This week on The Best of You podcast, we're getting into how to say No to toxic behaviors—including practical strategies, scripts, and misconstrued bible passages. There’s no one-size fits all when it comes to setting healthy boundaries. A strategy that might work in a healthy relationship won't work with toxicity. It's important to understand the difference.
This is a packed episode. Here’s what we discuss:
1. Why toxic behaviors require an entirely different type of "no"
2. An overview of toxic behaviors
3. Extreme toxicity and when to cut off a relationship all together
4. 5 steps to implement a boundary with toxic behavior
5. 3 scripts for 3 different situations
6. What about turning the other cheek?
7. How to form a boundaries committee
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Music by Andy Luiten
Sound editing by Kelly Kramarik
While Dr. Cook is a counselor, the content of this podcast and any of the products provided by Dr. Cook are not specific counseling advice nor are they a substitute for individual counseling. The content and products provided on this podcast are for informational purposes only.
- Learn more about the Spectrum of Toxicity and scripts for setting healthy boundaries inThe Best of You: Break Free From Painful Patterns, Mend Your Past, and Discover Your True Self in God, by Dr. Alison Cook
- Episode 24: Boundaries, The Spectrum of Toxicity, and a Note About Evil
- Episode 25: How to Say No in Healthy Relationships
- Episode 2: What Should I Know About Gaslighting?
- Episode 1: What is Narcissism Really?
- Think Again, by Adam Grant
- Mathew 5:38-42
- Matthew for Everyone, by N.T. Wright
- Ephesians 6:11
- 1 Peter 5:9
- 1 Corinthians 15:58
- 1 Corinthians 16:13
Episode Twenty-Six The Best of You Podcast 27th October 2022
With Dr. Alison Cook
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Alison: Hey everyone, I'm Dr. Allison, and I'm so glad you're here to discover what brings out the best of you. This podcast is all about breaking free from painful patterns, mending the past, and discovering our true selves in God. I can't wait to get started as we learn together how to become the best version of who we are with God's help.
Hey everyone, welcome back to The Best of You podcast. So we are, today, going to get into part two of types of NO everyone needs to learn to say. This is the last episode in this series of Boundaries and the Bible. And last week we got into how to say NO in healthy relationships. And this week we're going to get into how to say NO when there's toxicity.
It requires a whole different set of skills, set of strategies, and I'm going to walk you through two different ways to say no. When you're dealing with people who are behaving in manners consistent with that toxic side of the spectrum.
We talked about the spectrum of toxicity, back in episode 24, so if you want a refresher of what that spectrum is and what those different behaviors look like, head back to episode 24. You can also check out chapter six in my new book The Best of You, where I explain that spectrum.
So just to recap, last week we talked about how to say no in healthy relationships. And the key thing to understand is that when someone is, primarily, operating out of healthy behaviors on that healthy side of the spectrum, communication is possible.
You can go to that person and tell them what you need. What you're feeling, what's not working for you, what you want to see in that person. They may not be able to give you everything you want, but they'll be able to meet you there, and you'll be able to have a conversation.
Especially if you go into that conversation well, with the strategies that I taught you in last week's episode, episode number 25. You're going to be able to have a conversation.
Now, these conversations are hard, they require courage, but when people are healthy, they become really beautiful. You begin to negotiate a way forward that works for both of you. So in those healthy relationships, the goal of communication is to connect. It's to increase understanding. It's to arrive at a solution that works for both people. You can negotiate the boundary lines in healthy relationships. You can engage dialogue; you can work together.
However, what about when someone has exhibited a consistent pattern of toxic behaviors? How do you go into a conversation with someone like that? Where their behaviors show you that they're operating more on that toxic side of the spectrum. That's what we're going to get into today.
We're going to get into how to say no with actions, primarily, and how to say no by using this method I call turning the other cheek. Which many people have misconstrued to encourage you to continue to play a doormat, that's not what it means.
We're going to get into that in this episode. It's a packed episode, and we're going to end, or I'm going to teach you how to develop your own boundaries committee. Which is one of my favorite strategies for when you're dealing with someone in your life that is extremely hard to love. That is extremely hard to have a relationship with, but you're stuck in a relationship with them for whatever reason.
