February 19, 2020

Free for the First Time

Gary Thomas — 

Have you ever kept a toxic person in your life because you didn’t want to hurt their feelings?

It’s almost comical when you think about it—they’re terrorizing you, but you still don’t want to offend them.

I received the following message from a reader of When to Walk Away, and it’s just the kind of story authors love to hear, a woman who was finally set free on multiple levels after decades of letting a toxic person shrink her life.

Hopefully, it will be an inspiration for many of you as well:

Hi Gary, I’ve been meaning to write and express my gratitude for the gift of your latest book When to Walk Away. It appeared on my “recommended for you” list on my Kindle back in October. God is so good to me in that way. He knows I love to read and book titles show up in this suggested list that always apply to what I’m currently experiencing and struggling through.

Oddly enough, I had just had a doozy of a conflict with my sister who fits the definition you give of “toxic.” This has been a common occurrence for the past 25 years (really since I married my husband). She starts every conflict and each one leaves me reeling for days. It’s always an accusation of an offense I didn’t know I committed or an expectation I am not meeting.

I have established a pattern of keeping the peace no matter the cost so my mom won’t be caught in the middle. I realized this time–thanks to your book–that I have taken the abuse and inadvertently protected my entire family from bearing the consequences of my parents’ divorce.

I feel free for the first time in my adult life because I did not apologize (because I didn’t do anything wrong) and I quit trying to rescue her from her own behavior. It was hard at first but the fruit of it has been so much peace and freedom like I’ve never experienced before. And my mom (who always responds to the historical conflicts with “I just want my kids to get along!!”) sensed something was going on and asked me about it. I was able to share the changes, what I learned from your book, and that I am not going to respond in the way that’s been expected of me. She released and affirmed me in a way that she never has before. The fruit of this book is spanning beyond just my life but I’ve recommended it to so many others and they are devouring it. Thank you so much for writing it, making sure it is biblically sound and also calls us to our own repentance for the ways we have exhibited toxic behavior ourselves. I am eternally grateful!!

What I’ve found is that when you’re concerned about how a toxic person will feel or be harmed if you stop allowing them to bully you, the reality is that there are multiple family members who are hurting as they watch you being bullied. Even if you’re a people pleaser (not that that’s a healthy motivation!), you’ll end up pleasing far more people walking away from a toxic person than letting them terrorize you. You may well anger one, but it’s likely you’re bringing relief to a dozen.

The best motivation, of course, is following in the footsteps of Jesus to walk away from a toxic person and toward a reliable one. But sometimes, we just need to “get away” to have any idea about where to go next.

I’m so grateful for similar stories and testimonies pouring in about God setting people free. What makes me so happy about it is that this is a book I wish I could have read myself thirty years ago. I can’t go back and preach to my younger self, but I can offer a word of comfort and counsel to people who are in their twenties now.

If you know of someone who needs to be set free but who is letting false guilt and a misunderstanding of “grace” or “forgiveness” keep them in a toxic situation, please consider sharing this message with them. (If finances are an issue, we do our best to make the books available for whatever people can afford when they contact us directly.)

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6 responses to Free for the First Time

  1. Darwin Sugiharto February 19, 2020 at 2:59 pm

    Thank you so much Gary. Your articles have blessed so many people. God bless you.

  2. The moment I heard that When to Walk Away was going to be released, I knew I had to read it. I finished it in one day and subsequently decided that I was going to form a life group. We are halfway through the video sessions and we are learning so much. People are in desperate need of practical help and hope when dealing with toxic people. This book provides that and more. Thank you Pastor Gary for creating this resource. May God continue to bless you and the work of your hands.

  3. S this a book that could be used in the young adults classes ages 18-30?

    • Pamela, Yes! I certainly wish I had read this in college… They won’t relate to the “Toxic Children” chapter (which relates to adult children), but there should be plenty of helpful and applicable information in all the others. If you’d prefer to do a DVD study instead of the book, that’s also available.

  4. Praise the Lord Gary. I am rejoicing in the freedom which is coming in waves as a result of your faithfulness in writing and ministry.