When Is It Time to Walk Away?
by Jen Hatmaker on April 21st, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to make toffee. Again. The first attempt, despite scant instructions and just three ingredients, emerged like a sheet of sand and made me resort to violence and hatred.
 
Round two: sand again. $&*%!!!!
 
So I consulted the interwebs to discover the error of my ways. Let me condense the instruction I received:
 
Keep stirring. Stir constantly. Stir occasionally. Don’t stir once it boils. The temperature is too hot. It’s not hot enough. Too hot, too fast. Oops, too long. Keep a steady boil. NOT A ROLLING BOIL, YOU MORON. Use a whisk. Use a spatula. Use a wooden spoon. Recalibrate your candy thermometer. Don’t use a candy thermometer. Pour immediate at 285 degrees. Drop toffee into ice water and it should be brittle. Oops, while you were doing that it reached 286 degrees. Dump contents. Don’t cook if there is rain within 500 miles. 12 minutes exactly. 7 and a half minutes. 4 minutes and not a second more. If it separates, add water. If it separates, keep stirring. If it separates, turn the heat down. If it separates, turn the heat up. If it separates, I’m sorry to tell you, but your life is in shambles.
These are what we refer to as Crazy Eyes.

This inspired a new Toffee Doctrine I’d like to discuss today, catalyzed by a Facebook comment of unusual depth: “Girl, sometimes the juice ain’t worth the squeeze.” And I bowed my head and said amen.
 
There is something to be said for hard work, diligence, for pushing through obstacles and emerging victorious. Heaven forbid we’re people for whom failure is a chronic deal-breaker. Some best things are won through perseverance, and there is simply no other path. Often triumph is seized on the 77th try, and every last effort in Attempts #1-76 was worth it, and not only do we emerge successful, but the false starts and failures became our greatest teachers, and no amount of instruction could replace them.
 
But there is another narrative to consider, which doesn’t smack of the Protestant Work Ethic we champion or provide a lovely headline, but it is no less essential to health, and confusing the two approaches is not only dangerous but destructive. Help a sister out, Kenny Rogers:
 
You got to know when to hold ‘em…know when to fold ‘em.
 
I recently discussed this with my 7th grade daughter. (Fact: 7th grade exists as an evolutionary natural selection process to weed out any tender, confident, precious traits from the adolescent species. Eat or be eaten, kids.) This has been a Challenging Friend Year, and she found herself on the outside, and I don’t even have to tell you what that means because we are all 7th Grade Survivors, am I right?
 
After a year of working and crying and trying again and crying and taking a different approach and crying more, I finally said, “Baby, some things are precious and worth the work it takes to keep them alive. Plenty of good things require hard work. But some things are too hard, and it’s time to cut bait.”
 
There is a tipping point when the work becomes exhausting beyond measure, useless. You can’t pour antidote into a vat of poison forever and expect it to transform into something safe, something healthy. In some cases, poison is poison, and the only sane answer is to move on.
 
Relationships, careers, churches, friendships, expectations, roles, tasks, organizations – these structures and connections can be the most life-giving elements on earth. They can lend meaning and purpose and belonging like nothing else. Within them, we find our tribes and passions, we come to life.
 
But anything that powerful has a downside, for they are the same things that can drain us dry and leave us for dead. When an endless amount of work and blood and sweat and tears leaves a situation or relationship or even an ambition (Perfect Mom, Size 4 Human, Person Who Has It All Together) as unhealthy as it ever was, when there is virtually no redemption, when the red flags have frantically waved for too long unheeded, the alarm bells receding into white noise after sustained disregard, sometimes the healthiest possible response is to walk away.
 
Assessing a circumstance as worthy of the toil is a discarded skill. Our culture doesn’t value safe boundaries like it should. We hold private disdain for the one who quit, the one who pulled out, drew a line in the sand, the one who said no more. We secretly wonder if they shouldn’t have tried harder, stayed longer, if this isn’t an indicator of their flimsy loyalty. Surely we would’ve done better in their shoes.
 
Locked in a toxic relationship or career or ambition or community, the levels of unhealth and spiritual pollution can murder everything tender and Christlike in us, and a watching world is not always privy to those private kill shots. It can destroy our hope, optimism, gentleness. We can lose our heart and lose our way. And here is the key: we can pour an endless amount of energy into the chasm, and it will never matter.
 