So let's get started with the second type of NO. The first type of NO, again, last week's episode, How to Say No in Healthy Relationships. Number two, how to say NO with actions. When you have to deal with toxic or even abusive people that are more on the left side of that spectrum, the most effective way to say no is with actions. Your actions are going to speak loudest.
With folks like this, the truth is, you've, probably, already tried to have a conversation, to communicate on behalf of your needs. To let them know how you need to see a change. You've probably tried to use words and it hasn't worked, that channel is closed.
And, so, I want to be clear, if you could have a constructive conversation with someone about your needs, about the changes you need to make, about the ways in which you need to shift things in the relationship. If you could have that conversation in a constructive way, then the relationship wouldn't be toxic. It wouldn't be on that toxic side of the spectrum.
The hallmark of a healthy relationship is the ability to communicate. It's the ability to be heard, and understood, and seen by that other person. It's the ability to be respected by your friend, by your loved one, and it's you being willing to respect and honor them.
But if that's not happening. If you're going to this person, whether it's a parent, a spouse, a friend, an adult child. Whomever it may be, and instead of being met with respect, with curiosity, with an attempt to understand, you're being met with a guilt-trip.
You're being met with gaslighting, which means they're spinning your words and using them against you. You're being met with narcissistic tendencies, which means they're not even hearing you. They're just blatantly disregarding you.
They're telling you, "There's something wrong with you." That you are hurting them with your very genuine request of them. They're spinning that and making it about them. You're being met with manipulation or instead of really hearing you, they're taking your words and manipulating them to get you to do what they want you to do, what's in their best interest.
Maybe you're being met with criticism. Where they're shaming you or criticizing you for stating a legitimate need. This happens and these are toxic behaviors. Maybe you're being met with blame-shifting where you're stating a genuine need and someone is shifting the blame. They're saying, "It's your fault that that's not happening, it's not my fault." You're being met with defensiveness, is another one.
These are all things that you can be met with, that makes it unsafe for you to try to have a healthy conversation. This other person is using toxic behaviors, toxic strategies, to shut you down. They won't meet you with authenticity, they won't meet you with openness. They won't meet you to say, "Hey, help me understand. This is hard for me to hear, but I want to understand you. I want to understand what you need."
They're not taking you at face value. They're not giving you the benefit of the doubt. They're using any one of those strategies I just mentioned, that are toxic and, so, you have to use a different strategy. You're going to have to say, "No" with your actions.
Now, at the end of last week's episode, I mentioned that I think the hardest category of NO is with folks who are a bit of a combination. Who are showing some of these toxic strategies, that I just mentioned, and where there's also some good. Maybe it's a parent who is very self-centered, who guilt trips you, and they're also really great with your kids.
Maybe it's a spouse who has some defensiveness who doesn't really hear you, who's a little bit self-centered, and they're also a really good provider and they're not cruel to you. This is that hard category, where there are folks who are in this gray area. They have some good qualities, but there's also some really challenging qualities, and that's where you've got to use some more sophisticated skills.
Now, I want to say a note, there are some folks who I would put on the extreme side of that spectrum of toxicity, where there's very little good left. And these are the folks we touched on in the episode, The Spectrum of Toxicity, where I even touch on evil.
Where folks have made so many decisions down the wrong path, that unfortunately they are really living out of the worst of who they are. Their choices that they've made time and time again, make it almost impossible to engage with them.
And, as a result, they're going to demonstrate toxic behaviors so consistently as to cause great harm. And these are folks from whom you may have to cut off ties all together. You may just have to completely extract yourself from that relationship, and there's a time and a place to do that. I would not do that alone. I would get the help of a trained counselor, a very good group of friends to help you extract from that relationship altogether.
So, primarily, again, we're focusing on that toxic side of the spectrum. Where there are folks where there might be some good. You may not see it, you may not want to cut the relationship off, altogether, but you've got to communicate some NOS. And, again, as you move toward this side, actions work best.
Here are some steps to guide you when you're going to say this NO, on this chronic to toxic side of the spectrum. Number one, prepare in advance. Get very clear about what you're going to communicate. Fewer words are clearer. Fewer words give them less ammunition to use against you.
