We all have those relationships where we would rather wring their necks sometimes instead of dealing with just one more of their temper tantrums, cries for our attention, or demanding moments. People get on each other's nerves at times - making this whole business of relationship so much more work than we want it to be! Face it - - - even you act like the one someone else wants to do a little neck wringing on at times! In some social circles, especially those of the "politically correct", these types of relationships are called "difficult" or "high maintenance". In my social circle, they are called "get over yourself" relationship moments! Sometimes people have "toxic" moments - other times they LIVE toxic lives. The first is okay - we can deal with it and move on. The latter is not - it lingers, eats away at us, and drains us of all we have to give and more. Toxins are poisons - they affect what they touch because of their potential to harm. Bleach in a bottle is of little harm to us, but break the bottle and clothes may be ruined, lungs may bear the assault of caustic fumes, and we will have a huge mess on our hands. One thing is for certain - toxic people have a way of letting their toxins out of their "bottle".
Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you will be blameless and pure, children of God without any fault. But you are living with evil people all around you, who have lost their sense of what is right. Among those people you shine like lights in a dark world, and you offer them the teaching that gives life. (Philippians 2:14-16 ERV)
Bleach in a bottle has a purpose. When poured into our laundry water, at the right dilution rate, it actually makes our clothes brighter and removes grungy dirt. Bleach diluted in a ten part solution will provide adequate germicidal benefits when cleaning surfaces. Yet, at its full strength, it has a corrosive, caustic, and poisonous impact. "Caustic" people in our lives don't usually come at us with a ten part solution - they come at us full-strength! Their overflow of whatever is making them this "toxic" is actually enough to burn, corrode, and even destroy healthy relationships. So, learning how to both recognize the caustic effects of others (and sometimes even ourselves), along with learning to avoid their harm is paramount to keeping ourselves (and others) safe from their effects.
Most of what I have observed in the lives of "caustic" or "toxic" people is their tendency to be "caustic" when they have an area of weakness which is about to be exposed (or perhaps has already been exposed). This is much like the bottle which contains the bleach - as long as it remains "in tact", there is no harm to those around it. As long as the one who has a tendency to become "toxic" or "caustic" in a relationship doesn't feel threatened, they are fine. Threaten them in anyway and it is like dropping the bottle of bleach - they unload all kinds of harm on you. Much of what we'd do well to recognize is the cause of the "toxin" affecting another. Usually an individual who becomes "toxic" at some point is this way because of what they have "bottled up". The bottling up is done because they have an area of weakness which they don't want exposed. If they keep it "under wraps", then they feel secure and non-threatened. If they begin to feel their "bottle's" integrity threatened, they are quick to release the toxins within.
You have probably heard it said: Hurting people hurt people. It's true. You cannot bottle up the hurt forever - it will spill out at some point. "Bottled hurt" has a way of becoming more damaging than the original "hurt" was in the first place. It also has a way of affecting more people than you might imagine. I used to love to go to the river or lake with my dad while he fished. I wasn't much of a fisherman, but loved to collect stuff I could take home - things like shiny, smooth rocks and driftwood. If I was particularly lucky, I could perhaps find something "living" such as a tadpole, crawdad, or maybe even a little toad. In their own habitat, they flourished. After a day or two in my bucket or empty margarine container and they didn't do so well any longer. Why? They were cut off from the fresh water supply they needed. Sure, they had some supply of their "natural" habitat because I always added it to the container - but they needed it to be renewed in order for it to support their growth. In time, whatever I had captured would die because it lacked the nourishment and the conditions which would sustain their life. Dead tadpoles and crawdads don't smell too good - let me assure you of that! It doesn't take long for the "toxins" of death to produce a pretty offensive odor.
The same is true in our own lives. Take what needs constant renewal out of the place where renewal can occur and you produce death. Relationships are meant to stay in the place of connection to that which renews. Bottle up any relationship issues long enough and the toxic effect will overwhelm you. Relationships are best when they are in a flourishing, continually renewed place. They get a little caustic when the supply of what brings this renewal is shut off by any cause. When we see "caustic" people as shut off from that which brings them life, we begin to see their "toxin" a little differently. We understand they are just producing what they know how to produce in their "decaying" condition. What they need is an infusion of life - what you offer is the very thing they need. We can become offended by their "caustic" overflow, or we can begin to wash over them with the freshness of our God's grace, love, and peace. Just sayin!