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Let's Stop Calling People Toxic

In the last couple of years, people have gotten really free and easy with labeling other human beings “toxic.” You see articles like “How to Avoid Toxic People Like the Plague” and “How to Recognize a Toxic Person.” You hear people say, “Oh, that guy was totally toxic. I stopped dating him ages ago.”

When did it become acceptable in the healing community to judge and label people this way?

Calling someone toxic strips them of their humanity. We are judging them as less than we are, so that we feel superior. We are saying, “I have a right to judge you because you are struggling and it shows in your behavior.”

It appalls me that this word gets used the most in the healing and spiritual communities, by the very same people who promote compassion and personal growth. It’s self-righteous, spiritual snootiness at its finest.

Everyone has their way of handling fear, anger, and suffering, and we don’t always do it gracefully. Some of us deal with our emotional anguish by behaving in a negative manner or not treating other people well. There is pain behind the behavior and we need to recognize it.

If someone’s behavior is affecting you, you absolutely have the right to have healthy boundaries and do what you need to do to honor your physical and emotional needs. However, you can choose to distance yourself from someone with compassion and kindness.

When you call someone toxic, you are reinforcing energy that has probably been thrown at them their entire life. No human is born with harmful coping mechanisms. We learn it as we go. We are hurt and judged by the people around us, and some of us learn how to protect ourselves by lashing out at others or being negative.

There are no toxic humans, only people who are in dire need of love and healing.

We label someone as toxic for protection and to create a sense of separation. We point the finger away from ourselves and deny our role in a relationship or situation. Instead of looking at how we might have contributed to an altercation or negative experience, we say “Oh, that person is toxic, so they are the one who is at fault.” We deny culpability.

Judging them is toxic behavior in itself, and it's time to stop.

Barbara Buck is a Foundational Reconnective Healing Practitioner, writer, and teacher. For more information about her, please visit her website at Check her out on the Happy Empaths Twitter feed @the_empath.

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