There is a time to put redemption in the hands of God where it belongs and walk away before you destroy your spirit on the altar of Futile Diligence. Not every battle has a winner; sometimes it is all losers, carnage everywhere. When healthy options exist, and there is a safer alternative right…over…there, often the bravest thing we can do is stop fighting for something that will never, ever be well.

Walk away gracefully; we need not fire parting shots over the bow. That only creates more losers, and you're better than that. Take your dignity and self-respect and precious humanity, and be proud of the way you handled yourself one year from now. You don't need to be proven right; much more is at stake than validation. You'll never regret being gracious, but you might deeply regret burning a bridge that might one day be safe enough to venture back over.
 
It is not ungodly to evaluate critically; it is the wisest thing we can do. Reaching a point where you say “enough” to a toxic environment is not cowardly – it is so very brave. It will free you up to expend your energy in worthy ways, protecting you and maybe even your people from brutal coping mechanisms. (Do we really want to teach our children that “identifying with your captor” is the best way? When all we do is defend our imprisoner, it’s time to take a hard look in the mirror.)
 
What is the tipping point? There is no formula here and I can’t give one. This requires honest self-evaluation, safe and wise counselors, the close leadership of the Holy Spirit, a sobering assessment of reality. Ask, “Is the juice worth the squeeze here?" and sometimes it is. You might discover signs of life and possibility rising up through the efforts, or the task at hand is simply too worthy to abandon, regardless. There may be necessary work left to do, and it’s too soon to assess. Or maybe the Spirit holds you in place for unclear reasons, which you may or may not ever know, but you will find peace in obedience and continue to listen for marching orders.
 
But the Toffee Doctrine bears adherence too: you got to know when to fold ‘em - for your health, your heart, purpose, family, your precious life. Certain goals are unattainable, and the means will never actually reach the end. And so often if you just turn a quarter degree, you’ll discover a healthier version just within reach. You’ll find the underlying value intact in a context that fits like a glove. You’ll hear yourself say, “Oh! I didn’t know it could be like this!” The toffee is still good elsewhere; maybe just need to rethink how you get it.

As for me, homemade is out, store bought is in. Now everyone is happy, the kitchen is no longer a war zone, and I know what I’m having with my coffee tomorrow morning. But there was that one recipe involving a microwave…

Someone stop me before I jump back into the crazy.
 
~
 
If your instinct is to counter with all the times we must stay the course, I’d ask you to carefully reread the blog and notice I already did that. My advice is for scenarios in which walking away is the right and necessary thing to do. My aim is not to lead a revolution of irresponsible quitters but of discerning disciples.
 
How are you struggling? Or when did you walk away for the greater good?



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248 Comments
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CJ Mitchell - April 22nd, 2013 at 9:53 AM
I actually just walked away from a toxic relationship. Even though it feels so silly as an adult to have to make a defined line in my mind and heart. It still feels as though a weight has been lifted.
Stu - April 22nd, 2013 at 9:55 AM
I know I'm not God but if I am going to be God-like how can I walk away from a situation he would not walk away from? Maybe I just need to go that extra extra mile. If I know God iis with me in all my worthy pursuits I guess I'll just keep trodden along the good path.
Hoosier - April 22nd, 2013 at 2:31 PM
Who is to say he wouldn't walk away from something? God does not call his people to always stay. Abusive spouses, relationships, churches. You do not have to stay, nor is it more holy to do so. Did you and I read the same article?
Claudia - June 2nd, 2013 at 1:26 PM
Just remember you're not God. Sometimes you need to let go and let God deal with it. You can certainly continue praying.


Megan - June 2nd, 2013 at 4:10 PM
Sometimes we need to reevaluate if the pursuit is, indeed, worthy. Not everything is. Also, not everything is suitable for every pursuer. Perhaps God will use another better equipped to handle a task. It is worth considering, even if, ultimately, you decide to keep on in your pursuit.
Kimberly - April 22nd, 2013 at 10:04 AM
This reminds me of a relationship I had way back. I tried countlessly to impress said boyfriend with his favorite cake, Pineapple Upside Down Cake. With each try he let me know it wasn't like his mom's. I wasn't measuring up. That was the end of the relationship. Know when to fold them. Now, years later, I'm so thankful for the Pineapple Upside Down Cake fiasco. Relationship ended shortly after that, and I've NEVER made it again!
sarah - April 22nd, 2013 at 10:27 AM
Where were you 5 years ago? Bless you. I needed this, and will be referring to it in the future when I come to those situations where I need to let go. I need to remind myself that it's not a failure if I gave it my best, and it just wasn't meant to happen.
Tanya - April 22nd, 2013 at 10:34 AM
Jen, Jada brought this to my attention today.

