Toxic Friend or Imperfect Person?

We’ve all been there one time or another: we’re venting about a friend or significant other and we receive the same advice:

“Cut them off, they’re toxic.”

Maybe you’ve been the one to give that advice before, or maybe you’ve been the person who was cut. On the surface, it’s a seemingly obvious decision to make; if someone is making you unhappy in the present, then don’t allow them to be a part of your future. The idea falls under the modern-day notion of “self-care,” defined by Psych Central as, “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” While I am a huge advocate for participating in the act of self-care, I also wonder where the line is drawn between self-care and selfishness.  

Don’t get me wrong, self-care itself is in no way inherently selfish or negative by any means. In fact, self-care rejects the misguided perception that it is self-centered to prioritize our own happiness and well being. However, self-care can most definitely become unhealthy when we use it as an excuse to harm others. Ultimately, caring for ourselves should not come at the expense of someone else.

Personally, I see flaws in a society that values resentment and revenge over forgiveness and empathy. If we have a misconception about what a healthy relationship looks like, then we hold the people in our lives to unrealistic expectations. With that thinking, we set our friends and partners up for failure the minute they make a mistake. The truth is, no one is going to be the perfect friend or partner 100% of the time, because imperfect people have imperfect relationships! If any relationship is to last, both people should accept the good and the bad, choose to grow in the hardships, and forgive the mistakes.  

If I cut ties the minute things get difficult, I probably wouldn’t have any relationships left. I also know that if any of my friends lived by that idea, they probably would’ve cut me off a long time ago. I don’t say that because I am a bad person, I say that because I am a person who has made many mistakes, and I am the first to admit that. However, the reason I can even accept those mistakes is because the people in my life were gracious enough to allow me to learn from my wrongdoings. I may not have deserved second and third chances at times, but my friends gave them to me without a second thought, just as I have done for them in the past. To me, that is what true friendship is. 

Ultimately, It is your decision to decide what you can forgive and what you can’t. Not all friendships last forever, nor should they. Undoubtedly, there are times when we have given all the chances we can give, and someone is just not willing to change their actions or grow from their mistakes. However, I think we can all act with more empathy and kindness in our relationships. If we make the effort to be more quick to forgive and more slow to anger, our relationships will only grow because of it. In the end, we should be treating people the way we want to be treated, even when it’s easier said than done.