How to Deal With Toxic Family Members Biblically (7 Steps)

🌺  Written by Brittany Ann

 How to Deal With Toxic Family Members BiblicallyDo you have certain family members you can’t stand to be around?

While it’s normal to have the occasional conflict or annoyance, if you’re dealing with toxic family members (whether parents, in-laws, siblings, or even young or adult children), the issue goes far beyond a simple annoyance.

When family members are simply annoying, you can often choose to overlook their faults. It’s not that big of a deal. If you’re struggling to know how to deal with toxic family members biblically, however, simply ignoring the bad behavior won’t help.

 

For one Equipping Godly Women reader, her toxic family members show blatant favoritism.

“My relationship with my family isn’t a healthy one. Both my parents and my siblings clearly favor my sister and her kids over me and mine, and it hurts me and my kids the way this favoritism is displayed.

 

For example, they don’t visit me unless they need favors, and they brush my concerns aside when I try to share how their actions make me feel. My feelings are minimized, dismissed and discarded. It’s hurtful.

 

Even my kids are aware of this blatant favoritism. They ask questions about why their cousins get more attention, etc., and it breaks my heart.

 

I want to remain respectful to my parents and siblings, yet this has been happening for over five years now with no signs of remorse, and I don’t know how to make them understand how hurtful their actions are to me and my children.

 

I don’t want to go against God’s words or teachings. How do I deal with toxic family members biblically?”

 

If you’re struggling to figure out how to deal with toxic family members biblically, you’re not alone.

Maybe you’ve been wondering, “What does the Bible say about toxic family members?”

Maybe you’ve even been Googling questions like, “What does the Bible say about evil family members?” or “When should a Christian walk away from family?” Or maybe you aren’t sure if you’re dealing with toxic family members at all. (Maybe your family is simply annoying.)

 

You know you want to be a good Christian and do the right thing, but maybe it seems like no matter how much you love, forgive, ignore their tactics, and turn the other cheek, the mistreatment and manipulation never stops. It only gets worse.

The family dynamic is completely unhealthy, everyone involved is miserable, and nothing is working, no matter how much you try.

You want to be kind, but they’re driving you crazy, and you’re not sure what to do.

So now you’re wondering, “How do I deal with toxic family members biblically??”

 

Whatever your situation today, there is hope.

In this post, we’ll examine the common warning signs of a toxic relative, what the Bible says about toxic family members, 7 practical tips to help you deal with toxic family members biblically, and a few great resources you’ll want to check out.

 

*This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking through one of my links, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps cover the many costs of running this site and allows me to help provide for my growing family. Thank you!

 

15 Warning Signs You’re Dealing with a Toxic Family Member

While it may seem hurtful to label your parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, in-laws, or children as “toxic family members,” there’s something incredibly healing and freeing about knowing you’re not crazy and their behavior is not okay.

Common warning signs of toxic family members include: 

  • They’re abusive (physically, mentally, verbally, sexually, or emotionally).
  • They constantly criticize, shame, blame, or belittle others.
  • They’re controlling, manipulative, or passive-aggressive.
  • They’re constantly annoyed, angry, defensive, or defensive.
  • They’re jealous of others’ successes. Everything is a competition.
  • They always have to be the center of attention.
  • They’re selfish, self-centered, and arrogant.
  • They play the victim, are never wrong, and are never at fault.
  • They’re dismissive of others’ wants, needs, and opinions.
  • They belittle your grief, sadness, frustration, childhood trauma, or current pain.
  • Their reactions or emotions are unpredictable, sudden, and intense.
  • They give you the silent treatment when they don’t get their way.
  • They love drama and will create it where none exists.
  • Your home is in constant chaos due to their actions and reactions.
  • They don’t respect your healthy boundaries.
  • They gaslight you, causing you to question reality.
  • You always “lose” in your disagreements, even if it’s not your fault.
  • You rarely (or never) feel love, acceptance, or support.
  • You’re worried about your physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental health.
  • You feel depressed, anxious, exhausted, or unsettled around them.
  • You feel like you’re walking on eggshells around them.

 

If these warning signs perfectly describe someone you know, you may be dealing with a toxic family member. 

The vast majority of toxic family members won’t display all of these warning signs. And there’s a difference between the occasional toxic behavior and labeling someone a toxic person.

(We all do dumb things and act in ways we aren’t proud of sometime, and it’s possible to do bad things without being a bad person.)

If your friends and family members are simply annoying, it’s probably best to give them grace and try to overlook their faults. No one’s perfect, and dealing with annoying people can actually help you grow spiritually as you develop patience, understanding, and compassion.

BUT if your toxic family members repeatedly or consistently display these warning signs, it may be time to set boundaries, draw on your support system for help, and/or get therapy from a licensed counselor so you can enjoy a drama-free life again.

No one should have to live in constant fear, depression, anxiety, or dread after spending time with dysfunctional family members. No one should settle for emotional abuse or toxic family dynamics due to others’ sinful choices or addictions.

 

Related Reading: How to Set Biblical Boundaries as a Christian

 

How Would God Want Me to Deal with Toxic Family Members as a Christian?

Follow God's Will Book and Workbook

Do you ever wonder, “What would God want me to do in this situation?”

Should I try to repair my relationships with toxic family members? Set boundaries? Walk away and cut them out of my life?