You hit it out of the park! Thanks so much for the truth that is here.
Adrienne Terrebonne - April 22nd, 2013 at 10:45 AM
This was so good and reaffirming to me. We recently moved to Georgia from TN and I was in our worship band at our previous church in TN. I sort of wanted to be a part of our worship team here in GA so that I could use my talents to bring glory to the Lord, so I talked to the worship leader, went to a practice, went through the "process" to be a part of the team. But then I started feeling uneasy, like I needed to pull back a bit. I started feeling stress and worried about what to do with my three children while I went to practice (my husband works full time and can't always take off work to watch the kids). I ended up stepping down from the team before I had even really been a part of it. It was hard and my pride was hurt, but right now in this season of my life, I know that my main ministry is to raise my children according to Biblical principles.
Crista - April 22nd, 2013 at 11:08 AM
And for those of us that have sometimes gotten the toffee right only to botch it again, thank You, Jesus for sanctifying the cook. %uD83D%uDE1C%uD83D%uDE0A Great word, Jen!
Anne - April 22nd, 2013 at 11:15 AM
Yes!
Diane - April 22nd, 2013 at 11:25 AM
wonderful
Cathy Schlieman - April 22nd, 2013 at 11:38 AM
Jan 1st I walked away from owning a small business. Was tired of putting God on hold, and my husband and my family and my friends on hold. Great decision! God has brought some amazing people into my life and my husbands. And I am in awe and so thankful for what He is doing in our lives! Thx for sharing your message w me!
Tiffany - April 22nd, 2013 at 11:51 AM
We spent years trying to fit at the local church that was part of the "group" we grew up in. Last fall, we finally walked away because of all of the very reasons you just said. It was hard, HARD and we still get flack from family members for our decision. But over and over God has shown us that it was the right thing to do. He has filled us with strength and peace and freedom like we have not felt in so very long!
Karen - April 22nd, 2013 at 11:55 AM
thank you
Denise - April 22nd, 2013 at 12:09 PM
Thank you Jen....I have recently divorced my husband after a 3 year separation. I had found out he had been unfaithful and lying to me since we were married 10 years ago. Through the separation, I kept "trying" to make it work. I went to counseling, suffered many health problems, not to mention all of the emotional distress I was under....still am. The week before our divorce was final (in Nov 2012), he decided to show me he changed, and started counseling (which only lasted for a few weeks). For some reason I felt as a Christian, I had to continue giving him a chance to prove he had changed. I am totally beaten down, emotionally and physically. I have realized him changing is between him and God....and also have realized if he hasn't changed yet, and keeps slipping back to old ways, he's not at a place in his life that he is ready to change. Your article supports what my pastor/counselor has been telling me...if I have tried and given my heart in making it work, and he's still toxic to my well-being, it's ok to toss in the towel. It's not failure, it just means it is time to move on....God has bigger and better plans for me...things that will glorify God. Thank you Jen.....you are a blessing!
D. - November 6th, 2013 at 10:06 AM
First the article from Jen(thank you), then your comment.
Last night was a horrible night for me and my husband(one of many). The words that come out of his mouth shouldn't continue to shock, yet they do.
I've stayed trying to change (that didn't work) to a better person for him, became something he wanted and denied my inner voice that was screaming "this is wrong"! Like you the biblically broken marriage is what I'm in.
For most of our 25 years I've been the target, the kids were to blame, the house wasn't clean enough, the yard wasn't ____ enough, I never made enough money(raised 4 kids and worked the same pt job for 17 yrs) etc etc., dinner was never on the table when he liked, while he didn't raise one finger to help.
In the last 3 years I've finally allowed the real me to come out. I really like her. I've been trying to lose the 100 pounds of coping weight I've put on, am trying to stand up to the endless verbal and emotional bullying. The last deal breaker after all that is, that even when I proved myself over and over again to him, he still sees me in a negative light, moved all of our operating money into an account I can't touch and has now been telling my grown boys what a bad wife I am.