So why are fewer words clear? Well, the more words you give, the more reasons you give, the more excuses you give to the other person. For why you're doing what you're doing, the more ammunition you're giving them to dispute you, to manipulate you, to twist your words, to argue against you.
And if you want to learn more about this, Adam Grant, he's a psychologist out of Wharton, has written a great book called Think Again. Where he talks about the art of communication in really well-researched ways.
But one of the things that he talks about is people who are really successful at persuading other people use fewer arguments, fewer reasons, not more, so prepare. Don't go in to argue. Don't go in with a whole lot of reasons; why you can't do this thing. You're just going to set yourself up for that person to shoot down all of your arguments.
You simply want to communicate very clearly, very simply, the action that you're going to take. Remember, the goal, when you're dealing with people on this side of the spectrum, is not a conversation, it's an outcome. That's a very clear difference.
You're communicating an outcome you've pre-decided. Because you've already recognized this person can't meet you halfway. So you've made a decision and you're there to communicate it, so less is more. Prepare ahead of time and get very clear on what you're going to say, and I'll walk you through some scripts here in a minute.
Step number two relates to what we talked about, again last week, affirm the good. Because presumably you are going to stay in this relationship on some level, but with some very clear boundaries. So you do want to state why you are staying in this relationship. It might be as simple as, "You're my mom, you're my dad, and I care about you."
Maybe you have very little, meaningful relationship with this person, but for whatever reason you're not going to cut them out. So even if you don't state it, you need to know, "Why am I staying in this? What is the reason?"
If it's a co-parent, "You're the father, you're the mother of our children, we've got to make this work." That's it. That's why I'm staying in this and that's it. Now, again, some people, some situations, you might have an ex where you've had to cut off communication altogether. Because their behavior is so toxic and your boundary with them is nothing. You do not talk, you do not communicate, that's a different category.
But, again, in this gray area where you are still in some, sort of, communication. You have to understand, what is the reason? What is the good? What is the common ground that is keeping you in it?
Number three, you're going to tell the truth without making up excuses and without apologizing. You want to stay clear without apologizing. You're going to anchor yourself in the truth of what you've arrived at before God.
You're going to express the conviction, the clarity that you've arrived at with this decision, without apologizing, without making up an excuse. Because when you do that, you put yourself on the defense and you don't want to put yourself on the defense. This is a strong, clear statement of your boundary.
For example, you might say something like, "This is hard, but I've arrived at this conclusion." Or you might say something like, "I get that this might be hard for you, but this is what I've decided." So you can validate that this is hard for them. But "This is what I've decided," and you're clear about it, you're not apologizing for it.
Number four, forget about those "I-statements" we talked about in last week's episode, episode 25. "I-statements' won't work with people who are on the toxic side of the spectrum. They don't really care about how you feel or about why you need to have this conversation.
Instead, what you can do is tell them what you can say YES to in the relationship, and I'm going to clarify what I mean by that in the scripts. But you can clarify the way you will stay in relationship with this person.
Because, number five, you're then going to state the very clear boundary line, the very clear NO. You're not going to propose an alternative. You're not going to use "I-statements". Those work with people on the healthy side of the spectrum.
When you're dealing with people who have toxic patterns of behavior, you are very clear, you're direct, you are telling, you are saying, you are using words, only in so far as to explain the actions you will be taking. This is not an open-ended conversation. You're not asking for permission, you're not inviting feedback, you're saying you're stating, you're clarifying the actions you will be taking.
So, again, number one, prepare; fewer words are clearer. Affirm the good, when possible, the reason you are staying in this relationship for whatever reason. Tell the truth. Don't make up excuses, don't apologize. Name what you can say "Yes" to, if at all possible, and then number five, state the very clear boundary line.
Now, you want to do all this work first, that's what I mean by prepare. It's best if you work through all of these steps first in the privacy of your own heart. Pray through it with God, talk about it with a wise friend or counselor, and then you're going to go in and very simply state what's going to happen. But most, importantly, you're going to back it up with actions.
Here are some examples; you've got a critical or self-centered parent, but they're good with your kids. So you're not cutting off the relationship, altogether, but you're setting some very clear boundaries.