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  • What does God want me to do personally?
  • How do I apply the Bible’s instructions to my life today?
  • What would God want me to do in the difficult situations I face each day?
  • How should I navigate relationships with those who think, act, or believe differently than I do?
  • And so much more!

Want to start reading for free?

Simply enter your first name and best email below, and I’ll send you the first chapter right away!

 

What Does The Bible Say About Toxic Family Members?

While the Bible does say that we should turn the other cheek, forgive, and love our enemies, it’s important to understand these Scripture verses in context. The Bible does not say that we should allow toxic family members to continually abuse, mistreat, or walk all over us (or our families).

In fact, there are times when the most loving, Christian response is to set boundaries or cut ties with toxic family members in order to protect ourselves and our families and/or so we don’t continue to enable our toxic family members’ selfish, sinful behavior.

While the Bible never uses the exact phrase “toxic family members,” Scripture has a lot to say about how we should treat those who mistreat us, and there’s a lot of (understandably) a lot of nuance to the discussion.

Here’s what the Bible says about toxic family members and those who mistreat us.

 

Choose Your Companions Wisely (Proverbs 13:20)

“Walk with the wise and become wise,
for a companion of fools suffers harm.”

While you can’t choose your family, you can choose to spend less time around those whose consistent poor choices have a negative impact on your personal faith or witness.

See also: Psalm 1:1, Proverbs 16:29, Proverbs 22:24-25, 1 Corinthians 15:33.

 

Encourage Others in Good Deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25)

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

As Christians, we want to encourage each other to serve the Lord and do what’s right. None of us are perfect. We all need each others’ loving support, correction, and encouragement.

See also: Romans 15:1-2, Colossians 3:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 2 Timothy 4:2, Hebrews 3:13.

 

Guard Your Faith (2 Peter 3:17)

“Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.”

Yet, while we do want to encourage others in the faith, we must be careful that our own faith isn’t badly damaged in the process. Some people are glad for gentle correction. Others will lash out at everyone near them. It’s wise to know the difference.

See also: Matthew 7:6, Proverbs 13:20.

 

Related Reading: What Does the Bible Say About Self-Care? (A Christian Perspective)

 

Avoid Toxic Family Members Who Love Drama and Division (Romans 16:17-18)

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”

You can’t always control how others behave, but you can choose to remove yourself from the situation so you don’t reap their negative consequences as well. The Bible repeatedly warns us to steer clear of other Christians who are bent on doing what’s wrong.

See also: 2 Timothy 2:22-26, Titus 3:9-11.

 

Love Your Enemies (Luke 6:27-29)

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.”

Jesus provides the ultimate example of loving your enemies, but it’s important to note that this passage is in the context of those who persecute you *for your faith.* It does not mean that we must allow everyone to mistreat us. Love does not mean “be a doormat.”

The famous love passage, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, tells us that:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

We can treat others with respect, honor, and dignity–without allowing them to abuse us.

See also: Leviticus 19:18, Romans 12:14, 17-20, 1 Peter 3:9, 1 John 4:7.

 

Forgive Those Who Hurt You (Matthew 18:21-22)

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'”

Similarly, to “forgive” someone doesn’t mean to say that what they did was right or okay, and it doesn’t mean that we have to maintain a close, healthy relationship with them. Rather, we can forgive someone by releasing our anger and desire for revenge to God. We can hold peace in our hearts, knowing that God will deal with them and their behavior.

See also: Matthew 6:14-15, Mark 11:25, Luke 6:37, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13.

 

Don’t Seek Revenge or Repayment for Evil (1 Peter 3:9)

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

This goes right along with our call to forgiveness. We can treat others with honor, dignity, and respect — even if they don’t deserve it. We can take the high road and do what’s right, even if we are the only one who does.

See also: Deuteronomy 32:35, Proverbs 20:22, 1 Thessalonians 5:15.

 

Pursue Peace, When Possible (Ephesians 4:2-3)

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

There are times when it’s important to stand up for justice and do what’s right. There are also times when it simply isn’t worth the fight–either because the issue is small or the other person isn’t likely to listen. While it’s perfectly fine to set Christian boundaries, we should do so in a way that pursues peace, not in a way that retaliates or lashes out at others in anger.

See also: Mark 9:50, Romans 12:16, Romans 15:5-6, Hebrews 12:14, 1 Thessalonians 5:13

 

Do Not Rejoice Over Others’ Downfall (Proverbs 24:17)

“Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice”

 

See also: Obadiah 1:12, Proverbs 17:5, 1 Peter 2:1.

 

Tired of Being “Nice” to Toxic Family Members? Jesus Wasn’t Always Nice…

Yes, we absolutely should love our enemies. But I think sometimes we forget what love really means.

Loving someone well does not mean always playing “nice,” always being the peacemaker, or just letting other people walk all over you. This isn’t love–it’s called enabling.

A better definition of love would be: honoring the true dignity of another person, acknowledging their inherent worth as human beings, created and loved by God, and doing everything in your power to do good for them and to act in their best interest.

Yes, it absolutely can include being “kind” (see 1 Cor. 13:4-7 again), but it’s so much more than that. And in fact, if you really examine the way Jesus behaves in the Gospels, his actions aren’t always what we consider “nice.”