I've stayed, I've been dropping drops of antidote in a vat of poison the size of DC, I've been staying waiting for signs of change... While there are some outward public shows, the behind the scene show is the one that is the deal breaker.
Counseling was refused, I went he did not, he's told two pastors the same thing and laughed at communication exercises from a councilor. I've waited and PRAYED for God to change him. I've stayed because I thought, as well, that God would never walk away.
After a night of comments made to decimate my spirit I reviewed(in my head) the never ending loop of things I said I never would stand for, but did.
Where this leaves me now is to try to find a way to support myself after setting aside a career to raise a family and move on.
I wish to leave bridges unburned, want the best for him, hold my head up high and go with dignity for me and for my children. Maybe he can find his way back to a relationship with Him without using me as the reason. And maybe then is when God can really work.
Pamela - April 22nd, 2013 at 12:25 PM
so true and exactly what I needed to read today! I've been struggling with a husband who has Biblically (mentally, emotionally, financially) broken our marriage. In my effort to honor the marriage and the commitment I made to God, I am continuing to "pour antidote into a vat of poison and expecting it to transform into something safe, something healthy." My mind knows the truth; my heart just hasn't caught up.
Denise - April 22nd, 2013 at 4:24 PM
Goodness Pamela, that's exactly where I am. You worded it so well.... my mind knows the truth; my heart just hasn't caught up. I pray our heart listens to Jen's words......
Sarah Q - April 22nd, 2013 at 12:38 PM
Yes! This post is at once validating, saddening (that some situations really cannot reach positive outcomes), and encouraging knowing that new possibilities exist.
kimber - April 22nd, 2013 at 1:05 PM
Planning a big wedding for an out-of-town and busy-finishing-school bride whilst holding down a full-time job%u2026
can't exactly "fold" that one, but I definitely hear ya on the crazy eyes. And the nervous twitch. And the serial insomnia.
This is a time of incredible stress, but as my mom used to say, "this too shall pass." Really trying to stay in the moment and find the joy amidst the cray.
I needed to hear this today. And while it's not appropriate to walk away from this season of my life, it's good just to hear all of this.
I love how you filter life through Jesus. You keep it so real. I really wish you lived next door%u2026
Tina Hutchison - April 22nd, 2013 at 1:14 PM
Jen,
You and I were on a LifeWay web cast not too long ago... and you continue to be balm in God's hand for me. Inspiration for my walk - and ministry to inmates I am honored to lead. Thank you for saying "yes" to living real and loving inspite of fear or criticism.
If I were there in person I would hug you till your eyeballs popped out!
I love you, sister - fellow rebel rouser. Keep up the gut level raw work... keep geting your hands dirty... dig, plant, and then repeat!!! We are cheering you on!
Anna Whiston-Donaldson - April 22nd, 2013 at 1:34 PM
I just loved this today. The image of the juice not being worth the squeeze will stick with me, and I'm hoping it will resonate with my own little girl who will be in 7th grade soon (gulp!)
Tracy - April 22nd, 2013 at 1:35 PM
OMG - I needed to hear this honest word today. It may have saved my home/work life or maybe just my life!
Liz - April 22nd, 2013 at 2:29 PM
So true. We walked away from a church about two years ago. We left behind a lot of friends, and found out that some weren't friends that we thought were. It took us a long time to make the decision, and a lot fo uncomfortable conversations. Eventually we reached the point where it didn't amtter how much anyone else was happy or thriving in that situation, we weren't, and people were not willing to accept our concerns. So we left, and we are free. God has blessed us with a new church family where we are accepted and loved among trustworthy brothers and sisters, and we are able to thrive and grow and contribute without being made to feel guilty, inadequate or small.
Emily - April 22nd, 2013 at 3:04 PM
ummmm...Thank you. Humbly, thank you.
MandyJ - April 22nd, 2013 at 3:08 PM
I'm praying for your precious daughter. 7th grade was awful for me from a friends standpoint, and even at 34, it still sometimes colors my social interactions. The best thing I ever did was walk away from the toxic relationships, even though that wasn't really my choice at the time. It freed me up to be more of my own person, and helped me develop an independent spirit, not to mention a whole slew of new friends.

