Not sure how to deal with toxic family members Biblically? Don’t let them slowly drive you insane. Here’s what the Bible says about cutting people out of your life.
Are you struggling to figure out how to deal with toxic family members Biblically?
Maybe you’ve been wondering, “What does the Bible say about cutting people out of your life?” and now you’re looking up Bible verses about toxic family or Bible verses about toxic relationships in general.
Maybe you aren’t even sure if you are dealing with toxic family members or if your family is simply annoying.
You know you want to be a good Christian and do the right thing, but it seems like no matter how much you love, forgive and turn the other cheek, the mistreatment never stops — only gets worse.
The situation 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, “What does the Bible say about dealing with toxic relationships?”
The good news is, if you have toxic people in your life or you are in a toxic relationship, you are not alone!
In fact, I had a sweet reader ask me how to deal with toxic family members Biblically not that long ago, and I thought you might benefit from hearing my answer to her as well.
After all, as Christians, we don’t just want to go off on our loved ones or respond in anger and hurt. You don’t want to start cutting people out of your life or cut ties with toxic family members or friends for no reason.
We want to know how to deal with toxic family members Biblically so we can use the Bible’s wisdom to guide our actions.
So with that in mind, here’s my best advice on how to respond to toxic family members Biblically. I hope it helps.
*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!
Best Christian Books for Dealing with Toxic Family Members
By the way, the BEST resource I’ve found for figuring out how to deal with toxic family members Biblically is the book “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
In this very popular New York Times bestseller, Drs. Cloud and Townsend offer a TON of great Biblical insight on what behaviors are appropriate and not, how to set Biblical boundaries with family, and how to stick up for yourself without being a jerk OR a pushover in the process.
If you ever wonder, “How do I set limits and still be a loving person?” “Where should those limits be?” or “How can I learn to say no without feeling so guilty,” this book will absolutely help. I’ve recommended it to quite a few people now, and I know you’ll really enjoy it and benefit from it too.
Alternately, When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People by well-known pastor and bestselling author Gary Thomas is a fantastic resource as well.
Based on biblical examples from the lives of Jesus, Paul, and Nehemiah, this book will help you learn how to accurately assess your situation, find wisdom and strength in Jesus, and discern when to walk away from a toxic situation — while avoiding bitterness and unforgiveness.
Reader Question: How Do I Deal With Toxic Family Members Biblically?
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.
How can I handle this without going against God’s words or teachings? What does the Bible say about cutting people out of your life?
First of all, I’m sorry you are dealing with this.
BUT I do think it’s great that you’re asking, “What does the Bible say about toxic family members?” rather than just lashing out in response to your hurt feelings.
In this post, I’m going to share my best step-by-step advice for learning how to deal with toxic family members Biblically.
But before we get there, let’s start by identifying the signs of a toxic relationship.
Signs of a Toxic Relationship
You may be wondering, “Am I in a toxic relationship with my family?” Or, “Is my sister a toxic person?”
Let’s turn to the Bible for an answer.
The Bible describes what love is supposed to look like in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. It says:
“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.”
Now, if we take the opposite of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, what do we see?
We see several signs of a toxic person or signs of a toxic relationship:
- Lacks patience
- Is verbally and/or physically abusive
- Acts jealous over every little thing
- Boasts excessively
- Is excessively prideful
- Dishonors others
- Is self-seeking
- Reminds others of past mistakes
- Delights in your pain or suffering
- Neglects or refuses to protect or defend you
- Refuses to trust
- Lacks hope
- Gives up easily
If your friends and family members are simply annoying, it’s probably best to give them grace and try to overlook their faults, if speaking with them doesn’t help.
If you read these signs of a toxic relationship, however, and thought, “Yep. I definitely have toxic family members,” then this article on how to deal with toxic family members Biblically is definitely for you.
What Does The Bible Say About Toxic Family Members?
So now that we’ve identified the signs of a toxic relationship, what should we do about it? Do we have to “play nice” because they’re family, or is cutting people out of your life ever okay? What does the Bible say about cutting ties with family?
Let’s take a look.
As Christians, many of us are aware of these Bible verses:
“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. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” — Luke 6:27-31
And 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 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?
- 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 and 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.
Sometimes, 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 on 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?
And, again, this 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 above:
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 us and our family, as we want to have a 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, 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!
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!
Now, I know you may feel very angry or resentful towards the toxic family members and friends who have hurt you and ruined your 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.
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?
It will help you answer questions like, “Am I in a toxic relationship?” And it truly will help you learn how to deal with toxic family members Biblically.
Alternately, if you’re at the point of cutting people out of your life Biblically, you may want to check out When To Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People instead.