When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom From Toxic People is a book that I received to review for Gary Thomas. My review of this book is written from my honest impression. The link at the bottom to purchase your copy is part of the Amazon Affiliates program and it will not cost any additional fees to purchase through this link. Thank you for supporting this site.
A few months ago, I received a copy of Gary Thomas’ latest book, When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom From Toxic People, to read. Normally when I do a book review, I can whip through it and share highlights of the author’s sage wisdom.
But this book was different.
I had to sit with this book and absorb all of the words because, whether Mr. Thomas knew it or not, he wrote this just for me.
I’ve always been the type of person to give people multiple chances, often at the expense of my own mental health. Forgiveness was a struggle. I read 2 Scriptures that reminded me to “turn the other cheek” and “forgive 7 x 70 times;” they kept me in an abusive cycle of forgiveness. After finishing this book, I realized 3 things:
- What a toxic person really is;
- That I’d been enmeshed with some really toxic people throughout my life; and
- That it was detrimental to my salvation to stay around this type of person.
I always saw a toxic relationship as one that had to be salvaged, no matter what. Consequently, trying to salvage the relationship made things worse.
Bear with me as I try to share the revelations that I’ve had over the last few months. Inevitably, it will help you to live a holier, more abundant life too.
being in relationship with a toxic person
What surprised me most about this book was, ironically, the same thing that liberated me.
In the second chapter of the book, I learned that Jesus walked away from toxic people. People who tried to occupy all of His time or cause Him to stumble in His mission, He didn’t give them the space to be destructive or distracting. In the cases that people rejected Him, He didn’t chase after them. He didn’t argue or beg or plea with anyone to do the right thing.
I think I can safely say that I’m not the only person who stayed in a toxic friendship or relationship because I didn’t want to give up on the person. I felt that if I stayed around and was just “good enough” that the other person would become non-toxic by osmosis.
Much to my surprise, it never quite worked out that way.
Years ago, I’d made peace with the idea that I had to let people make their own decisions and live with the consequences of them.
Mr. Thomas reminds us “…when truth is rejected, spend your time on those who will receive it, instead of begging close-hearted people to reconsider.” That principle, while I use it liberally in our counseling practice, applies to any truth.
It makes me think of people I’ve pleaded with to not enter into a covenant because it was being done for the wrong reason.
Or people who enter into…and remain in…toxic dating relationships simply so they wouldn’t be alone.
Wait, I think that was me…
A lesson learned, long before this book, was just as Mr. Thomas described it. “Enduring toxic behavior can squeeze the life out of someone, and it’s not to be trifled with or minimized.”
The Consequences of Being in Relationship with Toxic People
Note: Dating relationships aren’t the only thing to consider. This applies to platonic friendships and covenant marriages as well.
I lived that first hand, repeatedly. I was in a loop of relationship insanity. Entering into several toxic dating relationships, without the strength or courage to walk away from them, the life was squeezed out of me.
Having the (figurative) life squeezed out of you is not always the worst consequence.
In my situation(s) the toxicity of the men I dated seeped over into my own spirit. One guy had emotionally abused and scarred me so badly that I was unable to accept a compliment for 7 years after him. Yet another had me so scared of him that I almost pulled out a weapon on him. I wouldn’t be here today if I’d done that because it would have escalated and ended very badly for one of us. After him, I was bitter, angry, skeptical, and found myself deeper in the mindset of settling for anyone I thought would love me.
Even with pastors who proclaimed the Word of God! I had more than my fair share of preachers who wanted to get to know me as a member of the congregation, only to turn around and try to enter into improper (and even adulterous) relationships with me.
It took years of therapy to get to a healthier and safer place. It was only after therapy that I was even able to consider going back to church and seeking a relationship with Christ. Being in relationship with these toxic men caused mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual scars that I still work to heal to this day.
working with toxic people
Another of the many highlighted portions of this book is, as follows:
” ‘…I’m not going to let a person…who is ruining their own life also ruin mine… If the entire office was impacting my health and my own family, I’d probably leave…’ (She) had learned to maintain her job and her character, just as Jesus did with Judas.”
I highlighted this portion because, when put into the same situation, I failed.
I told my husband that I wished I’d had this book before I quit my job, but alas, I didn’t. Therefore I did…quit.
I went into the job with wide-eyed optimism, eager to learn and meet new people. It quickly spiraled into the most toxic place that I’d ever had the pleasure to work. I’ll spare you the details to avoid the salaciousness of gossip but your girl was in trouble. By the time I realized how bad it really was, my body was already taking inventory. I wore a heart monitor to try and figure out what was triggering my heart palpitations. Worse than the physical toll, was the spiritual and moral decay.
Gary shares in the book that “the best thing you can do to witness to a toxic person is stay focused on your task, refuse to be distracted or play their games, pray instead of gossip, and then get the work done.”
Not only did I do the opposite of al of those things, but I’d started to become a toxic person myself.
Grace was not how I dealt with those around me. I didn’t even need to go to the water cooler for gossip. I was starting to become just plain mean and I knew that I was acting out of the Christian character that I proclaimed.
finding the freedom to walk away
There was too much toxicity for me to fight on my own; I forgot how to stand behind Christ and let Him fight my battles.
For the sake of my salvation and the cause of Christ, I had to walk away.
Walking away from a toxic relationship is hard. Especially when it is with someone we love deeply and sincerely. To suffer from someone else’s brokenness is not what we’re called to do. Yes, we can walk alongside them…if they are seeking repentance, healing, and redemption. 1 Cor 15:33 warns us, ‘ “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” ‘ we have to be strong enough in our faith and focused enough on our mission and purpose to walk away from anything or anyone who would distract us from it.
Mr. Thomas asks a lot of questions in his book and makes striking points to open our eyes to the toxicity that might be around us. One list of questions affirmed for me that I had, in fact, been in relationship with some very toxic people. Subsequently, it reassured me that I did the right thing for the Kingdom in walking away from them.
How to Know Who to Walk Away From
Some of the questions that were directly applicable to my relationships were:
- Do your interactions with them require long periods for you to recover? ✔️
- Does your relationship with them destroy your peace, joy, strength, and hope? ✔️
- Are they interfering with your availability for, and participation in, other healthy relationships? ✔️
- Are they controlling? Do you feel manipulated by them? ✔️
- Do you feel minimized by them? ✔️
- Does the person seem to come alive when exhibiting anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, and lying? ✔️
There is a 100% guarantee that someone in your life is toxic. Brokenness and sin are in every crook, cranny, and crevice of this world. This book does a phenomenal job of sharing how Jesus dealt with toxic people. Consequently, it tells us how to deal with them as well.
I’m no longer afraid to stand firm in who God has called me to be. I’m no longer afraid to walk away from people and relationships that serve only to distract me from Kingdom work and that would crush my spirit in the process.
Are you looking for the freedom to walk away? Grab your copy here.