By the way, toffee is impossible unless you're someone's grandmother, were taught by someone's grandmother, or are an alien.

Also, The Gambler was my favorite song when I was 8, and I play it on a mixed CD in my car at least once a week.
Tammy - April 22nd, 2013 at 3:36 PM
My Shepard leads me besides still waters. If
I walk beside troubled waters I will soon fall in
and be pulled under. I naturally crave peace. My
Husband and I had to walk away from toxic family
Members too. Thank you for this article.
Janet Schweizerhof - April 22nd, 2013 at 3:45 PM
You have said it all, truly! What more can I add, except maybe this: Four years after first going for counseling at church, my divorce was final. I had a brief conversation with my counselor from back then. She said, "We learned so much from your situation. We learned that sometimes we need to save the person, not the relationship." Amen to that! It was a long road of forgiving and forgiving and forgiving some more, but as you said, it is just pouring it in a chasm, and it never mattered. The spiritual damage of a severely toxic relationship has taken a long time to repair, and years and years that could have been spent serving the Lord were lost.
Mark - April 22nd, 2013 at 5:19 PM
thank you for your wisdom and courage to speak the truth sister
Jennifer - April 22nd, 2013 at 5:28 PM
I keep reading this post. My husband and I aren't in a toxic environment, per se, but we have got to the point where we just know it's time to go. So even though we have a great church and friends and 10 years of roots here (meaning: to the outside onlooker, there is no obvious reason to leave), we will have our house on the market within the week. Everyone thinks it's a bit odd for us to just up and sell our house with no good reason or clear (explainable) plan. But something (Someone) inside just says, "Go." So we are. Sometimes, I think, it's easier or less scary to just stay where you are and keep trying. It's a big leap to walk away sometimes. Especially when it doesn't seem to make logical sense to everyone else.
Sara B - April 22nd, 2013 at 6:54 PM
I love the encouragement and hope in this post. Situations that are emotionally driven are hard to work through and often times leave you feeling less than brave. I'm learning that I can let go (and disagree)... and have boundaries in love. I loved the comment you said about not burning a bridge that might someday be safe enough to venture back over. I pray that my heart stays soft and open to crossing that bridge again someday WITH the right boundaries, love and respect. I struggled with the idea that I wasn't being godly enough if I didn't forgive and move on. As time has gone on, I have learned so much and grown deeper in my relationship with Him. I realized it was never my situation to fix, I just really wanted the control of when/what was happening. I love my Jesus Calling today. Proverbs 19:21 "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand". Praying that I pray for His purpose to be revealed and I live it out in honor of Him. Thanks Jen.
Linda - April 22nd, 2013 at 7:33 PM
Oh Jen....How beautifully the Lord uses you in so many lives, and so often in mine. It seems so timely that you would put this up, and how I needed it. I have been wrestling for awhile, not wanting to be disloyal, but I also can no longer allow myself to stay in bondage to a situation where there is harshness and lack of grace for the "have-nots". Can only imagine how Jesus must weep over what goes on in this world when He holds out His outstretched arms. Thank you for being His ambassador to this tired soul, who has given and sought only to find no room at the inn....Onward I go upon the course He has set...wherever He calls next!
Julie - April 22nd, 2013 at 8:19 PM
I am starting a women's ministry at our Church in Broken Arrow OK about helping women to overcome the very things that hold us down and hold us back from living out our greater purpose. We will be using your book Seven and cannot wait to see how God works through these precious women!! Thank you for being real, for allowing divine wisdom to flow through you and for touching on matters that weigh our hearts down! You so rock!!!
crystal - April 22nd, 2013 at 8:52 PM
Yes. Agreed. I heard a comment a few years back that articulated much for me. Something along the lines of: you want to, as Jesus did, call people to be the best, healthiest version of themselves. My example was with my mom. Long story short she has had a hard life, much of it the result of her own choices, but she blames everyone else instead. For years, at many junctures where she wanted nothing to do with me or anyone else in a healthy way, I always felt Jesus telling me to go back, offer her a healthy picture of relationships, offer grace, offer love...even when some other trusted, godly friends told me to walk away from her. Then I got married and I felt God drew a few harder boundaries for me with her. All the while she continued to get worse. Then it peaked just before we brought our 2 kids home (from ET). Which is when God completely released me from the relationship (in order to protect our kids, I think, and honestly I had absolutely nothing left for her those first 2 years home). I do feel like I was given a lot of grace to write a very clear, kind, but hard letter to her letting her know why it was time for me to walk away and the conditions she would have to meet that would constitute reason for me to consider entering back into a relationship with her. Anyway, I completely get this post. It has only happened once to this degree, but yeah, sometimes walking away is the best thing for everyone.
BP - April 29th, 2013 at 10:00 AM
Crystal... I am in the middle of this right now. Do you mind emailing me? breanna.provance@gmail.com Thank you!
Zanna - April 22nd, 2013 at 9:17 PM
From one pastor's wife to another... Thank You! Needed these words.
Jenny - April 22nd, 2013 at 10:15 PM
Thank you so much for this! I needed it!
Amanda - April 22nd, 2013 at 10:25 PM
And God sends the affirmation through you! Thanks Jen! I've been fighting the enemy for months now and struggling with walking away/sticking this out/be the "good christian" stay in the relationship, keep discipling this man, just tearing myself apart!!!! But after he verbally ripped me apart for every righteous act I have done and for all the other callings that God has placed on my heart that I try my best to take action towards each day.......I said good day sir.....and haven't spoke to them since.......I did have an overwhelming sense of peace today and I felt as though I was back in my "place" with God. Having God lead me to stumble upon your blog tonight was exactly what I needed! :)
Tiffany - April 23rd, 2013 at 5:32 AM
This may sound so simple, but last night I needed to walk away. One evening a week my husband and I mentor a couple of kids at a homeless center near where we live. Yesterday morning I was completely stressed and broken beyond belief by 9am I could barely function. I'm in the 1st trimester of my 1st pregnancy and according to the doctor, am having "severe symptoms, you poor thing, but it's all normal".