  • When a Canaanite woman asks Jesus for his help in Matthew 15:26, “He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.'”
  • Jesus tells the Pharisees, You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” in Matthew 12:34.
  • And let’s not forget how “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves” in Matthew 21:12.

 

Now, I wouldn’t actually recommend you call your in-laws dogs or vipers or flip their tables! My point here is ONLY that the Bible does not teach us that we need to be super polite, calm, and passive to the point of being walked over and enabling others in their sins.

In fact, Jesus instructs the apostles to “leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet” in Matthew 10:14 and to “treat [unrepentant sinners] as you would a pagan or a tax collector” in Matthew 18:17.

Jesus’s plan for our lives isn’t to make us “nice.” It’s to make us (and our loved ones) holy. Sometimes that means treating others kindly. But other times that means protecting ourselves and our families instead of protecting the feelings of others who insist on pursuing sinful attitudes or behaviors.

 

See also: Yes, Christians Should Judge

 

How to Deal With Toxic Family Members Biblically

So since the Bible doesn’t teach us to be passive doormats, how should we deal with toxic family members Biblically?

Here’s what I would advise:

 

1. Assess the Situation Honestly

Toxic family members are annoying. So it only makes sense that you might get worked up when your friends and family members start showing the signs of a toxic person, or you start noticing the many signs of a toxic relationship.

Before you get too worked up, though, take a step back and assess the situation honestly:

  • Is the other person actually toxic, or simply annoying, thoughtless, etc?
  • Is the problem serious enough to warrant action, or can you simply overlook it for the sake of family unity?
  • Are you sure the other person’s actions are intentional, not simply perceived? (Ex: yelling, disappointment, blame)
  • What type of effect is the behavior having on you and your family?
  • What have you done to remedy the situation in the past, if anything?
  • Have you actually told the other person how you are feeling and what you’d like to change?
  • Are things getting better, staying the same, or getting worse?

 

In the best-case scenario: you may realize that the other party truly didn’t mean to hurt you and that they were unaware that their behavior was coming across so hurtful. If this is the case, then you may simply need to have a conversation.

Alternately, if the behavior is purposeful but small enough in nature, you may simply be able to ignore it or avoid the situation when possible. Life isn’t perfect, people are annoying, and sometimes we just have to deal with annoying people.

Yes, there are absolutely times when you may need to take action (there are times when cutting people out of your life is the right choice to make), but let’s not jump there quite yet.

Can the behavior simply be resolved or overlooked? If so (and the situation isn’t serious), then start here.

 

When to Walk Away BookSometimes, it can be really difficult to know if the issue is “bad” enough to consider walking away or if you just need to stay and be more loving.

There truly is no one size fits all answer. And it can be especially difficult to think clearly if your friends and family have engaged in gaslighting, manipulating, or other confusing behaviors.

This is why you absolutely want to seek godly counsel from friends and family who know you well, as well as seek out great books and resources to help you gain more insight into what’s normal and what’s not.

Sometimes you don’t realize how wrong a behavior is if it’s all you’ve known or if it’s what you’re used to.

This is where books like When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People can come in really useful! Written by a pastor, this book (and others like it) can help you figure out your situation while still staying true to biblical principles.

 

2. Accept Responsibility for Any Wrongdoing on Your Part

Next, let’s take a minute to look at yourself and any part you may have played in the issue: Have you done anything to make the situation worse? Or failed to do something to make the situation better?

While the situation may not ultimately be “your fault” (especially in cases of outright abuse), once we reach adulthood, each of us is responsible for and accountable for our own actions.

And this is good news! Because it means that you have the power and ability to choose different actions and to improve your situation.

It’s time to get honest with yourself.

  • Have you said or done anything hurtful to the other person? (even unintentionally!)
  • Have you ever failed to treat them as kindly or as respectfully as you should have?
  • Have you ever been selfish, self-centered, or mean-spirited?

Again, I’m not saying the mistreatment is your fault. But if you have done (or continue to do) things that hurt the other party, they may be acting out of that hurt. And a heartfelt apology for any wrongdoings on your part may be just what the other person needs to heal.

You aren’t responsible for them, but you are responsible and accountable for YOU — no matter what they’ve done to “deserve it.”

 

3. Set Healthy, Biblical Boundaries With Family

Next, once you’ve gotten honest about the situation and the role you may have played in it, it’s time to set some Biblical boundaries with family members and friends who may need them.

What behaviors will you accept? Which behaviors will you not accept? Where is the boundary?

 

Boundaries BookThis is where the book “Boundaries” comes in really helpful!

When you are dealing with people and situations who are truly toxic, manipulative, crazy or even abusive, it can really make you question your sanity and your decision-making! You want to do the right thing, but you may question what the right thing is or what requests are reasonable. It can be hard to tell.

That’s where Boundaries does a great job of laying out a Biblical framework to help you understand what truly is your responsibility, what requests are unreasonable, where you should draw the line, and how you can do so without guilt.

You can find Boundaries at your local library or on Amazon here.

 

Here’s the advice I gave the reader whose story I shared in the introduction to this article:

Personally, I would explain, incredibly politely, that while you love them, you cannot allow them to continue to hurt you and your children in this way. (If you even want to explain at all. I mean, you’ve had this conversation several times now. I don’t know if it is necessary to say anything else.)

I would be careful to be as unemotional, straightforward and polite as possible, to avoid saying anything that could be taken as accusatory, and to just speak out of your concern for the children.

