CNLP 331: Gary Thomas on How to Walk Away from Toxic People and Why the Classic Christian Response of “Just Love Them More” Isn’t Actually that Christian

Best-selling author, Gary Thomas, says it took him years to figure out that some people are just plain toxic. They don’t respond to love, to correction or to direction.

Gary shares how to walk away from toxic people at work, in your family and in life, and why the traditional Christian response of “just love them more” isn’t really that Christian.

Welcome to Episode 331 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Plus, in this episode’s What I’m Thinking About Segment, Carey gives his latest thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis and how to respond as leaders.

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Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Website | When to Walk Away

Episode Links

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We’ve got a crisis going on in our own lives and in our own culture, but it also happens elsewhere in the world, where even response to a global pandemic, access to healthcare is not nearly as real as it is for most of us. So during the moments of crisis here, we have the benefits of leadership and ministry resources. We can jump on the internet. We have resources that others don’t have. So imagine navigating this in India or Lebanon or South Sudan. Not only would you not have access to the resources in your language, you might not even have a bible that you could use regularly.

We’ve partnered with a ministry called International Cooperating Ministries. They’re a leader in global church development at work, and while we have crises of our own, since 1986, they have been equipping and helping indigenous church leaders around the world. They’re in 100 different countries. They are EFCA accredited, have four stars on Charity Navigator, and for $35 a month, you can equip pastors in a developing nation to respond to crisis and minister effectively. Sometimes one of the best things you can do as a leader is say, “You know what? I’m going to help someone else.”

To help, check them out at


Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas

Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

CNLP 319: Craig Groeschel on What He’s Learning from His Performance Coach, How to Handle High Demand Leadership, and How to Avoid Entitlement in Leadership

CNLP 286: John Townsend on How to Rewire Your Brain to Stop the Negative Voices and the Relationships You Really Need as a Leader, and Probably Don’t Have

The ChurchPulse Weekly Podcast


1. Healthy relationships are too boring for toxic people

It’s hard to fathom that a person like this exists, but many many toxic people can’t stand healthy relationships. A toxic husband will get bored with a healthy marriage. A toxic co-worker will get tired of a healthy workplace culture. We have to be aware of those people as the church and look for ways to drive them out.

The biggest danger of these toxic people is that they will often be master manipulators, and when they begin to not get their way, they will attack anything standing in their way. Gary outlines a few stories in his book where toxic individuals intentionally “murder” other people’s reputations and lives for the sake of toxicity.

2. If you throw your pearls before swine, you’ll be ripped to shreds

The natural Christian response to dealing with toxic people is to try and just stick around and pour more and more energy, love and care into a toxic person hoping that they change. Gary has learned through studying the New Testament that this is the wrong approach. The New Testament says to do the opposite.

The New Testament says that we will encounter people who are “swine” that are toxic and not worth our time or effort. It says that we cannot throw our pearls before them or it will tear us apart. When we identify someone as toxic, it’s time to walk away.

3. As a leader, removing the toxic people from your organization is on you

It’s so tempting, as a leader, to give in to toxic people little by little over time. You think, “It’s not really a big deal that they gossiped one time.” Or, “Maybe they are just really extroverted and need to verbally process their feelings.” Eventually, they have taken over the office with drama.

If you allow that as a leader, you suffocate the rest of your team. As a leader, you need to be constantly on the lookout for toxic people within your organization and get rid of them. When you get rid of them, tell them the truth. Call a toxic person toxic. They need to hear it, and your other leaders need to know why you made the decision you did.

Quotes from Episode 331

We've replaced hunting animals with hunting reputations. @garyLthomas Click To Tweet

We have got to stop feeling bad about unhealthy people having unhealthy reactions to healthy decisions. @garyLthomas Click To Tweet

You just can't win with those angry people who leave you one-star reviews. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet

What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? @garyLthomas Click To Tweet

I read books to find out what's right with them, not to find out what's wrong with them. @garyLthomas Click To Tweet

Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig liked it. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet

To a toxic person, a healthy marriage is too boring to tolerate. @garyLthomas Click To Tweet

I'm never more tempted to be toxic than when I'm dealing with a toxic person. @garyLthomas Click To Tweet

Just because I see somebody sinning doesn't mean I'm responsible for being the detective. @garyLthomas Click To Tweet

When you're trying to do Christ's message without Christ's methods, it really can become tainted. @garyLthomas Click To Tweet

Jesus chose his disciples and so should we. @garyLthomas Click To Tweet

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The world is experiencing a series of unprecedented challenges, and you’re leading in the midst of it all.

I’ve got a brand new online, on-demand course, called How To Lead Through Crisisthat can help you lead your team, your church and yourself through the massive disruption.

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While no one has all the answers in a crisis this big, in the course, I share the mindsets, habits, tools and strategies that I believe will help you lead through crisis to get you and the people you lead to a new (and better) future.

You can enroll and get instant access for you and your team here.

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CNLP 331: Gary Thomas on How to Walk Away from Toxic People and Why the Classic Christian Response of “Just Love Them More” Isn’t Actually that Christian


  1. Victoria on October 5, 2021 at 9:05 am

    Ironic he’s talking about toxic people when this year he shows a preference for them.

  2. on July 16, 2020 at 5:28 am

    good article thanks for sharing with us

  3. Andrwe Miller on March 31, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    Great podcast! I think the apostle Paul is talking about a toxic pastor in Titus 3.10-11.

    • Andrwe Miller on March 31, 2020 at 2:30 pm

      I meant toxic *person*. Sorry. But there are toxic pastors too :/

  4. Denis on March 31, 2020 at 8:42 am

    Interesting. But how about toxic leaders. In 45 years of christian life, I have seen more toxic leaders than toxic christians

    • Lesbia CANDELARIA on March 31, 2020 at 1:30 pm

      That’s a reality, Dennis. I think that if you can live without being affected by them, is good. However, if their influence is too much, then it would be the time to decide to stay or leave the place, mostly if they are the pastor/leader. My humble opinion…

  5. gbwhatsapp app on March 31, 2020 at 5:12 am

    Your life’s calling is too important to let toxic people take it away. In When to Walk Away, Gary Thomas–bestselling author of Sacred Marriage–draws from

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