Updated: Nov 18, 2019
I don't know about you, but I've noticed a massive culture change in support of a Me-First movement. In the midst of preserving self, we are quick to write off any kind of criticism or challenge toward improvement as "toxic." Why? Often it is simply because it made us uncomfortable or embarrassed. We don't want to dive deep into the truth of a criticism, so we deem it toxic and move on, slathering ourselves in self-focused affirmations, self-help books, and "Mean Girls-esque" cheerleaders who will follow us, like us, and cheer us on regardless of what we do.
It is a subject that stirs my heart and I fully believe it needs to be discussed more.
What is really the difference between toxic behavior and simply a person providing constructive criticism for you?
Sometimes a person can really be giving you some of the best advice you will have in you life to help you grow, but we are too quick to say its toxic that we actually miss out on their care for us and ultimately the growth. Ironic, right?
So, let's dive into how to tell the difference between someone who is actually destructive and someone who is providing advice, even if not in the kindest, most thoughtful way possible.
One of the first questions to ask is....
Where is the criticism directed?
Not every, single time, but often a hurtful, ill-seeking person will criticize you as a person. They will come after things that you honestly can't change, characteristics that make you an individual.
On the flip side, however, people who see an actual flaw or improvement to be made, point it out. So, typically it is a flaw that can actually be changed. (Now, that doesn't mean those people are always tactful about it, but take it as a lesson you get to learn!)
The second question I like to ask is...
Do I know this person's history or record as someone who gives honest critiques or cares for another's well-being? Does this individual constantly seek the downfall of others or do they build others up?
Looking at the track record, while not always the end all, can give you excellent insight into how a person may be approaching you and how you should consider their advice/criticism.
Above all of this though, here's my absolute best advice. Every one of us is a fallen sinner in need of a Savior. The minute we start extending that understanding to our criticizers is the minute that we can also extend the Gospel instead of a "Toxic" label to them.
If you really look at the situation, we were all toxic in God's eyes. He extended grace and we can now spend eternity with Him. So, as you are approaching those conversations with others, know that perhaps just the extension of some grace could end up creating a much bigger impact than the cancellation of that criticism.