For example, “We’ve spoken with you several times about how we feel as though you favor the other family over us. This has really hurt our family, as we want to enjoy a close, healthy relationship with you too, but it never seems to happen. Unfortunately, I cannot allow my children to have their hopes up and be so disappointed every time. For this reason, we will not be spending as much time with you…” etc, etc, in your own words.

Then, if they call, tell them you’re busy or cannot help them out at this time.

(Which is true–you are busy… doing anything else other than being mistreated by toxic family members… even if that’s just washing the dishes or playing with the kids. That counts as busy.)

 

So what do healthy, biblical boundaries with family look like for you?

Do you need to limit visits or restrict your visits to a certain format? (For example, maybe you are happy to call on the phone, but you can no longer visit in person.)

Do you need to set the boundary that you can only visit X times a year, that you can only give X dollars a month, or that you will only continue to be around them only as long as the conversation remains healthy and polite?

Seek wise counsel from friends and family you trust to make sure your boundaries are reasonable, let the other party know what your boundaries are, and then stick to them. 

There’s no need to feel guilty. The Bible encourages you to set Biblical boundaries with family where necessary.

(And if you still feel guilty, read the Boundaries book. It will help you figure out how to deal with toxic family members Biblically without feeling so guilty about it!)

 

4. Stick to Your Boundaries!

Once you’ve set your boundaries and told your friends and family members where they are — this is the hard part. You have to stick to the boundaries you’ve set!

I know that learning how to deal with toxic family members Biblically isn’t easy. It takes time and practice, and you won’t get it all right the first time, but stick with it.

Because if you’re continually “bending the rules,” your family will just learn that your “rules” aren’t really rules at all.

Seek Godly counsel, determine (through prayer) where your boundaries should be, and then stick to them!

 

5. Pray!

Sometimes the most loving thing you can do in a relationship is simply to pray for the other person.

This is why God commands us, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you in Luke 6:27-28.

Pray that God would heal their hurt, that he would open their eyes to their behavior, and that your relationship could be restored. 

Pray that God would help you love your toxic family members more and that He would give you the wisdom to deal with them wisely.

God will help you learn how to respond to toxic family members — you just have to ask!

 

Related Reading: Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayers? (6 Biblical Reasons)

 

6. Forgive

Now, I know you may feel very angry or resentful towards the toxic family members and friends who have hurt you and ruined your familial relationships, but the Bible is clear: We have to forgive, even when we don’t feel like it.

We see this in Mark 11:25, which says, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Please understand, though: Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that what they did is okay or that they shouldn’t receive any consequences for their action. 

You can still set Biblical boundaries and turn an abuser in to the authorities if needed.

But we have a responsibility to forgive others (even and especially our enemies) if we want God to forgive us as well.

 

Related Reading: Four Things Every Christian Needs to Know About Forgiveness

 

7. Close the Door

 

So far in this article, I’ve tried to help you answer the following questions:

  • Am I in a toxic relationship?
  • What are the signs of a toxic person/signs of a toxic relationship?
  • What does the Bible say about toxic family members / how to deal with toxic family members Biblically?

 

If you have done all of the above to the best of your ability, then it may be time for you to ask the last question: “What does the Bible say about cutting ties with family / cutting people out of your life?”

 

The truth is: While it would be awesome if we could all get along, the truth is that we do have free will, and some people choose to use theirs in a way that interferes with God’s best for our lives.

And when this happens, we don’t have to stay stuck in toxic, abusive relationships.

God walks away from stubborn, sinful people at times (Romans 1:24-28). Jesus had times when he walked away (Matthew 12:34). And we have the Biblical right to walk away too.

God opens doors, but we often forget that he closes them, too. 

Sometimes, as unfortunate as it is, when there is nothing more we can do, we need to just step back and let GOD deal with it in a way that only He can. And that’s okay.

There are plenty of people in the world we can enjoy close, healthy relationships with. It doesn’t always have to be with our toxic family members.

 

Related Reading: How to Let Go of Past Hurts and Move Forward

 

Books to Help You Deal with Toxic Family Members Biblically

Obviously, there’s so much more that can be said on the topic of how to deal with toxic family members biblically (whether toxic parents, in-laws, siblings, or young or grown children) than I could possibly cover in one blog post.

While this article should provide an excellent start for you, I’d highly recommend you to check out at least one of the following three books that cover the subject on a much deeper level, each with a slightly different angle.

 

1. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life

Boundaries Book

If you struggle with setting healthy, God-honoring boundaries with your family, this book is a MUST read. There’s a reason it’s continued to sell an incredible number of copies over the last three decades.

In “Boundaries,” Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend take a gospel-centered approach to help those in strained or toxic relationships answer questions including:

  • Can I set limits and still be a loving person?
  • What are legitimate boundaries?
  • What if someone is upset or hurt by my boundaries?
  • How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy, or money?
  • Aren’t boundaries selfish?
  • Why do I feel guilty or afraid when I consider setting boundaries?

This book is perfect for anyone trying to figure out how to love difficult family members well, without getting run over by toxic family members in the process.

You can find “Boundaries” on Amazon here.

 

2. When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People

When to Walk Away BookAdditionally, if you’re at the point where you’re considering cutting contact with your toxic family members, you’ll want to read When To Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People by well-known pastor and bestselling author Gary Thomas.