Here's an example of a script; "I want you to enjoy the kids, but I am not going to listen to your criticism of my parenting anymore. If you bring up my parenting again, I will hang up the phone or leave the room. I'm happy to give you updates about what the kids are learning at school, about news, about our family, but that's where the conversation ends."
So that's a tough script. That's a tough thing to say. But listen to what you're doing, you are saying yes to the relationship. You are saying, "I want you to enjoy the kids. You're a good grandparent, you're a good in-law, I'm grateful for that."
But you are clearly defining its limits and you're letting them know, "If you violate this boundary, if you start criticizing me, I'll leave the room, it's over. I'll let you know how the kids are doing, but I'm out."
You haven't made an excuse, you haven't apologized, you've stated very clearly, "This is what's going to happen." And then you have to back up what you've said. You have to back up what you've said with actions. Don't keep saying it. You're not there to convince them. You're not trying to get them to understand. You're not trying to get them to agree.
If they start to criticize you, you'll need to leave the room, excuse yourself from the phone, or stop spending time alone with the person. You can use the Buddy System, you can bring someone else in, you can minimize your one-on-one time with them.
But with your actions you have to show that you mean it. This behavior will no longer be tolerated, if they want to spend time with your kids. So that's an example with a parent that has some toxic ways of criticizing you, of belittling you, of demeaning you.
You're saying "No" to that behavior, and you're saying, "Yes, you can spend time with my kids. You're good with the kids, but this is where this stops. This is where this ends and this is what I'll do."
Now, when you write out this script, you may decide you're going to say it verbatim and read it. You're going to maybe email it.
Maybe you're just going to know it so deeply, within yourself and it's so clear to you, that you're just going to start doing it. There's a lot of different ways you can carry this out, but I want you to have that script ready to go, very clearly defined.
All right, example two, here's a script you can use with someone who manipulates you. Manipulation is a really insidious thing. It can come across as guilt tripping. This other person might, kind of, it sounds good. It's often couched in spiritual language. There's the overt guilt tripping of, "Oh, if you really loved me, you would do this thing for me."
Or, "You'd stop by more often."
Or, "If you really cared about my needs, you wouldn't keep spending time with that other person that I'm jealous of."
Or, "God wouldn't want you to treat me this way. God wants there to be peace. God wants you to forgive me, right." That's manipulation, but that's, also, really overt.
When someone's coming at you that overtly, we can all miss this, especially, if this is the soup you've been cooked in over time. This is the way you've been manipulated your whole life. You can get sucked into this, but that's really overt manipulation, and you've got to set a clear boundary with that.
Oftentimes, it's much more subtle. It might even show up as this sort of quasi vulnerability at first. Your friend, or your parent, or even your adult child, or even your spouse, or your ex, might say things like, "I feel so jealous that you have those friends."
But they're not coming to you in a way that wants to genuinely invite you into conversation, which would be the healthy side of the spectrum. They're sharing that in a way to try to hook you, to try to get you to do what they want you to do.
So you feel bad, you feel guilty, maybe you stop bringing up that area of your life, or you might even stop spending time with that other person. So they've sucked you in to doing what they want you to do.
Maybe they say things like, "I hate it when you're away from me." Instead of saying, "Man, I feel so sad when we don't get to spend time together, and yet I love that you want to do x, y, z. Can we talk about; can we negotiate what those boundary lines might look like in a healthy way?"
Instead, there's sort of a tone of guilt tripping. "Well, I know you're so busy. Oh, I know, it makes me so sad when I don't get to see you. I know you don't really have time for me though." They hook you and you feel bad. And, so, you feel guilted into doing things that maybe you are not called to do. So this is what I mean by a little bit of toxicity.
They're using a strategy to hook you, and it's very different than someone coming to you, very transparently, and saying, "Hey, this is hard for me, can we have a conversation?
I want to honor you, and I want to figure out if there's a way we can work this out together." That's really different. Manipulation, guilt-tripping, it's not relying on logic, it's not relying on objectivity. It's not saying like, "Hey, there's this weird thing that we've got to work through together."
It's trying to tug at where you are probably already a little vulnerable, where you're, probably, already, potentially, a little wounded at where you're already an overly empathetic person. You're already conditioned to be overly thoughtful, overly kind of others, and that person knows that, and they're hooking you. They're hooking you in and trying to use that for their advantage.