Usually when it comes time for our homeless center day I just fight through it, work all day (a very physical job on my feet a lot) and rush to the center, where I really do enjoy the kids. But I couldn't do it yesterday. So, we cancelled the center for the night. Sounds so simple and not a big deal, but that simple act of calling the center to let them know we wouldn't be there relieved such a huge burden from my shoulders! I needed to walk away just for a day.
Tanna - April 23rd, 2013 at 5:51 AM
Awesome post! Amen!
Elisabeth - April 23rd, 2013 at 6:26 AM
What do you do when you should have quit/cut bait/folded...

AND YOU DIDN'T?

And now you are wrecked...
KT - August 13th, 2013 at 9:03 PM
Pray, Elizabeth. James 4:8 is for you.
Mare - April 23rd, 2013 at 7:55 AM
Yep. Excellent. The key is that DISCERNMENT. So hard to know sometimes. Only God can sort that out for you. I've quit and stayed the course, and I've never known either way which was right. I've just tried to follow God. If we do that, we are successful, no matter the outcome.
from The Dugout
Lucille Zimmerman - April 23rd, 2013 at 9:06 AM
Jen, I love this post. It's well written and thoughtful.

I shared it within one of my own posts: 4 Clues You're Leaving Your Childish Ways

http://www.lucillezimmerman.com/2013/04/22/four-clues-youre-leaving-your-childish-ways/
EC - April 23rd, 2013 at 10:07 AM
Homeschooling. Turns out we really are all not gifted at teaching. Yes they are my own kids and I will continue to be involved in and care about their education, but after a year at home we are going to cut our loses. Let our once peaceful routine return to our home and may my children once again enjoy school :)
Kevin - April 23rd, 2013 at 10:45 AM
Am I a lone man in this thread? :-)

You have sure struck a chord with so many people with this one! I think hurt is the most common experience that people can related to, and no one escapes it. The unfortunate thing is that we have been told all our lives to stick it out; to endure, as if in the enduring we are, in some small way, experiencing what Christ did...and are deserving of it! There does come a point, though, where there is absolutely nothing you can do, and continuing to maintain the relationship, or situation does more harm than graciously walking away. Sometimes loving means leaving.

In our case, my wife and children and I have attended a church for nearly a decade. In that time, we have been engaged in many capacities and have spent those years encouraging people to move from "religion" to a relationship with Christ, and learning to let go of ourselves and allowing the Lord to take over leadership of our lives and His church. For a while, people went along with it, but many would either make passive aggressive comments, or take steps to intentionally undermine any changes that were made. After a "moral slip" by our pastor several months ago, the church has lovingly restored him, but has really doubled down on its efforts to protect and maintain the traditions and structure of the organization, and nearly any progress that had been made was erased. Most who were on a path of growth with the Lord and others have left, and we find ourselves not really knowing what to do. Prior to our pastor's thing, I found myself in a place where I was dead. Dead spiritually, and dead relationally, and something needed to give.

I have felt for many months that the Lord was calling my family away to something new. Not necessarily a "church," but something more "organic." The difficult thing is that my wife isn't necessarily on the same page. I think mostly because she has a close friend there, and still feels that there's something "right" about organized church. She's a very structured and routine oriented person, so I understand her discomfort with not knowing what to expect next. I have all but completely quit attending services these past few months, and in the process, my relationship with Christ has taken on a completely new life, which I'm thrilled about! In addition, He has driven a couple of close friendships to a much deeper level and has brought some new people into my life who are on a similar journey with God and are excited about growing in relationship with Him.

