“…Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?” (1 Corinthians 5:6)
Looking back on life, I realize how much energy I’ve exerted trying to avoid toxic things. That goes for situations and, occasionally, people. I’m not referring to the common aggravating things that are part of everyone’s life that tend to bum you out, but rather the situations which (and people who) so negatively affect your outlook and attitude that only removal of yourself enables you to restore equilibrium. And failure to remove yourself may cause you to either assume aspects of that toxicity within yourself or experience feelings of having a weighted soul (oppression).
This was a periodic challenge in the corporate settings in which I worked whenever office politics became pronounced and people were trying to assert power in obvious and (in what sometimes appeared to me to be) cynical ways, when people were jockeying for power and prestige, or when something went wrong and avoidance of responsibility and c.y.a. was the ingrained habitus. Demonstrating skill in these areas, i.e. functioning in the midst of toxicity, along with demonstrating competence in an assigned area of responsibility, was a way folks survived and even thrived. This wasn’t a constant, but it became prevalent enough that I had to leave. Thankfully, GOD provided me a way out.
Of course, toxic environments and people are not exclusive to business settings; we find them in every arena in life. And I think the dynamics in them are essentially the same regardless of the setting, become a part of the toxicity or recognize what it is and how it stands to impact and step away (mentally and emotionally, if not physically). Unfortunately, I think many people who have opted to adapt to toxic environments don’t realize that they have done so. They’re like the Fabreze® commercials; they become nose blind to it. They don’t see anything irregular or harmful to themselves or to others, often despite the reaction of others to them.
Scripture frequently used yeast, a leavening and fermentation agent, as symbolic of sin. In the story of the exodus, the ancient Israelites were told by GOD to not use yeast in their baking of bread at the time of the Passover. Later, they were told not to use it in preparation for certain sacrificial offerings. In the New Testament, both Jesus and Paul used yeast as a metaphor for sin or that which leads to sin.
Anything toxic (literally, anything harmful and capable of causing injury) influencing our spiritual selves is a sign that yeast is present and at work. It is harmful to us and to those around us because yeast affects whatever it touches. Adopting attitudes and behaviors which are toxic is sinful because they do not reflect the love of GOD nor love of others, regardless of how they manifest themselves. I’m convinced it’s one of the reasons Jesus talked about the importance of having eyes that see and ears that hear.
When I see it in myself, the antidote is to acknowledge and deal with it before GOD in an honest and non-defensive way. When I experience it in situations or in others, I will try to speak to it as graciously as I can and may make it a matter of prayer. After that and if nothing changes, I usually step away. It takes too much energy to remain in the midst of that.
© Byron L. Hannon, 2020. All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.