So manipulation, I'm calling this manipulation but there's a lot of manifestations of it, is really insidious. It's really easy to get hooked, especially, if you're kind, especially, if you're someone who wants to be a good person.
Before you go into the action item, you've got to do the work first, and, again, that's why we built up to that internal work. Remember, you've got to take a U-turn and ask yourself, first, "Is what I need wrong?"
"Is what I'm asking for wrong?"
"Am I being selfish, by stating a limit, by stating a need, by stating a boundary?" You've really got to do that work with God, yourself, and a few safe people first. And at the end of this episode, I'm going to teach you how to form your own boundaries committee to help you. Because you're going to need it when you're dealing with someone who uses these strategies.[00:26:45] < Music >
So here's a script after you've done that work and after you've prepared yourself. Because they're going to come at you with some of those manipulative, guilt-tripping strategies, here's a script you can use.
"I care about you and I appreciate our shared history. I'm doing some work on myself and I'm going to need to shift some things in this relationship. I'm not going to have these conversations with you anymore. I'm happy to continue to talk with you about X, Y, Z." Safe topics and you'll have to do the work and figure out what that is.
Maybe you'll continue to talk with them about the kids. Maybe you'll continue to talk with them about the weather. Maybe you'll continue to talk with them about whatever one safe topic is, but everything else is off limits.
Now, again, you may need to decide this within yourself first. You may not even communicate this. You may just, immediately, move to action, but you've got to know where you're limiting the boundaries of that conversation.
So here's some action steps; you may stop engaging any attempts to talk about your relationship, that's a way people can hook you. "But can't we talk about how to be closer?"
You're not going to have that conversation. You're not going to go there with this person. You are going to limit communication to safe topics. You may decide to send them an email, once a month, with a news update. One-way communication, you're controlling the safe topics. You may decide to only talk about the project you're working on.
But at any point, at which this person tries to bring the conversation to something they're feeling about you, you cut it off. You excuse yourself, you get out of the conversation. You may have to stop responding to texts. You may need to limit one on one phone calls. You may need to only be in conversation with this person, with other people.
So that means using the Buddy System. If you bump into this person, in other areas of life, you can be very polite, you can be very civil. You can say, "Hey, it's good to see you, I hope you're well." Very casual attempts to be kind, but you do not engage in any attempts, on their part, to suck you into a conversation about your relationship.
We have conversations about our relationship with people who are healthy. We negotiate the boundaries of a relationship with people who are healthy. With people who are guilt-tripping, with people who are manipulating, we can't have those conversations anymore.
They're not trying to come at that conversation in a healthy way. And, so, we have to move to one-way communication, where we can say, "Hey, I'm going to stop by, and bring you a cup of coffee, and give you a big hug, and then I'm out."
Maybe that's something you do with a parent or an in-law. You show up, you do one thing, and then you're out. You don't let that conversation get deep. Or, "Maybe we talk about the television shows we both enjoy." And that's where the conversation ends.
Or, "Maybe we talk about the books that we both like to read." And that's where the conversation ends. So this is nuanced, there's one thing or two things that can stay safe, that you can talk about, but everything else you're taking off the table.
And, again, going back to that script, "I care about you and I appreciate our shared history, but I need to work on myself, for a while, and therefore I'm no longer going to have these conversations with you. Here's what I'd love to connect on."
Now, with this person, depending on the level of safety, you may never say that to them because even that they might twist. But you know, it's clear to you, "This is what's off limits. This is what I can do."
Number three, let's say you've got a spouse, a friend, a parent, or an adult child who's engaging in toxic activity. Maybe they're abusing substances. Maybe they're involved in some toxic ways of relating that we've already discussed and you've got to say to them, something to the effect of, here's the script, "I care about you and I am committed to a healthy relationship.
But I will not be around you when this behavior is occurring. The next time you show up drunk, the next time you start to download on me in a toxic way.
The next time you come after me with anger. The next time you behave in this way with my kids, with my spouse, with other people I love. The next time you try to triangulate me."
