What Is a Toxic Person?

Exaggeration is always deceptive, and it does great harm when we use it to avoid reconciliation and forgiveness.

Toxic: “very harmful or unpleasant in a pervasive or insidious way.” 

A toxic person is not simply harmful or unpleasant. He/she is “very” harmful in a treacherous way. Examples might include people who are physically abusive, sexually perverted, or drug-addicted … criminals, drunkards, or con-artists.

Why discuss this? 

Because “toxic” is becoming a popular way to describe family members who are not actually toxic but simply annoying, difficult, weird, or negative.(1) 

There is a growing belief, even among Christians, that instead of learning how to deal with difficult family members, we should protect ourselves from them.

Sadly, protecting ourselves from difficult situations or difficult people makes us weak and selfish, and we end up missing opportunities to grow stronger in our faith.

Some of our greatest challenges and learning experiences in life come through difficult relationships. They teach us grace, forgiveness, and perseverance (James 1:2-3; 1:12). Sometimes, we even find out that we were part of the problem!

Jesus didn’t call us to protect ourselves from difficulties. He told us to deny ourselves (Mark 8:34-35). As His chosen people we can bear with others, forgiving them and loving them with His power (Colossians 3:12-14).

Instead of labeling and avoiding people, let's grow up in our faith and learn how to deal with people biblically (Philippians 2:12-13).


(1) The Boundaries teaching by Henry Cloud has popularized the "toxic" designation for people. Please read more here: Are Henry Cloud's Boundaries Teachings Biblical? And for additional insights see: When Boundaries are Bitter Barriers


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Exaggeration is always deceptive, and it does great harm when we use it to avoid reconciliation and forgiveness.
Bible Love Notes


  1. We have to use the virtue of temperance: it is not that we should avoid toxic people at the slightest sight of toxicity, but we have to protect ourselves from extreme toxic or annoying people, even though they are family members.

    Extreme behaviors should be avoided.

    1. What is "extreme toxic or annoying people" and where do you find support for your belief in Scripture?

      If you are talking about physical abuse, then you should protect yourself. If you are talking about annoying or difficult family members, Romans 12 gives advice:

      Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

      17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

      “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
      if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
      In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

      21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.