This book will help you:

  • Learn the difference between difficult people and toxic people
  • Find refuge in God when you feel under attack
  • Discern when to walk away from a toxic situation
  • Keep a tender heart even in unhealthy relationships
  • Grow your inner strength and invest in reliable people

You can find “When to Walk Away” on Amazon here. 

 

What is God’s Will for Your Relationships?

Follow God's Will Book and Workbook

While Follow God’s Will isn’t about relationships with toxic family members specifically,  it’s chock full of step-by-step, biblical guidance to help you know exactly what God wants you to do in any situation you may be facing.

Practical, encouraging, and full of biblical truth, Follow God’s Will is designed to help you answer questions including:

  • What does God want me to do personally?
  • How do I apply the Bible’s instructions to my life today?
  • What would God want me to do in the difficult situations I face each day?
  • How should I navigate relationships with those who think, act, or believe differently than I do?
  • And so much more!

Want to start reading for free?

Simply enter your first name and best email below, and I’ll send you the first chapter right away!

 

Have you ever had to deal with toxic family members Biblically (or friends)? What helpful advice would you offer to our anonymous reader on how to deal with toxic family members Biblically? 

Brittany Ann Equipping Godly Women

About the author

Brittany Ann is an ECPA bestselling author of “Fall in Love with God’s Word” and “Follow God’s Will” and the founder of EquippingGodlyWomen.com, a popular Christian-living website dedicated to helping busy Christian moms find practical ways to go "all in" in faith and family. Her work has been featured on CBN, The Christian Post, Crosswalk, and more.

  1. I scrolled through many of theses comments looking for a similar situation to mine. And unfortunately I found several with similar stories.

    A few differences that I have and would love wisdom on is that my mother, sister and myself have always been extremely close. My mom raised us both in church and we always have been there for each other. After my sister married she moved about an hour away so it made it difficult to spend time together frequently and then throwing kids schedules in the mix made it more difficult. My sister just recently went through a divorce and two months after moving out she has new ‘friend’. Needless to say I had some reservations about this whole ordeal and it being so soon. But my mom and sister have started make snide remarks to me about being judgmental and ‘holier than thou’ because I have not been agreement with how fast things have been happening. And now my nephews birthday party is coming up and there is a possibilty that we might not be able to attend bc of my own sons sports schedule. I know I will catch all heck if we are not able to make it. The little remarks keep adding up and I am trying to just keep my mouth shut and not retaliate bc that to me would just fuel their fire more. I have started keeping my conversations very surface and to not share to much personal information about anything! Which is hurtful, bc we have always been able to talk about anything. But now when I say anything or offer my opinions or hurt feelings, they get twisted and one runs and tells the other.

    I want to show mercy and love, but I also dont want to enable this reoccurring behavior in them.

  2. Reading all of the comments sure does tell me I am not alone! Different from most of the comments, we have the opposite in my family, where my sister has spent her life hating our mother and getting all of us kids (one brother and another sister) against her. Blames her gambling, bi-polar, narcissim, bad decisions, pathological lying, and pretty much everything she does and has done on our mother. Mom is not perfect and has admitted she was more of an Authoritarian parent due to a divorce which in her time was looked down upon. She said she didn’t want to be known for raising bad kids so she was super strict with us. But you know what? We are all over 55 years old now, while 3 of the 4 of us have gone on to deal with our childhood, make amends with our mother, and be successful, our sister is stuck in the Victim Mentality rut and is firmly rooted in it. Sadly she has convinced my brother and brainwashed him into believing all of her lies about our Mom! Also, we recently stopped paying her phone bill after 4 years (“i’ll get my finances together one of these days” – “I didnt ask for you to pay for my phone but I need one to contact the school about my young son and his father won’t get me one”) while she played the victim because she mismanages her money and puts her alcoholic abusive boyfriend and money before anything. Us asking for her to pay us back opened a huge can of worms and now she has said that it is my sister and i who have torn the family apart, and my brother believes it. ON and on for days I could go on how she’s damaged our family (swindled over $38,00 from two members and thousands in small increments from the rest of us), lost all of her friends, gambles away any money she gets, lies and lies and lies, but denies she has any problems, its all of us not her! After 30 years of asking and begging her to get help or allowing us to help her (she went to gambling treatment for 30 days then left, just because we busted her in a lie about money), so we sometimes feel like prayer is her only hope right now and that and act of God is about the only thing that can help. I honestly think she is possessed by demons. When we bring up God she does all she can to disprove Him, yet says shes read the Bible 8 times, I haven’t even read the Bible 8 times! A good soul but in bondage. This summer we are offering group counseling to try to resolve this, please pray for us! We are at our wits ends…..thanks for listening….

