxic person or toxic friend gets thrown around a lot these days. I’m guilty of it too. It’s a convenient phrase and is very applicable in these modern times we are living in. As people become more aware not just of themselves and their own mind and sensibilities but the world at large and societal changes, we start to open our eyes and see patterns and behaviours in people that we were maybe blind to previously.
Describing a person as toxic becomes an easy shorthand for describing someone who is bad for you. The problem I think I’ve become aware of more recently though is the flagrant use of the term and I want to do my best to explain why I think it needs a bit more clarification and careful use.
The main point I’m trying to get across is the fact that being described as toxic shouldn’t be considered as blanket judgement of a persons character, it needs to be taken on a case by case basis. Person X may be toxic for Person Y, but to Person Z, Person X might be great and every other possible combination.
There are bound to be some out and out scumbags who are not good for anyone and yet persist in societies and social circles, for some reason the character of Begbie from Trainspotting just popped in my head and anyone familiar with that movie I think gets an idea of what I mean. Maybe its my inner optimist speaking but I do believe those people to be the exception though and despite personally not really liking all that many, I do believe that under normal circumstances people are innately good, even if they are not good for you.
The majority of toxic people don’t go out of there way to be that way though, it is just a clash of personalities, ideologies and habits that can turn someone from a once great friend to someone who is nothing but bad for you.
I am mostly speaking in vague and general terms in this post as it is not directed at any one in particular and as with most of my longer forms it is my opinions based on general observations, but I do have a personal example of this that I think helps emphasis my point;
When I was struggling a lot with the break down of my marriage and really needed help I turned to a friend. Not a friend I was extremely close with but someone I held in high regard. The support they provided was essential to me and I will be eternally grateful for it, but that does not give them the right or a free pass to interfere with, manipulate and attempt to gaslight me or any friendship, relationship or situation I am involved in. Wether any of those were done done with intent or not is beside the point. The fact that it persisted for a long time soured my once high regard and I needed to step away from that friendship.
I am guilty of describing this person as toxic but when I say that I really only mean that they are toxic for me and my situations. I am in no position to judge anyone for how they interact with others.
This applies to anyone who is considered toxic, it doesn’t mean that they are a bad person or even mean you any harm but if you have identified someone as toxic for you and remain close to them, trying to hold on to what was there before then you are doing yourself a disservice. Remaining friends with someone because you have been for years is not a good enough reason, remaining friends because someone was at one time extremely supportive and there for you but aren’t anymore is not a good reason.
I’m not championing a ‘what have you done for me lately’ attitude, some people I consider close friends are ones I barely speak to and see even less but I know they would only ever have my best interest at heart and would respect me enough to talk to me directly if something was up and the same applies in the other direction. What I’m getting at is that people change; maybe it is them, maybe its you, maybe its both. That change may result in you being closer than ever but everyone should be aware and understand that there will be times when those changes will result in a clash that can drive a wedge in any relationship and the best course of action is to take a step back and give it the space it needs.
Letting go of friendships, any relationship really, is sad, it’s not easy but can sometimes be the healthiest thing to do.
And it doesn’t mean it has to be finite, people change and grow in different ways. You never know who you might reconnect with one day.
Distancing yourself from people also doesn’t mean you have to stop caring about them. You can have friends, family, loved ones that you don’t have regular contact with anymore, your relationship may have soured to the point where you never see them, speak to them, or even think all that highly of them anymore, but it doesn’t take away from how you did feel for them at one time or another. You can be happy for someone if you hear that they’re doing well or have accomplished something good for themselves even if you have no interest in congratulating them personally.
It’s easy to say, oh I don’t like that person, fuck them I don’t give a shit. It’s also easy to say, wow thats great maybe I should reach out and send them my best. I would advise caution on both counts. It is perfectly okay to be happy for someone from afar.
I’m not trying to cast stones, I don’t have any real answers, just my opinions and thoughts. I am sure that everything I’ve said about others is as applicable to me as anyone else and that to any number of people I could be considered ’toxic.’
But that kind of re-emphasises my point; it’s very easy to judge someone as a toxic person if they are that for you, but in actuality it is more likely that to some people that very same person you consider toxic isn’t that bad and may actually be a good friend.
“But for the precious few we should hold on.”