Six Lessons from the Book When to Walk Away by Gary Thomas

Six Lessons from the Book When to Walk Away by Gary Thomas 

By Daniel & Bonnie Hoover

1. “Every toxic person is difficult, but not every difficult person is toxic.” 

God created all of us with different personalities. Some are more laid back, while others are more forceful. Just because someone is more aggressive, driven, and has a take-charge personality, it doesn’t mean they are toxic. There will always be people who don’t agree with us or “get under our skin.” We don’t have to be best buddies with them, but be careful not to label them as toxic. 

2. While there’s no one exhaustive definition of a toxic person, they tend to share common traits. 

“Toxic people are ruled by selfishness and spite. They are usually draining instead of encouraging, and they use people instead of loving them. They are often seemingly addicted to self-righteous and rash judgments, so they frequently fight with people instead of enjoying and appreciating them. They may be jealous of healthy people’s peace, family, and friendships and spend much of their time and effort trying to bring people down to their level of misery rather than blessing others with joy and encouragement. They often want to control you, and it may feel as if they want you to stop being you. One mark of a toxic person is that they are destroying you.” 

3. “Though Jesus came to die the death of a martyr, He didn’t allow consistent and persistent abuse to continue throughout His life.” 

As Christians, we read “turn the other cheek” so we instantly think that we must allow ourselves to be constantly abused by people or toxic relationships. In chapter 2, Gary Thomas states, “There are more than two dozen instances in the four gospels where Jesus demonstrated walking away or letting someone else walk away.”

4. There is a crucial difference between a toxic marriage and a difficult marriage.

“A difficult marriage consists of two sinners growing out of their selfishness, spiritual immaturity, and pride to learn how to become more like Christ and commit to putting the other first. A toxic marriage isn’t just frustrating; it’s also destructive. It’s marked by unrepentant, controlling behavior from which the spouse refuses to repent. Perhaps one partner has a murderous spirit that dominates and sucks the life out of the other. Or the husband or wife loves to hate, getting a sick pleasure from tearing the other person down.”

5. God loves marriage, and He loves people, but do we think He loves the people or the institutions more? 

“There’s always a danger that some will claim they are married to a toxic spouse simply to get out of a frustrating marriage that isn’t truly abusive or toxic. Every true teaching gets perverted in the gap of application.” 

“God hates divorce wrongly applied and loves and wants to rescue people who are being destroyed in a toxic marriage.” 

“If a marriage shell is used to allow people to be abused and hurt, God may well take it down.” 

6. Couples can leave the toxicity instead of the marriage. 

Many times, there isn’t a toxic individual in the marriage. Both partners are exhibiting toxic behavior towards one another. If couples are willing to work at it and receive healing from the Lord, they can leave the toxicity and keep the relationship. 


Thomas, Gary. When to Walk Away, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI 2019



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