The Slow Burn of Toxic People

by Richard Furleigh

My best friend will be turning 31 this year. Or he would be, I mean he is, except for a sad set of events that has led him out of my life with little hope of returning. So I guess I should be saying my former best friend will be turning 31 this year. It’s sad really, the demise of our relationship. Although like any relationship I should have seen it coming, seen the signs. Sometimes Living Life Creatively means removing people no matter how close from your life.

See, my friend, let’s call him Jim, and I had known each other for going on 16 years through middle school and beyond. We hung out all the time talking about everything from school, jobs, the women in our lives, potentially opening a company together, and played a lot of Super Smash Bros (like…… a LOT). One trip we took together Jim made a very poor decision and decided, from what I know now was pressure from other people in his life, to sever ties with our group of friends for being poor influences on him. So for two years I didn’t talk to him.

Fast forward, I’m at Texas State University moving on with my life and my my phone rings with an unknown number. Jim apologizes profusely for not taking responsibility for the prior poor decision and asks me to be his best man, which I accept. Fast forward some more as we begin to hang out more as I move back home for a short time as Kristen and I begin to save money for our wedding and honeymoon and I begin to realize the kind of man he has become. He takes care of his family and loves them dearly, he works hard, and generally is a decent guy. In any kind of conversation in which his view differ from yours though, he had turned into a living troll. The guy lurking online to say something mean spirited just for the sake of stirring the pot, disagreeing with you just for the sake of it with nothing substantial to stand on, and simply ignoring any facts or reality contrary to his views.

We butted heads a few times, but I was forgiving. After all, he was my best friend! He may be rough around the edges but he’s a good guy deep down and would do anything for me! One disagreement in particular though left him angry at me for not attending a group camping trip the weekend before we moved to Reno, but finding time the week before to make a trip to Austin to visit friends and camp there. After not answering my calls for a couple days we finally met up to hash things out where he proceeded to blame Kristen for keeping me from him during my time in Texas, and pointed to the camping trip as evidence. It took some convincing to show him there was no way time wise that we could gone to that trip and still have gotten ourselves and our animals ready to move across the country. We left on decent terms, but fast forward another year during which time as political ferver started rising his very conservative views clashed more with my slightly left of center ones in post after post where he would resort to name calling, lack of fact checking, refusing to acknowledge logical flaws in his arguments while he laughed at those who did the same, and deep insults to other friends I had who disagreed with him until one day…..

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The original post

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What is missing here is Jack’s post (he has since deleted his FB account) in which he said something along the lines of “well maybe you just married the wrong woman Jim!” to which Kristen and I had a good laugh, because you stuck your hand in the hornets nest and got stung, you should have known better. Jim, who would make comments about women like this all the time could do that in his own house, but we had made it clear we wouldn’t let him talk in sexist ways to us (see his initial comment in which he clearly knows he’s being a moron). So we took the high road but definitely put him in his place.

That was the last interaction I’ve had with Jim.

I found out days later when Kristen was checking something else that he had unfriended her, so she asked me to go look at his profile, which showed I had been unfriended as well. At first I was shocked and a little sad, but the more I thought about it the less distressed I became over the whole situation. Jim was gone, and this time I didn’t feel the driving need to fix things. He had proven himself time and time again as someone who was toxic to my life even in small ways, and even when these things were pointed out as undesirable in our relationship he persisted until he cut off communication, again.

Sometimes in life there are people who subtly poison you, people who are friendly in many other ways but ‘joke’ in ways that are actually degrading, who inflate problems in your life to exaggerated proportions, or refuse to see their own flaws in contributing to any problems. As much as it may hurt to do so, because trust me it does, you have to leave these people out of your life. The positivity they offer is for naught if their constant diatribe of negativity in other areas makes you less than in any way.

Looking at it now I feel sad for him, really I do. He may have a ‘good’ life by any measurable standards, but someone who feeds on negativity in the way that he does is not someone I feel I want in my life.

To Jim, I’m sure someone will tell you about this blog. I hope you read this with an open mind and an open heart. I loved you like a brother for years and I will always miss those times, but the man I knew last is never someone I would want in me or my families life. Your behavior in the respects I have talked about are completely unacceptable and I hope as the father of two daughters you realize that in time. If you ever want to sit down, grab a coffee, and chat I’m open to that if you can prove to me you are a kinder person. Someone who doesn’t throw constant barbs at others for their own enjoyment. Then, and only then, would I even consider beginning anew. Best wishes to you and your family, truly I wish you well.

To my Pengminions, I implore you to do the same in your own life. Is there anyone in your life that you dread talking to or their reactions to situations that are not your fault? Let us know if there are any other tactics you have used to overcome these situations. Stay strong out there, til next time Pengminions!

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