Which means they try to bring you in to their drama, so you name the behavior, "I'm going to leave. I'm going to excuse myself. I will get off the phone. I will excuse myself from the table. I will leave our conversation. I will not tolerate that behavior. If you can't honor that boundary, I will take even more dramatic steps to remove myself. I want health and I want to be healthy with you, but I will not tolerate that behavior."
Now, if they can honor that, great. But if they can't honor that boundary that you've stated, you've got to be ready to back up those words with actions. You do not keep trying to convince them. You do not keep trying to get them to understand. You give them, maybe, two strikes then they're out.
Maybe you give them one more reminder, "Hey, you just did it. You just went off on me and it's not okay, so, now, I'm excusing myself." Or, "I can tell you've been using, I'm out. I'm not talking to you when you've been using, I'll excuse myself."
Or, "Hey, you just brought up that topic of conversation I said was off limits, I'm out." Now, this is hard to do and I get it. Again, here are the action steps you can take in any of these scenarios. When that clear boundary that you've stated has been crossed. Leave the room when the toxic behavior happens, or when the toxic topics show up, excuse yourself. Don't apologize, "I've got to go."
"I'm getting off the phone now."
"I'm leaving the room."
They know you've told them why. Another strategy, use the Buddy System, stop spending time alone with that person to mitigate that potential for that behavior to happen. Stop responding to a text or to a call when they're in that place.
Stop engaging in any attempts to discuss that behavior. Leave the house if you have to. Just excuse yourself from the table, if you're at a restaurant. If you're married to this person and they show up high, or they show up drunk, or they show up with all this toxicity, and time and time again, you might have to move out.
And if it gets really bad, and if it gets abusive, and if they start escalating, which sometimes toxic people will do, if they're really on that toxic side of the spectrum, you may have to call the police. Especially if you're concerned about anybody's safety, including your own.
Now, remember, if this person protests you don't owe them an explanation. You don't owe them a drawn out conversation. You've tried that, I have no doubt, this is the end of it. You are not saying anything mean or anything cruel. You're actually empowering them to get the help they need to change. It's okay to say nothing after you've said no, after you've excused yourself, after you've gotten yourself out of a toxic conversation.
Setting this boundary doesn't mean you don't care about the other person, it simply means you've started caring more about you. You are not trying to hurt them. This is not punitive, this is not retaliatory, you are simply doing what you need to do to take care of yourself before God.
A final strategy for saying no is what I call or the Bible calls, "Turning the other cheek." Many of you have been taught that turning the other cheek is a way to put up with bad behavior. You might have been taught that turning the other cheek means to look the other way, as if nothing terrible has happened, or to offer yourself up for more pain. That's not what this phrase means.
Here's what Jesus actually said, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek turn to them the other cheek also." That's from Matthew 5:38-48.
So, for many of you, that verse has been used to suggest that you put up with mistreatment. The idea is that if you turn the other cheek, you will somehow love the offending party into seeing the error of their ways. I lived that way for years, it doesn't work.
That interpretation of what Jesus is saying isn't accurate and it doesn't work, especially, with people who are on the toxic side of the spectrum. Imagine if you have been told to turn the other cheek when your spouse is abusing you, your boss is harassing you, your friend is manipulating you, your child is being bullied, repeatedly, at school. Just take it. Just be the bigger person. Your love can change them, and it's just not the way people tend to work.
In fact, usually, the other person will just continue to take advantage of you or your loved one. It's foolish to pretend otherwise and we know that Jesus was no fool. And we also know, from so many other places in the Bible, that were cautioned to step away from people who are mocking, who are bullying, who are arrogant, who are exploiting you, or who are exploiting other people, that's what Jesus did. Jesus spoke out harshly to abusers and bullies.
So we know there's something going on here with what Jesus said about turning the other cheek, that isn't quite right in how many of us have been told to do it. So I talk about this in chapter six of The Best of You. But I love how theologian N.T. Wright talks about this passage in its historical context. And what he says is this, and this blew my mind and it's going to blow yours.
He said, "To turn the other cheek in that historical context was a subtle but powerful demonstration of strength." In his book, Matthew for Everyone he explained, "That a strike to the right cheek, in that time, was an insult. It was a tactic used to belittle someone who was perceived to be an inferior."
