Wish Them Well, but Back Away

There’s a common misconception when it comes to compassion that we should tolerate toxic people; that, in order to truly embody the spirit of love and peace, we must put up with others when they bring us down. Well, there’s no rule stating that we must continually subject ourselves to difficult people.

At the crux of my point are two words: acceptance and tolerance

To tolerate someone means that you’ve decided to condone their behavior even though it’s something you might not like. We tolerate things instead of actively resisting them, usually because it’s too hard or too futile to do so. Furthermore, tolerating can almost mean willfully exposing ourselves to the way they treat us because we’ve made ourselves immune. (even though we’re never really immune) 


On the other hand, to accept means that we fully acknowledge and embrace that the person is the way they are or that something is the way it is. Acceptance is finality; it’s saying “this is what this is.” Not only can acceptance be more spiritually liberating, but it releases us from the side-effects of whatever it is or involving our own ego and bias into the equation and thereby becoming inseparable from the chaos it contains. 

Acceptance can mean we either ignore or move away. The point I’m making here, now, is that it’s sometimes best to get as much distance as possible from those who challenge and destabilize our joy.

“But the compassionate thing to do is to show them love,” you suggest. I couldn’t agree more. But what kind of love do we show negative or toxic people? The same kind of love we show others, but sometimes a love that comes with a condition. That is, “I wish you well, I send you love, I accept how you are without judgment, but I need some distance to isolate myself from your toxicity and, in so doing, avoid creating another toxic person in the process.”

If you feel as though you have a responsibility to deal with a difficult or toxic person, the may not be the case. Certainly there are exceptions when it comes to people in our care or those whose lives depends on us. But there’s no reason to continually expose ourselves to the bitterness and pain that comes from dealing with those we don’t absolutely have to deal with.

Accept and move on. Send love…but back away. Sharing love and compassion doesn’t necessarily involve an intimate experience and we certainly do our part by extending love from the distance, in a cosmic sense, to all people and beings, despite their toxicity. 

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