How to Deal with Toxic or Manipulative People
What is a toxic person and how do you deal with people who are manipulative?
Have you ever met a person who is always using coercion and manipulation to get what he/she wants? They never say anything that’s straightforward and direct – instead they’re wanting you to guess what they’re really saying (but without directly saying it).
Or maybe you know that person who you dread interacting with because they leave you worse off after talking to them.
Or you may have a relationship with people who just can’t seem to tell the truth – so you have to take everything they say with a pinch of salt.
Or maybe you have a relationship with people who are so controlling and think that they are superior to you.
Toxic people are everywhere and there is a great chance that you have met people who have toxic or manipulative characteristics.
They exist in families, in the workplace and even in the church. So a toxic person could be your in-laws, your girlfriend, your husband, your colleague at work, or even a member of your church. They look like everyone except for the dark and deceptive nature of their personality.
Characteristics or Traits of a Toxic & Manipulative Person
Toxic and manipulative people are characterized by having the following traits or behaviours:
1. They demean others or put you down in order to feel superior. They frequently need to demean, belittle, mock or bully others in order to feel good about themselves.
2. They love mind-games and power-plays. They constantly use coercive and manipulative techniques to exploit others in an attempt to get what they want or to feel like they’re better than you. Manipulating you and pressing your buttons is like a game to them. Hurting you and observing how you react is also like a game to them.
3. They are pretentious and insincere. Toxic and manipulative people are very good actors. Their words do not match their heart. Their words do not match their true motives or intentions. They can be two-faced or hypocritical. You can sense that your interactions with them lacks sincerity on their part, and there is a hidden motive for why they are chatting with you.
4. Grandiose sense of self. They are narcissistic or arrogant. They think very highly of themselves in a prideful way. As a result they have little respect for others and have a superiority complex. Manipulators always believe that they are more intelligent than the people they manipulate.
5. They divide or cause division. They bear false witness and they create conflict among people. They will gossip, slander you or speak lies about you in an effort to divide people’s opinions. They bend the truth, exaggerate or completely lie in order to create a false opinion about others.
6. They are abusive. They find sadistic humour in hurting, manipulating or provoking others. Toxic people can emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally drain you. They can reduce your self-esteem and leave you dejected every time you talk to them. Almost all the time you regret having interacted with them because they are so manipulative.
7. They cannot apologize. They have too much pride to apologize when they are wrong. They do not feel guilt or shame for wrongdoing or for hurting others. They project all their weaknesses and faults on you. They do not see the sin in telling lies or in being pretentious and they see no need to repent of it.
8. Attention Seekers. They have a constant need to be admired by others. Anyone who is a threat to their perceived limelight is an enemy.
The root sin of toxic and manipulative people is the sin of pride. They need to be admired and they need to feel superior.
Also one of the core motives of manipulative people is their desire to control and dominate others. Manipulation is the means by which they try to achieve these goals or create their reality.
Therefore lying, slandering, pretentious behavior, coercion and divisiveness are some of the tools and techniques they will use, if it will get them the control they need or the reality they seek.
Toxic people will want to know more about you and your personal life whilst deliberately revealing less or nothing about themselves or their own personal life. They need to know more about you so that later they can use that information against you or to demean and control you.
Many toxic and manipulative people have a sadistic humour. They love to hurt others and so they may feel satisfaction when they push your buttons or provoke you into a conflict.
They have no remorse or guilt for the people they hurt, instead they feel a sense of sadistic pleasure and accomplishment when they push your buttons or hurt you.
Ironically toxic people are easily offended and therefore they always feel the urge to revenge. Because of pride, they have difficulty with being rejected or when you tell them “No!” as an answer. So it’s always about power-play and who should have the last word or who should come out on top or win.
They keep grudges and they desire revenge. They believe they’re always right and they believe the other person is always wrong.
So a toxic person is the type of person who never really genuinely edifies or builds others up. Instead they drain you to such an extent that you regret having spoken to them or having attempted at a relationship with them.
Even whilst appearing to be civil on the surface, most conversations with manipulators leave you wondering if you were being tested, demeaned, mocked or belittled – but definitely you are left with the impression that your interaction with them was not authentic.
What is the Biblical Way to Deal with Toxic People and Manipulators?
The Bible does not specifically mention words such as “toxic” or “manipulation”. However the Bible does talk about the traits and characteristics that are associated with toxic people and manipulators.
Because of the cunning nature of manipulative people, there isn’t any one-size-fits-all answer on how to handle toxic people in your life. However the Scriptures do give us the following options to choose from:
1. Pray for toxic people and manipulators. Toxic people are people with low self-esteem issues at their core. Some may also have deep rooted mental or psychological problems. Many have no true idea of what is means to express genuine love. So from that aspect, these are people who need prayer because they are in serious bondage to the sin of pride and conceitedness.
In Luke 6:27-28 Jesus says: “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
2. Avoid toxic people / Keep healthy boundaries or distance. Toxic people can be destructive. They do not edify, hence the name “toxic”. Having less interaction or no interaction with manipulative people helps to keep you safe from their destructive behaviour. Also avoid playing their mind-games and stooping to their levels of thinking.
So avoiding them – or keeping healthy boundaries creates a situation where you’re in a position where they cannot hurt you, mock you or demean you.
It says in 2 Timothy 3:2-5 that we should avoid them who are lovers of self, proud, arrogant, abusive, heartless and slanderous.
Many people with toxic or manipulative personalities fit the descriptions and characteristics mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:2-5.
1 Corinthians 15:33 also tells us that “bad company corrupts good character”.
Proverbs 13:20 says: Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm
3. Expose Toxic and Manipulative People. We must beware of not being drawn into the mind-games of a manipulative person. Trying to play the same mind-game with a toxic person will bring you to the same deceptive level of the one who is trying to manipulate you.
So one of the correct responses is to expose the deception or their manipulation techniques.
You can speak the truth in love and tell them what you think (Ephesians 4:15).
Ephesians 5:11-14 says: Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,
4. Keep silent or don’t respond. Sometimes silence is the best response when you are dealing with toxic people who manipulate or press your buttons. Jesus Christ Himself remained silent whilst He was being falsely accused, beaten and mocked during His crucifixion (Matthew 27:12,14; Matthew 26:63,68).
It did not make sense for Christ to speak too much in a situation where the pharisees had already manipulated the facts with the intention of falsely accusing Him. The manipulators were never really interested in the truth, but instead they were willing to say or do anything in order to achieve their real objective which was to kill Christ.
These 4 responses need wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit. Manipulators live and breathe deception. We now live in a world where many people continuously have evil on their mind. Some may have mental or psychological issues. Therefore handling toxic people is something that utterly needs the involvement of God because many manipulators are almost always influenced by the devil who is the “father of lies”.