There are a lot of really wonderful, well-adjusted, integrous, kind, and emotionally-healthy people in the world.
And, there are a lot of people who, well . . . aren’t.
They’re who I call Porcupines.
Why do I call them this?
Because they’re prickly, sharp, and launch darts at anyone who crosses them!
I call them Porcupines, but they’re also commonly known as Toxic People.
Part 1 of 2 – How to Identify a Toxic Person*
Before I continue, I want to say something else first: this article isn’t about my expectations for any of us to be “perfect.” No one is perfect. This article isn’t about slamming anyone, labeling anyone, being judgmental, or being unforgiving, either. And it certainly isn’t addressing people with medical conditions or illnesses.
I’m also not talking about “seasons” in our lives when we’re weak, weary, and still recovering from another embarrassing trip down a smelly pipe. Or on a more somber note, this isn’t about the times when we’re regrouping after an unforeseen, difficult or tragic incident, either.
We’re human. There are going to be times when we’re a bit more sensitive, tender to the touch, and yes, even hormonal! By the way, this is true for men as well! Yes, men get hormonal! (I used to have a health practice where many of my clients/patients were “hormonal men” going through Andropause. 🙂 )
When we’re feeling “blah,” are in a funk, or are in the midst of something I described above, we’re not as gracious as we’d like to be, we’re not as thoughtful as we’d like to be, and we’re not as lovely as we’d like to be.
Sometimes, we can be darn ugly!
After all, life is unpredictable – and even pretty messy at times.
But like I said, none of these circumstances are the ones I’m talking about.
When I talk about Porcupines, I’m talking about people who are constantly negative, pointed, and armed to fight. They adopt the “ready-fire-aim” approach to every day situations. And along with other non-productive life “strategies”, are difficult (even painful) to be around…hence, toxic. For Porcupines, this behavior isn’t a “season” in their lives – it’s their way of BEING. It’s their lifestyle – their practice. And when confronted with their behavior, they minimize their responsibility by saying “I’m just being honest!” Or, “I’m a no fluff kinda gal,” or “I don’t like beatin’ around the bush,” or “It’s just the way I am!”
John F. Kennedy once said,
Too often people enjoy the luxury of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
This is the tenet of the Porcupine.
So, how do you know if someone is a Porcupine? Here are a few general character traits to look out for:
1. Monologuers – It’s almost always a 1-way “conversation” – everything is about them, and they’re the one doing most of the talking.
2. Gossip Mongers – When they do ask about you, it’s seldom sincere. Beware of what you say and how transparent you are. Just know that whatever you say will be used against you sooner or later – either to your face as some random “evidence” against you, or behind your back as gossip.
3. Mr./Mrs. Right – They are always right. Regardless of how little or insignificant the issue, a Porcupine will always turn it into a debate to exercise “one-upmanship.”
4. Drama Queens/Kings – There’s drama wherever they go because they are the drama. They thrive on being in the center of a “mess” and getting the “juicy details” of it all.
5. Spin Doctors – It’s almost impossible to know the truth with this person. They will omit necessary parts about a situation/conversation, lie about it, exaggerate, or evade the topic when you press in. You won’t really know the whole story – only their “spin” of it. Every situation is exaggerated and grandiose – either to elevate themselves, to show they know the “who’s who”, or to maximize their pity party as a victim.
6. Blame and Shame Games – Porcupines rarely take responsibility for their actions and rarely apologize either. It’s always someone else’s fault – whether it’s the kid next door from 30 years ago, their parents, grandparents, teachers, ex lovers/spouses, the school system, the government, or God.
7. Razor Tongues – They’re bitingly sarcastic. They think they’re being funny – even witty, but they’re really trying to show their perceived superiority over you by masking their contempt behind backhanded comments.
8. Energy Vampires – They take up a lot of your time, energy, focus and even finances, sucking you dry and leaving you feeling fatigued, irritated and violated.
9. Control Freaks – They’re manipulative and controlling – telling you what to do, how to do it, why you should do it, when to do it and where. And if you don’t “obey”, they have a fit – either via the silent treatment, or as a full on rage-attack. When a toxic person realizes they can no longer control you, then they will try to control how others see you/have relationship with you. The gossip, misinformation or outright lies may be unfair, unwarranted and untrue, but it’s done to perpetuate the drama. Remember, they’re Drama Queens/Kings.
10. Stingers – They’re spiteful if they deem you as crossing them. They’re ready to retaliate and prepared to exact vengeance in whatever way they deem “just” in their eyes.
11. Landmines – They have very short tempers and can explode if you touch on a topic they don’t want to look at.
12. Addicts -They have addictive personalities – either to you, other people, things, or activities.
13. Green with Envy – They are jealous of anyone else getting attention, credit or reward even when it was the result of that person’s hard work and effort.
Whew! That’s a lot! No wonder these people are called “toxic.”
Now, this isn’t a DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) classification, but you get the “point” (no pun intended ☺).
In my next Blog, I’ll list a few signs that show whether or not you’re being affected by a Porcupine and some suggestions on what to do when faced with one.
Until then, keep your eyes and minds open. If someone in your life falls into at least 3-4 (or more) of these descriptions, pray for wisdom and direction on how to address this in your relationship. You may also need professional support, especially if this person is very close to you.
And if you find yourself in 3-4 (or more) of these descriptions, I would encourage you to do the same thing: pray for wisdom, and get the support you need. It’s not “bad,” and you’re not a failure if you seek a counselor and/or a pastor to help you heal from these issues.
Long story short, you may not be able to do anything about your past or how other people behave around you, but you can monitor yourself. You can learn tools to better interact with others, and you can learn more about yourself so that you can overcome previous challenges and thrive.
Being willing to take bold steps to have transformed relationships may cause some discomfort or even tension.
But tension isn’t bad and it doesn’t mean something’s wrong. It just means something is happening.”
Here’s to new and great things happening!
In Joyful loving service,
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