So the Roman soldiers might smack someone they perceived to be inferior on the right cheek. So what recourse is available to that person in that power differential. Someone has power over them, and they're exploiting that power, they're flexing by smacking them on the right cheek.
According to Wright and I quote him here, "Hitting back would only keep the evil in circulation. Offering the other cheek implies, 'Hit me again if you like but now as an equal, not an inferior.'" And you imagine that in your mind.
Where someone's got power over someone else and they smack them, and that person just, it hurts, it stings, and then they turn that other cheek right back toward them saying, "Go ahead, hit me again. Because guess what? You can hurt me a little bit in this moment but you will not take my dignity. You will not take my dignity."
Now, I want to be clear, if you're in an abusive situation and someone's actually hurting you, I don't mean this, literally, don't let them keep hitting you. There's a metaphor here for us in this example.
Seen in this light, turning the other cheek, is a brave counter move. It's not being a doormat, it's the opposite. It's a way of standing your ground and, with actions, communicating, "You will not belittle me. You will not take my dignity." It's countering bullying from a position of strength.
So imagine if someone's berating you. If someone's coming after you and you're standing your ground, and you're not arguing, and you're not growing defensive. And you're just looking at them square in the eye while they're making a fool of themselves. Berating you, coming after you, saying all these terrible things.
They're completely just losing their mind and you're just not taking the bait, and you're standing firm. And maybe at the end of it all, you look them in the eye and you say, "Is there any more where that came from? Do you have more to say to me? Okay, I'm out."
You don't need to honor their temper tantrum, honor their diatribe, honor their foolishness with the dignity of an actual response, you just stand your ground. Maybe you say nothing, and you're showing them with your actions, their own foolishness.
By not taking the bait, by not getting sucked in, you're standing firm in your power. You're so connected to who you are. You're so anchored in your own conviction that you almost put the shame back on them.
It's almost like you imagine yourself with this shield, this beautiful shield all around you, and all their words are coming at you, and they're bouncing off that shield, and guess where they go? They turn right back on them. There's a way, and in your strength, in your quiet confidence, in standing in your conviction and not getting sucked in that, that shame goes back on them, and then you simply walk away.
Turning the other cheek does not mean, "Just keep hurting me, I'll keep taking it." It's a way of standing firm, and strong, and rooted, and confident in the face of mistreatment from a place of inner conviction. And it puts the shame back where it belongs on that other person because this is all about their shame.
This is all about their stuff. They need to work through this. This is not about you and, so, you refusing to engage that is a powerful counter move. And it is hard, and you don't want to do this alone, and you have to be deeply rooted in a strong sense of self.
You're going to need people to come alongside of you, especially, if you're dealing with real evil, with real toxicity. But this is an extremely shrewd, wise, powerful way to quote-unquote, "Turn the other cheek."
You are not giving over your strength. You're saying, "You can't hurt me. I am here to stay and you can slap me again if you want to, but I'm not going anywhere, you cannot take my dignity." When Jesus said to turn the other cheek, He was not advocating for spinelessness nor was He advocating for you to let the offending party off the hook. Instead, He demonstrated, time and again with his actions, a profound way to take a stand.
Anchor yourself in the truth of who you are and the truth of who God is. Stand firm in your conviction, and again, stand firm. And we see this underscored in so many other parts of Scripture. In Ephesians 6:11, where it says "Put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm." There's this standing firm thing.
1 Peter 5:9 talking about the evil, the evil one who might come at us through these toxic strategies other people are using, but "Resist standing firm in your faith."
1 Corinthians 15:58, "Be steadfast, immovable."
1 Corinthians 16:13, "Stand firm in your faith, be strong." There's this idea of standing strong, standing firm, there's an action in that strength. That it isn't a lot about words, it's not about all the persuasive arguments, it's not getting them to understand. It's letting your strength speak loudest and it's incredibly effective against toxic behaviors.
So we're going to close, today, with this idea of forming a boundaries committee. It's one of my favorite strategies, we talk about it in Boundaries for Your Soul in the chapter on Shame. We talked about the importance of developing a committee of people to help you stand strong. To help you know the truth of who you are, the truth of who God is, and how to say "No" with your words, sometimes, and with this powerful way of standing strong.
