by | Mar 9, 2023 | Abuse, Emotional Health, Leadership, Ministry Leader, Pastor | 0 comments

Sometimes it is impossible to avoid unpleasant people.

We may work with them or attend school with them. They may also be part of our families. If those people are toxic, learning to navigate those relationships while maintaining our own emotional health and not becoming poisoned by their toxicity is a huge challenge.

Years ago, I got into a fender bender. It was my fault. I was in a fast-food drive through line. The line began moving slowly so I took my foot off the brake while simultaneously glancing down at the clock. I didn’t glance back in time to realize the car in front of me had stopped and I tapped their bumper with mine.

A man exploded out of the driver’s seat toward me hurling expletives and threats. I rolled my window down, asked him to back up and said, “I am sorry. I am completely at fault. We can talk about this calmly, but I refuse to allow you to scream at me like that. So, please stop or I’m rolling the window back up.”

Remarkably, he calmed down. And we proceeded to assess the situation (no damage) and then to carry and obtain our respective Quarter Pounders with cheese.

I refused to be verbally lambasted by this man. I could have chosen differently, but I knew that wouldn’t be good for me emotionally.

Last week we continued exploring what it looks like to establish good mental health as written in John Opalewski’s book Unshakable You: 5 Choices of Emotionally Healthy People. We are finishing up the third choice today as we learn to protect ourselves from abuse. 

Before we camp out on this topic, we again want to strongly urge you: If abuse is physical in nature, put geographic distance between you and the abuser. If needed, notify authorities, find a shelter, obtain a restraining order…whatever it takes to be safe. Surround yourself with support, loving people, and professionals to obtain help. Also, leaders exhibiting gross abuse of authority should be reported as well.


With that in mind, here are some additional steps to protect yourself from emotionally and verbally abusive individuals include:

  1. Practice loving yourself when attacked. When abusive people try to intimidate or victimize you, be reminded that you are loved and respected by God. You are a capable person and do not deserve to be treated poorly. Repeat those statements to yourself regularly.
  2. Understand what “loving your enemy” really means. Jesus speaks very specifically about loving our enemies. Not allowing your enemy to abuse you is actually one of the most loving things you can do for him or her. If you don’t draw the line—who will? Jesus instructs us not to retaliate when we’re mistreated. He doesn’t want hatred to take root in our hearts because He knows that will destroy us. Loving your enemy means forgoing hatred and instead . . . caring about them and praying for them on occasion . . .all the while not allowing them to take advantage of you or treat you badly.
  3. Consistently address abuse when it happens. When we do not address the behavior of the abusive people in our lives and instead tolerate it, deep down we end up resenting them anyway. Unprocessed resentment often leads to bitterness, holding grudges, difficulty forgiving . . . all super-unhealthy things. Avoid these traps by speaking the truth in love. If the offender does not get the message after several attempts by you and persists in this behavior, you would do well avoid them whenever possible. Life is too short to subject yourself to ongoing abuse.


Learning to protect ourselves from toxic personalities is crucial to developing and maintaining emotional health. Take a moment to say out loud: I choose to protect myself from abusive people. And then begin that process. We think it’s likely you’ll need a network to make progress on your journey: a trusted friend or two, a qualified coach, and a counselor at some point. We know this sounds like a lot of work—and it is! But the payoff for all your hard work will be more joy, peace, and stability in your life.


We’re praying and rooting for you!




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