The Holidays are upon us. A time when families come together in love and unity to enjoy each other’s company as we celebrate our beliefs, in our case, the birth of Christ.
Great food, fellowship, and gift exchanges all set the mood for a lovely and festive gathering. Laughter, joy, and a spirit of love engulf the room when you are with loving family and friends who have set aside time to be with one another to keep old traditions alive or begin new ones. What a beautiful and exciting time!
Toxic family members will ruin all of this. Family members who ignore toxic behavior will also ruin all of this.
Toxic people are so used to their dysfunctional thought-process of control, manipulation, vindictiveness and victim mentality, they don’t realize the level of awkward they bring to a gathering. They are so deep into their own little world of delusion, they truly believe that they are justified in their toxic behavior. They drain the room of all joy and fill it with an oppressive darkness that permeates and disrupts the natural instinct to unite, bond, and love one another. Instead, the gathering is filled with an uncomfortable “white elephant” in the room. Members of the family are conditioned to walk on eggshells as they have learned to be careful to say the right things, in the right way so as not to offend anyone or not to have their words twisted to mean something unrecognizable from what they were initially intended. Fear stops people from confronting this oppression and dysfunction and everyone tries to muddle through the gathering like there’s not really a bully in the room controlling every little aspect of the evening with their toxic behavior. It’s mentally exhausting!
It’s quite the cycle of insanity that has no end if the choice is to ignore and enable the toxic individual. Toxic Behavior + Enabling = Continued Toxic Behavior. Why would they change if there are no consequences for their actions?
Ahhhh, then there’s the one being bullied or “targeted.” This is the person that is singled out to receive intimidating glares, blatant ignoring, patronizing yet civil responses from the bully for the sole purpose so as to not reveal what they are really doing to the target in front of others. They are masterfully covert as they publically but slyly punish you for disagreeing with them on a sensitive matter that exposed their heightened insecurities and shame, or because you were the only bold person to ever stand up to them and refuse to tolerate their toxic behavior as they overstepped many of your very sacred boundaries. Incidents (aka simple disagreements) from the past by you only fuel their behavior and they consolidate them into a highly concentrated bomb of hateful negativity directed solely toward you. How festive!
While everyone in the room may feel uncomfortable from the overwhelming oppressive behavior because “they know” but they won’t say anything and look the other way, the targeted individual will be made to feel absolutely worthless and utterly insignificant by the family bully. The toxic person will see nothing wrong with their behavior because according to them, they are justified in everything they do. They actually believe they are having a “peaceful holiday” because they have agreed to “be nice to you in front of others” for the sake of peace. What’s even more twisted is that they actually believe this is a gracious act on their part toward you and that they are taking the high road by doing this.
If this sounds even a little familiar to you, please do yourself a huge favor this Holiday Season and put a stop to it immediately. Stand up for principals, morals, and your self-respect. If family members ignore the one person dictating the toxic tone of a family gathering or they enable them by not calling them out on their behavior or turn a blind eye to what they are doing, even if you have no issue with them, remove yourself from all future family gatherings that include the bully and send a clear message that it will no longer be or should be tolerated. For some of you, this may mean spending Christmas alone or breaking traditions. So be it! A choice needs to be made for the state of your mental and emotional well-being. I choose to not be subjected to a stressful, toxic environment blanketed under a “holiday gathering” for the sake of “peace” and I choose to not expose my children to it so that they become conditioned to accept that this is normal behavior within a family. It is not normal! It is dysfunctional in the highest form. This is not peace. No one can or should be able to redefine peace according to their dysfunctional mental state and whacked ideology.
Most importantly: If you have children, use this as a teachable moment to show them that this is inappropriate behavior that is not to be tolerated no matter who the bully is – even if it’s a family member. Teach them we are not to tolerate it, nor are we ever to behave like it. There is a fine balance between grace, mercy and forgiveness and being bullied and mentally and emotionally abused.
Your kids are watching how you are navigating through such encounters with a toxic family member. Be sure to always remain civil but never allow someone to treat you with disrespect. Call it out and take a stand and show everyone who is not brave enough to stand up to the bully that even if you have to stand alone, you will always stand for what is right! That is what our family has done. It was very difficult at first as we saw the true colors of those we thought were beloved family and friends. Their lack of support, concern, and empathy spoke volumes as we were left to deal with this nightmare on our own. But, it has gotten easier for us as we slowly learned that those who did not support us, care enough about us to even ask how we are doing, recognize the integrity our family stands for, or stand up and defend us are not really worth the time we devoted or tears we cried being hurt over their abandonment and silence.
After a few years of taking our stand and refusing to be in the company of toxic behavior, we have been lucky enough to begin new traditions with loving family and friends in a healthy environment of love, laughter, joy and true peace. It is truly refreshing and my kids immediately noticed a sense of lightheartedness and true peace and love in our new traditions. No games, no power struggles, no controlling oppressive darkness. Simple, normal, happy gatherings with healthy, stable people.
If you don’t have anyone else, think about starting your own new traditions. Offer to volunteer somewhere on the holidays, a church, nursing home, hospital and give back. Invite people from work who may also be alone or from your church and start some new traditions. It can happen and it can be beautiful again!
Please share your story in the hope that you may help others who are in this situation. Offer some advice or share your pain so we can offer you hope for a better future. You don’t have to stay stuck in a toxic situation for the sake of peace.