Gandhi famously said, "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." But, what happens when these parts of your life are in discord? What if your words and actions are hurting those around you and you don’t even realize the extent of harm?
We cut toxic people out of our lives, but we must examine our own behavior with brutal honesty.
In what ways are we toxic to ourselves and those around us?
1. Hurt people, hurt people.
When you are emotionally wounded, either from carrying past trauma or current stress, you lash out at those closest to you. Your behavior becomes toxic when you hurt others with your words and actions, routinely.
There are two distinct ways we hurt those we love: through direct and/or indirect action. Direct actions involve the use of physical or verbal attacks against others. Indirect actions range from rolling our eyes, spreading rumors or giving someone the silent treatment. If you’ve had an incredibly stressful day on the job, for example, and feel yourself triggered, you are prone to act out towards others with annoyance and anger. When this becomes your daily mode of operation, it must stop immediately--for everyone’s sake.
What is still hurting you? What can you heal in your heart that will make it easier to get through your days?
2. You are unable to forgive and let go.
Toxic words, beliefs and actions rule our lives when we don’t move past the pain. Your pain was real--he cheated, she lied, but the wounds need time to heal. You cannot declare that every man will be a cheater. You cannot assume that every friend is unworthy. Constantly wearing your injury for all to see, talking about it every chance you get, and throwing it in the other person’s face is toxic; it alienates you and makes your world smaller. Remember that holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
Who do you need to forgive? Can you get the closure you need in order to free yourself?
3. You can’t break the cycle.
You survived some hard times and vowed that you would never act the way that others did towards you. Although you are not carrying on with the same behaviors, you live with the scars and anger; you have tried repeatedly but can’t break the cycle. Some of us have allowed toxic coping strategies to take hold. We release our rage on the road at other drivers or we may even release our hurt through toxic, and often hidden, substance abuse. The cycle needs to end; break it now by changing your thoughts and actions towards your greater good.
As we strive to live in the light, frustration can lead us to lash out in toxic ways. Poisonous thoughts and actions separate us from acting as a benefit to ourselves and those in our world.
What are your coping strategies? How can you break this cycle of pain once and for all?
We must not give up. We are able to change--today. It is not too late for us if we can get real with ourselves and let the air of honest reflection clear out our pain.
T.D. Jakes is a charismatic leader, visionary, provocative thinking, entrepreneur and compassion humanitarian with a voice that has reverberated from the world's most prominent stages. His look at life comes from the perspective of a father, a student, a pastor and a friend. His daytime talk show will be premiering this fall across the nation. Follow @tdjakesshow on Twitter!