Like I said, though, my wife isn't at the same place yet. I understand that we're all on a different journey with God and don't look down on her, or others who are in a different place. The difficult thing, though, is that I have these messages bouncing around in my head from childhood that say, "it's wrong not to attend church with your family," "you're the head of the household, like Christ is the church," "You are the spiritual leader of your home, so you need to make a decision." Well, sometimes decisions can be harmful to a family, and I have no desire to drive a wedge between myself and my wife, or to create drama between us and the church we attend. I believe that when Christ said He would send the Holy Spirit to lead us; He meant it, so I'm trying to just be patient and let Him lead in His time and His way. I've been praying that the Lord would align our hearts and that whatever decision is made, we would make it together. I just wondered if any of you had any thoughts on any of this. Thanks!
Tami - April 23rd, 2013 at 1:03 PM
Thank you for this. I think as Christians we are bombarded with guilt form satan when we have to walk away from something. We have been a foster home for the past 3 years, also having three kiddos of our own. We have both felt that season was coming to a close for our family, for many reasons, but the need is soo overwhelming I would let guilt push me back into the corner of if we don't do this, who will? Today I spoke with our people at child welfare, and we are officially 'on hold' as a home. WHEW! Can't wait to see what God has next for us!!!!!
Elizabeth - April 23rd, 2013 at 2:00 PM
Your words are wise and so very true. It's still heartbreakingly sad when the walking away is from family members. But still, it IS brave to walk away from a toxic situation, and I'm trying so desperately to do so.
Jean - April 23rd, 2013 at 4:47 PM
We have our first foster child, and I am STRUGGLING. It's only been 3 months. I wonder if this is really our calling, because I feel so strongly we all need to step up and care for these thousands of hurt children in our own backyards. To walk away after all the words professing how important this all is makes me cringe and feel like a hypocrite. I do not intend to disrupt this placement and will see it through to the end, but what about after? Your post gives me lots to think about and hope that I'm not alone. Pray for me to come to the best conclusion for us!
angela - May 31st, 2013 at 9:05 AM
I almost gave up on writing this - tech problems:) And how random that in this long scroll I came upon your comment.
I want to say, u r not alone. We were foster parents with 2 of our own biological kids. It was heart wrenchingly difficult. Many days I was on my ki9tchen floor, a puddle, praying and reading scripture through sobs and tears begging God to make it stop. I was desperate for the placement to end. Am I painting a tragic picture? I hope so - it was the hardest thing I've ever done as an adult. I thought I was a Good Samaritan until that precious 2 year old came to us and shattered any illusions I might have had. I would wake up every morning full of dread and fear. When I found out i was pregnant again it was the last straw and w/o my husbnad knowing I asked her to b placed elsewhere. I felt god saying "ovey" the whole time and have been living with deep sadness for how I ended it all. But it felt like the only option. This experience has kept me and my husband locked up in fear of trying to help again. It is so sad and I am despereately praying god will redeem this situation somehow. I want to serve and love again. So far one regreat is not begging my church family for more help. They had already don w so much and it was humiliating to keep asking. But I would gladly trade my pride in hindsight. I needed counseling.
KK - April 23rd, 2013 at 4:59 PM
Brave is more than you're post will ever know. I have a dear friend and I that have had this conversation numerous times. We both believe that we aren't ready to fold 'em. You have given me a little inspiration and a cause to get back on bended knees for His guidance, love, grace and forgiveness.
Libby - April 24th, 2013 at 9:24 AM
This is very timely. My husband is in ministry and we have been facing some hard decisions about staying in our church or going. So hard to give up on our community, ones who have loved us, because of issues with leadership. Praying I can take some of this to heart as we are making decisions. Thank you.
Michelle - April 24th, 2013 at 11:54 AM
I always struggle with this because the relationship that is toxic is my mother. How do I stay healthy when I am called to "honor they mother"?
Mitzi - April 24th, 2013 at 3:08 PM
My "walking away" was from my 21 year-old daughter who was struggling with chemical addictions and depression. For years I had tried to tell her what to do, why to do it, with whom, etc... (you get the idea). An older friend who had been through something similar with her daughter suggested that I try a word-fast: no calling, no texting, no emailing - no initiating communication with her. Instead, every time I thought of my daughter I was to pray for her and trust that God was actively working in her life. Surprise! The Holy Spirit actually does a better job of taking care of her than I do! Besides gaining a new appreciation for His ability to do much greater things than I could ever think, I have gained a healthier relationship with my daughter. And my daughter is learning to depend on herself and have a personal relationship with God away from Mom and Dad. Thanks, Jen, for the encouragement and the reminder to keep walking away from my "job" of being the Holy Spirit for my daughter.
Emily Wierenga - April 24th, 2013 at 4:33 PM
Hi Jen,
Thank you for inspiring us and for faithfully following Jesus.
I am the one who asked you a few weeks ago if I could do a giveaway of 7 on my blog; the winner of that giveaway was Karin Fendick:

Karin Fendick
Box 564
Gilbert Plains, Manitoba R0L 0X0

If you could send her a copy of the book I'd be so grateful.

