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On Toxicity

I was recently told, “If you continue to keep toxic people in your life, it says more about you than it does about them.” I’ve been reflecting on this quote for weeks now. If I keep toxic, negative people in my life, it says a tremendous amount about me, but what specifically does it say? Are the answers simple? That I forgive easily, am willing to give second chances, understand that no one is perfect? Or is the truth more grim than that?

In life, events happen that cause us to reflect on the people we hold dear. These events can be celebrating a birthday, having a spat with a friend, or something more major, like death. We take stock in those we have placed in our circle, and often times, we notice the negative or toxic people. The act of noticing, however, is not the difficult part. The action of cutting those people out of your circle is what proves the hardest. But why? Why is it that we cannot cut people from our lives, no matter how toxic they seem to us? Is it because we are afraid of hurting their feelings? Afraid of rocking the boat of the circle as a whole? Do we fear confrontation? All of those things may be the case, but where does our toxicity intertwine with theirs? We are a reflection of those we surround ourselves with, but to what extent?

What it comes down to is this: in keeping toxic people in our lives, we are signifying that we are not ready to do the work on the part of ourselves that reflects their toxicity. In other words, we are quick to forgive toxic people, or keep them around, because in doing this, we are enabling ourselves to engage in similar patterns. Furthermore, in referring to someone else’s behavior as toxic, we remove responsibility from ourselves to be catalysts of inner-change. They become our adversaries; thus, any need for introspection is removed.

But if we consider that the toxic people we keep in our lives reflect our own negative traits, the question arises: Are you willing to do the work? And if not, are you willing to change your perspective on what you consider toxic? But should we ever need to? The longer we forgive, forget, ignore, the longer wounds fester, both in our relationships and in our chests.

Envision the people in your life being a lake, one that you can see your reflection in. Do you feel as though you are floating? Or that, at any point, you could drown? Most importantly, take stock in which parts of yourself are staring back.