Note: This was published October 2016, but the lessons I learned are still very much relevant. This is one of the most important blog posts I have ever written. We can love someone while standing up for ourselves and putting up boundaries, including not being a part of that person’s life. Toxic people exist, never be afraid to speak up.
Have you ever met someone who felt off, but you had no reason at that moment to feel that way? One particular person I knew gave me that vibe, and for a few years, I honestly didn’t like them much. It wasn’t until around 2011 that this person confessed something they had done that put them in a tight spot. I felt as a Christian it was my duty to be there for this person and decided that I was being paranoid and judgmental, so I shoved my reservations to the side.
Over the next year and a half, we grew closer, spending a lot of time talking on Skype and the phone. There were red flags that I ignored during our friendship. If I had something to address with this person, they would blow it off, turn it around, and blame me. This person, among many other bad signs, made grandiose claims of prophecy. Around this time, the off feeling came back. Well, if I was honest with myself, it never left, but the warnings in my soul became so strong I couldn’t ignore it. For the sake of privacy, I won’t say too much more on the situation, but this person did inspire a character in one of my up-coming novels.
When I began talking to a 3rd party about my situation, things started to clear up. I was making excuses for this person in my head, this person who was emotionally and mentally abusive and manipulative. In June of 2013, I first brought up my concerns to this person, which neither one of us handled very well. I admit that. I gave this person another chance but with strict boundaries in place. Again, the blame was completely placed on me from this other person’s perspective. I do not claim to be perfect, but I always tried to treat this person with respect.
The 3rd party I was talking to about this situation told me in October of that year that I needed to confront this friend and tell them my concerns. The person I talked with said I needed to do it in order to grow. I was terrified, but a couple weeks later I did it. I wanted this conversation to just be over. To make a very long and complicated situation more concise, this “friend” didn’t like what I had to say at all. This person even tried to get my wife to side with them on the issue. Perhaps I didn’t handle things 100 percent the way I should have, but I do know I was gentle. Confronting someone with serious issues like this is neither easy to say or easy to hear. After my wife and I tried everything, suggesting someone else help resolve this and trying to talk about it, this person shoved us away. We let them walk away and resolved to never allow their manipulation back into our lives.
The point of this story is not to shame the individual involved. I have no idea where they are right now, if they have changed, or if they truly know if they changed. What I do know is that if you have someone in your life that is manipulating and/or abusive, you do not have to stand for it. Even if that is the only friend you have in the world, you do not need that toxicity in your life. Turning away from that doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you smart. Friendship should be mutual. The second it isn’t, the moment there is an imbalance of power and benefit, it may be time to rethink it.
This crazy experience, which was filled with more drama than I could ever include was too rich of a resource not to use for a book. I wrote in a secondary character who becomes friends with the protagonist who is based on my former friend. Unfortunately, even in an urban fantasy setting, things that happened still had to tone down because, frankly, my readers would probably find it unbelievable. As a writer, every experience is fair game. Those experiences, whether they seem real or not, are what make stories relatable. Even if it is incredibly painful like this experience was for me. All of life is for us to use.
Note: I chose to use the words “them” and “they” because they are gender neutral and increases the privacy of the person I am referencing.