  3. I am in the midst of a difficult time with my mom. Unlike many of you, my childhood was pretty good. The only thing out of the norm was the lack of social growth because my mom didn’t like my friends to come over after church and didn’t allow me to go off with friends. I was raised in a Christian home. My dad was a humble, well respected man who lived the Christian life through his actions, and seldom confronted Mom. I was an only child.
    Fast forward twenty five years…my mom and her sister had a bitter confrontation about an inheritance, my grandmother sided with the sister, and my mom was left on the outside. I remember my grandmother reaching out to Mom several times to work on things, but Mom was so hurt she never responded. From that time on, Mom would find reasons to lash out at me and others in her life, often for something that had was not as it seemed to her. She is now 89 years old, and the attacks on me have accelerated. My Dad went to Heaven nearly 20 years ago.
    I am a “rededicated” Christian; after years of living life with God on the outside, He brought me to my knees during a nasty divorce. My life and attitudes have done a “360”. I have remarried , and my husband is a minister. I have a great relationship with my children and step children. It is this fact that really sets her off. I travel 400 miles to visit here every month, do what I can to help, and really try to get along with her ( being quiet works well). Now she takes things I say or write and constructs a story that makes me look bad and gives her sympathy from others. The latest thing is her telling me not to contact her by phone because I upset her and she can’t sleep, not to visit for several months ( until the month of her birthday) and continually tells me how much I Have hurt her. No matter how much I try to explain , she sees it as being disrespectful, and says she wishes I was the little girl I used to be. I am studying Boundaries and find it very helpful. I pray for God to soften her heart but have to keep my distance per her request. When I write, I keep them short and don’t bring up the hurt. The only people who know what she is doing are my cousin and the family who runs her business. Any suggestions?

  4. I had no idea that so many people deal with difficult or toxic parents. Most blogs/posts are geared towards the adult child being mean and disrespectful to the parent. Wonderful to see that there are those who understand and have solutions/advice for the adult children who are treated hurt fully by their parents.
    My situation is a little different , in that my mom was pretty normal when I was growing up. I was an only child and enjoyed the love and care of Christian parents. However, my mom changed when she was hurt by her mom and sister in an inheritance dispute 40 years ago. I am one of many people that have felt her frustration and hurt.
    Her relationship with me is steadily getting more strained and hurtful. It used to be that she would attack me for something I did or said that was considered offensive. Now she uses a single phrase to create a story, and no matter how much I try to explain she won’t acknowledge that she misunderstood. She was very opposed to my remarriage, which was 9 years after a painful divorce. Instead of seeing this as a chance to have happiness again, she has treated my husband very coldly and makes it clear she doesn’t want to hear about anything we do. Then she attacked one of my children because she forgot to send her a birthday card. That resulted in a huge confrontation about showing partiality. She “banished” me for three months and during that time she rewrote her will to make sure my daughter nor me received anything at her death.
    The latest assault was about me joining my husband and SIL at the beach following a visit to her home. I learned two things….she wishes I was who I used to be, she’s upset that we can’t agree on things, and that she didn’t like my remarriage because he had been married before. I made a one day, 400 mile trip on Mothers Day to take her to lunch, only to hear the same attacks over again. She has told me not to visit or call her at all until September ( her birthday).
    I can’t discuss this with most people…I’m nearly 65 years old and many of my friends have lost their mothers and can’t understand my pain. My choice has been to pray for her, respect her wishes, and leave her alone. I am a two time cancer survivor and it hurts that she doesn’t want to know how I am, nor anything about me.I have read the book Boundaries and it is indeed helpful. Any other suggestions for me? My mom is almost 89 and still able to drive and go where she needs ( within 10 mile) radius.

  5. What if the Toxic person in your life is an Adult Child? That is what we are dealing with and have been for over 15 years. She is now 34 years old and we have finally had to say that we can’t have any contact with her. She was destroying our home, our marriage and her younger brother. As Christian parents we have tried everything to make things work and keep our family together. We have gone to counseling with her, forgiven over and over again, bent over backwards to try to appease her and yet nothing means anything to her. She is completely self absorbed, manipulative, and sometimes devious with absolutely no remorse for anything she has said or done. We never know what is truth and what is a lie. Our family just could not continue with her disruptive behaviour. The hard part has been that most of the extended family has no idea how she truly is because is the masterful at being wonderful and perky and so happy around the extended family and we have tried to keep our struggle within our small family unit, not expressing everything to our families. So they don’t understand why we have taken this step. So our struggle now is do we try to explain the nightmare we have been living for the past 15 years or do we continue to keep this to ourselves. Of course she is voicing her side and make her dad and I look like demons, but we are trying to take the high road, not talking about her negatively to family and praying for guidance. It has been very difficult and we have questioned what kind of parents could we be to take this step. We are trying to put God First, then our marriage, which as I said previously we had reached a point we were ready to separate because of all the conflict she was causing. I just don’t know. But I do know since we have taken that step our marriage is healing, we are finding ourselves closer to God and our church family, who we have reached out to and they have been a true blessing.