You need a couple of people in your life to help you do this, some wise people to come alongside of you. Now, a couple of ways to do that, just right now as you're listening, who are a couple of people who get this?
Who will help you stand strong, who understand this incredibly challenging relationship you have with a parent, with a spouse, with an adult child, with a friend, with a co-parent, with an ex? Who's someone who understands that? And instead of just venting to that person, go to that person and say, "I need you to help me stand strong, I need you to be on my boundaries committee because this is an ongoing thing. I have to continually work at this because I can't cut this person out altogether.
And, so, I'm going to continually have to build this muscle and I need you to help me." And maybe you set up a monthly meeting where you go to them or a quarterly meeting, whatever the frequency is that you need. And you say, "Here's the situation. Here's where they're trying to guilt-trip me. I don't know, is this something I should do or is this something I need to say, "No" to?"
We need people to help us in this work, especially, with these relationships that are in that chronic category. Where there's some good, we are not willing to cut them off, but there's a lot of toxicity and we're susceptible to being sucked in.
Get one person, start with one person, and ask them say "I need you to be on my NO committee. I need you to be on my boundaries committee. I need to have a safe place to come and say, 'Hey, here's what's happening, here's the situation, would you be a second set of eyes and ears to help me see it objectively?
Am I being too tough in this situation? Do I need to bend here or are they getting the best of me? Are they sucking me in? In which case I'm going to need your help to go in and say, 'No, or stand firm, and let my actions speak loudest?'"
Get help, start with one person. Ideally, you'll end up with two or three people where you're going to specifically say, "I need your help in this particular relationship. Help me stand strong. Help me say a healthy NO. I'm going to need some discernment because sometimes I want to be kind to this person.
But a lot of times, boy, do they know how to push my buttons and suck me into something I don't want to do and if I know I've got you there. If I know once a month, once a week, once a quarter, I can come to you with this, it's going to help me stay healthier.
It's going to help me compartmentalize it, so I'm not thinking about it all the time. It's going to help me be a healthier person, in all of these other relationships that I really want to spend my time focusing on."
So consider forming that boundaries committee. Who is someone who will help you with that? Who is someone, maybe it's a counselor, if you don't have a friend. Who is someone who can help you stay on that path of standing firm, of saying no through your wise, anchored actions? Who is that person?
That's your homework for this week? Who brings out the best of you? Who is going to help you stand firm in the face of that toxic relationship? Don't do it alone, get help.
Thank you for joining me on this episode and on this series of Setting Healthy Boundaries in a Biblical Way. There's so much more we could dive into. I can't wait to move into our next series that will be a continuation of this inner work that is so critical to standing firm, to saying, "No" to toxicity and saying "Yes" to the beautiful relationships, the beautiful life that God wants for us.[00:51:34] < Outro >
Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Best of You. Be sure to check out the show notes for any resources and links mentioned in the show. You can find those on my website at dralisoncook.com. That's Alison with one L- cook.com.
Before you forget, I hope you'll follow the show now so that you don't miss an episode. And I'd love it if you'd go ahead and leave a review, it helps so much to get the word out. I look forward to seeing you back here next Thursday. And remember, as you become the best of who you are, you honor God, you heal others, and you stay true to your God-given self.[00:52:12] < Music >
Thank you so much for this episode. I read your book last week and I your book showed me that I have someone toxic in my life. The first podcast episode helped me realize that she struggles (to the best of my knowledge) with narcissism. The reason I was having issues forgiving her for an event was that she was gaslighting me. After reading chapter 6 of your book, I started planning a script to set boundaries.
Unfortunately, she is in my small group at church where we have to be vulnerable and share. Church leaders know all about the situation but aren’t asking her to leave yet because they want to make sure that we have clearly stated our list of reasons to her several times and given her time to change. We are setting boundaries in group as well.
I have resolved not to see her outside of small group. I have also resolved to share my hardest struggles outside of small group and be discerning about what I share.
A group of us wanting to help her had our first real testing of boundaries. Afterwards, she said she was hurt and subtly compared us to her toxic mother, but dressed it up in church language. It’s been difficult.
Thank you for helping me learn to turning the other cheek. I think I will have to employ it a lot going forward.