Toxic Avenger

I am a huge fan of lists—if they are lists of things that need to get done. It gives me great satisfaction to cross things off as they are completed.

I am not a fan of lists that give “x” steps to “y.” Steps you should take, things to avoid, habits to make—lists that tend to reduce the complex realities of life into overly simplified biopic patterns.

Case in point: I read an article about “10 Toxic People You Should Avoid Like The Plague” by Dr. Travis Bradberry who co-authored Emotional Intelligence 2.0. The article has some good information and is fundamentally true. The problem is in the way these 10 types of people are described, which gives the impression that these people are primarily defined by their “toxic type” and that the reader is somehow free from these same defects.

We all want to be on a great team and be surrounded by great team members. As leaders, we do have a responsibility to select (and sometimes de-select) team members and then help them develop. Still, we should never forget that the person we have the most influence over is ourself.

Looking over Bradberry’s list of toxic people—gossip, temperamental, victim, self-absorbed, envious, manipulative, demeaning, twisted, judgmental, and arrogant—I began to wonder how often I exhibit these traits. Maybe the person I need to avoid like the plague is me.

Not the me I was created to be. Not the me I want to be. The me I become when I allow my selfish nature to have its way. The me I become when I take my eyes off where I am going and focus too closely on my present circumstances.

It is very hard to not do something. Focusing on what I don’t want to do means the negative in my life is what I spend my time thinking about. Not very effective. I rather should focus on what I do want to do or become. If I want to reduce the amount of “toxic type” in myself, I must replace it with something else.

I like to meditate on the “Third Step Prayer” from the Big Book by Alcoholics Anonymous:

God, I offer myself to Thee—to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!

In this prayer, my “difficulties” are not exterior circumstances; they are the disturbances I cause and allow when I become self-interested instead of others-oriented. When I love and serve others, I replace the toxic things I would otherwise do and say.

It is not by accident that Kimray’s mission is to “Make a difference in the lives of those we serve.” We can’t really make a difference anywhere we aren’t serving others. Ironically, the greatest difference that I can make might be in myself.