  6. My relationship with my mother is very complicated. My father passed away 10 years ago, when I was 18. At the time I was working for a program out of the country, I came home for a couple of weeks, but felt the need to finish. I asked my mother at the time and she said it was ok for me to go back. Came home a few months later and stayed for almost a year. Then moved back to join a Christian non-profit for three years. I ended up finding my husband and moving across the country from my mom to start our lives. My mom made some very bad choices in these 10 years- broke the law, became an alcoholic, began a toxic relationship with a boyfriend, abandoned God and even had her boyfriend around when I would come home to visit, who was very questionable with me sexually and never said anything. (actually my older brother stepped in a few times to make sure he knew he was being inappropriate). Although the last few years since I started having children (I have two boys) I made a big point to keep my mother involved in our lives. I went out to visit her up to 5 times a year and would have her come here for several weeks, but she is EXTREMELY controlling. She has come back to God, but has very weird ideals and beliefs. I do not share in those, but she acts as if I am an idiot because I am not weary of the Government, health care, school systems and that I will ruin my children lives but trusting in those things. She is extremely disrespectful to me and my husband, to the point with my first child I asked her not to be in the room when I delivered because my husband didn’t feel comfortable and she did not listen to our wishes and came in anyways. She was willing to put her daughter that was giving birth in one of the most awkward situations with A LOT of tension between her and my husband, just because she believed that I needed her and that’s what she wanted. And good Christian girls will allow their mothers in the delivery room and basically never say no to their wishes. Now my mother in is prison for the next 3 years and is asking to live with me and my husband when she gets out. We live in a 3 bedroom very small home with 4 of us. I’ve told her over and over that I do not feel comfortable with this as I truly do not know if my marriage could handle the stress, or want to put my children through the negativity or stress that my mother brings into play. I’ve let her stay at my house for weeks on end, and the fighting never seems to end, its stressful and very tension filled regardless of any attempts of talking things thru, my mother acts like a 5 year old when we get in fights and usually says hurtful things. The last time I didn’t want her to hold my two week old because she just smoked a cigarette and she called me a bad mother and stormed to her room and slammed the door… anyways she is making me feel as though I am not following God by saying no to her living in my home. She says I am extremely hurtful to her and that I am not following God by taking care of the elderly. The guilt I feel is unreal because I do truly love my mother, and though things have been hard I have made a commitment that no matter how toxic she is I will remain in relationship with her and let her be with my kids, but I do not think that living with me is wise. I do not know what to do or how to handle this. I feel wrong for saying no, and I am in immense emotional distress over this whole thing. She has other family members who have expressed that they will take her in, but has made it clear she wants to live with me. She even went as far as to say she is going to ask my in laws to live with them if I say no. (SO UNCOMFORTABLE!!!!) I do not know what to do, or how to be, or even what to say?? I don’t know the right thing in Gods eyes and where to lay down my foot…

    1. Hi I read your story, and I don’t think you should let your mother live with you. You have to do what is healthy for your family and not let all the stress your mother would bring hurt your family ask your husband if you can tell your mom that he says no to this that way your mom can’t blame you for any of this, hope it go’es well for you and remember God is not the confuser but the one who brings peace there would be too much stress and no peace if you were to let your mom live in your home and you would be hurting your family that wouldn’t be Gods will hope this helped!

  7. I really appreciate this article so much. My husband is the one who googled something related to “toxic family Christian” and this was one of the top sites suggested.

    I have just recently come to the realization that I have toxic parents (I am 25 yo). I haven’t had a stellar relationship with my parents since I became a Christian at 16. They are culturally Christian, but do not abide in the teachings of Jesus, nor do they know Him or love Him. As a teenager, I was trying to figure out what this life was about through the new biblical worldview that I had after being saved. I sought discipleship and direction from my parents (I thought they were believers at the time), but my questions just produced a lot of insecurity in them, which turned into anger and division. Since I wasn’t getting fed at home, I went to the woman who led me to Jesus and asked for her help. My mother quickly grew jealous of our relationship and accused me of wanting this woman to be my mother instead of her… This is one of the hinge moments that I can look back on and see where the toxicity of my parents started coming out.

    Fast forward to today, our relationship has digressed. About two months ago, my mother (she is a feelings “stuffer”) completely lost it on me and spent about two hours telling me everything that she hates about me. My dad later joined in. They were harsh and so mean. Saying things that are unthinkable to me (being a new mother to an infant daughter myself). My mother told me that she hopes I have a bad relationship with my daughter so that I know how it feels. My dad said that he expects my husband and me to divorce. Both of them accused me of stripping the childhood from my kid (she’s 6 mo) because I’m not going to tell her that Santa Clause is real. Both of them said that my wedding was a complete embarrassment to them and that my mother cried the whole way home (my pastor preached a sermon on Psalm 145 and we sang two worship songs – this was the embarrassing part apparently). They both claimed that I can’t keep a friend, and challenged me by asking if I even talk to any of the women in my bridal party to this day (one is my neighbor whom I visit every day, and I have seen or spoken to the others in the previous month – two are overseas on long-term mission trips). They even went as far as to compare me to my brother, saying I should be more like him in certain ways. I love my brother and have a good relationship with him, so I think this tactic was meant to divide us or just be another wound to inflict upon me.

    Anyway, this conversation was the third encounter with them over the course of three months that led to this type of banter. My dad even kicked me out of the house (while I was holding my 4 mo in my arms) because I made my mother cry by telling her that I felt like she wasn’t there for me as a teenager (my attempt at trying to air out my feelings towards her). She asked me when our relationship went sour, so I told her…

    So, after many years of submitting, I have decided to draw boundaries with my family. These boundaries haven’t been communicated yet. I am not sure how to bring them up because, in my family, once a fight is over, you forgive and forget it. This is a huge reason why my parents are so toxic. They live under the umbrella of “I can say anything I want to you, even if it is hurtful, and you will forgive me by tomorrow morning and I will do the same for you”. But forgiveness never comes, as I experienced the last time I went to their house and they told me about all the horrible things I put them through as a child growing up, which I didn’t even know they were holding against me (some things going all the way back to kindergarten!). So, according to this rule, I should have forgotten about these encounters by now. I cannot. They were so hurtful and full of venomous words. Trust is broken and there is little chance of it being restored if things continue down the same path. My daughter makes things a little more complicated though… My parents feel like they have a right to their grandchild, although I don’t agree whatsoever. I want them to know her, but I don’t know if I am able to go around them like they want us to.

    Anyway, we are attending a birthday party for my nephew next weekend and I am anxious to see my parents. They are so unpredictable, but they mind their manners in public. It is important to save face with friends and extended family. My family has prided itself on being the picture-perfect, united American family. That is until Jesus came to “set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Matt 10:35). I say that with joy! Take the world and give me Jesus!

      1. I dont know if you will get this reply but I too have a very distant relationship with my mother who abandoned me when I was aroun4 or 5. She wishes to talk to me when she’s going through her stuff. But I dont like to be involved with co tant liars if I can avoid it. My children often tell lies. Occasionally my husband will lie and at times I’ll be honest I omit the truth which in turn IS a lie. But those are people i have to deal with, I can’t just ignore or do away with them when we share a roof. Bit my mom, brother, sister, or anyone else for that matter if they refuse to hear the type of conversations I find enlightening (Christ ) but want to talk about other people and gossip then no I dont want to be apart of that. Or if they want to dof another person out and use foul language then no I’m not going to be a part of that. We talk about life, about what’s going on in our lives about the weather , about God. But if its putting other people down or talking about them or dead conversations that dont edify God, teach about Him or glorify him i just rather not be involved in it. He saved me and I’m indebted to Him. So I do ALL I can to honor Him. I was told by my mother in law that “mama ALWAYS gonna come first and I know you all Holy and righteous but mama comes first.” She and her other children have found it to be a part of their rituals apparently to talk about me and my husband bc of our path towards living righteously. I dont like to attend their parties bc they play cecular music , dance dance provocatively curse smoke and drink and I don’t want to be around people like that I keep hearing the scripture they even though we live in this world we are not to be of this world nor keep company with fools and the fools are the people who don’t want Christ and there is a difference of knowing of Christ and knowing Christ.

  8. i have been replaced by my cheating X wife by my family and told to get offtheir propery. now what? i am related to alomst everyone here!

    1. Oh no, that is a really tough situation to be in. I’m so sorry you’re going through that. Praying for you.

  9. I just found your article and agree we need to honor our parents but I have struggled with a very toxic, emotionally abusive mother for years. She has been married over 7 times and in multiple other relationships. I am her only child and have eight kids. I moved out and joined the military at seventeen intentionally to get away from her insanity. As an adult my husband and I wanted to have her close being her only child to care for her as she gets older. I have lived near her briefly multiple times as an adult and they all end with her blowing up at me,often in front of my children and leaving the STATE! WE don’t talk for years and then she reintegrates into life. This last time though I don’t know how to honer her anymore nor do I desire too – I know I am suppose to, just being honest. She completely disrespected my teen boys who had done an incredible amount of work for her and my family who had bent over backwards for her for a year. She did nothing by complain about how my oldest son and his wife did nothing but use her and how his wife was too needy. She lied to my husband and tried to destroy my marriage and the final straw is she has lied to my son and his wife (the ones she did nothing but complain about for a year) and they have not talked to use for over 10 months and they will not tell us why? Over what you wonder? She texted and stated ” I’m so glad I moved back here to have family help when I need it” I called becaue that was hurtful after all we did for the past year for her – she blew up, spent time with my oldest son’s wife that next week and guess what left the STATE! She has divided my family as well as stressed the relationships with my aunts and sister. So how, please tell me how do I honor her??? HOw do I handle that Biblically? I have missed holidays with my first grand daughter, missed the announcement of my second grandchild, miss events with my son and his siblings are missing them as well. Please someone tell me how to Biblically honor a woman who would do this to her own daughter, her ONLY daughter!

  10. I am dealing with a toxic relationship with my in-laws…for 30 years they lived near us and we were always there to help. My in-laws ruined their business and talked my husband into starting a similar one so my father in law could work for him. They had been sued and lost everything accumulating a ton of debt. I found out that my father in law had a credit card (supposed to be for business) that he was using for personal…it was in my husbands name. They accumulated $10000 + on that card. When I called him out on his bad behavior, he was angry at me and got really nasty saying that he was going to take his wife and move to Texas to live near my SIL. They eventually did. We were wondering in our business why we weren’t having money to pay the bills like we should only to discover later on that he had take over $7000 cash from a client for materials but instead of putting it in the bank, he took it with him. We had no choice but to come up with the money ourselves (personal loan). For 3 years they sent my family members birthday cards and such (with money enclosed) and i got nothing. They only started sending me ones again the year our daughter was married. In his book he is never wrong, never apologizes for anything and only contacts when he wants us to do something for him. I am done with them…I treat them politely when I see them but they have made it perfectly clear by their actions that they are only thinking about themselves. He knows we know about the money he took but has never said anything about it. He is in his early 70’s but acts like a young kid that thinks he is entitled to stuff because he grew up poor. Claims to be a Christian but has said before that they have to go and do the “religious things” with my SIL and her family. I could go on and on. My husband is so different that sometimes I think he was adopted. My grown children see their behavior and really don’t want to be around them.

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