(the giveaway post is here: http://www.emilywierenga.com/2013/04/imperfect-prose-on-thursdays-what-it.html)
Brette - April 25th, 2013 at 7:09 AM
Thank you for your profound words of wisdom! Currently, I am dealing with a relative who exudes bitterness and insecurity. And it's been such a depressing situation that my husband asked me if I think anti-depressants are the answer -- for me! A dear friend pointed me in your direction-- love your blog!-- and her/your sweet assurance of my sanity was encouraging, to say the least. I've been trying to gracefully back away from the potentially vitriolic situation by claiming a need for personal "space". Once this relative appears to be moving in the right direction toward personal growth & healing via a Christian counselor, I'm hoping it will be safe to stop keeping her at arm's length.
"Toffee" is the perfect euphemism though, because this is definitely a sticky situation. :/
Heidi - April 25th, 2013 at 10:46 AM
Excellent article. After years of trying to manipulate/solve/help a loved one's addiction issues. I surrendered. I realized it was not something I could do and said "You get it all Jesus. I am helpless." Now in hindsight I realize I should have done that earlier. He's been clean and sober for 2 years...not because of me but because of God.
Cynthia Sharp - April 25th, 2013 at 2:32 PM
Such wisdom! So eloquently shared! Thank you!!!!
Lindsey - April 26th, 2013 at 7:20 AM
Oh Kenny! So wise.
Lauren - April 26th, 2013 at 8:36 AM
Perfectly timed! Well said...
Heather Boeschen - April 26th, 2013 at 9:47 AM
My daughter (6th grade) went through something similar in 4th grade -- 4th Grade!! It was so, so painful at the time; much more painful than if I had gone through it myself. There were so many tears, and so many times where my Mama Bear wanted to intervene but Sane Mama knew that was a bad idea. She came through it, and the best of all was that she now has mad skillz in friend-making and even madder skillz in knowing when to tell people in the nicest possible way "I'm done here." There truly is a tipping point where situations become so toxic you have to extricate yourself or suffer lasting damage and all the mess she experienced at age 9 (when the stakes were painful but low) taught her invaluable lessons she will use for the rest of her life. It was a good lesson for me too, to resist swooping in and rescuing her from all the hurt. She is much stronger and more confident and I am not in jail for beating up 4th graders. Win-win!
Andrea - April 26th, 2013 at 7:06 PM
Did you just spend the last 2 weeks in my house (and my head)? You hit it on the head, sista!
Alece Ronzino - April 26th, 2013 at 7:41 PM
ohgoodlordYES!
Amanda - April 27th, 2013 at 10:08 AM
I cannot express how much I needed this encouragement. I am struggling to create my first ever boundaries with family. Funny, how God works, not? I just "happened" to check your blog and ended up in tears of relief. Thank you.
Susanelizabeth - April 27th, 2013 at 10:08 AM
Dead.On. (hands raised in air, stomping feet and thanking you.Word "fitly spoken")
Kelly - April 27th, 2013 at 12:47 PM
I'm reading Make Over (by ...well you know... Jen Hatmaker). And I couldn't get over... Monkey, who are you dancing for? I'm starting to think these two things are tied together. Am I squeezing with droplets barely coming just to be all things to all people? Now I just have to sit down with the Holy Spirit and find which lemons I should be squeezing and to pretty much stop dancing for anyone else (easier said then done for this people please child).
Chrissy - April 27th, 2013 at 2:00 PM
Soon after God led me to where I am now, He began opening doors for me to use my gifts and make a difference... or try to, at least. Twelve years and many heartbreaks and battles later, there has been no change. For 12 years, I have been met with nothing but resistance and it's now affecting my children. I'm walking away. It's time. I believe God led me to your blog to encourage my heart today. Thank you.
Tracy - April 27th, 2013 at 9:53 PM
I haven't read all of the hundreds of comments, but thank you for this wonderful article. After 50 years of living an exhausting life of keeping everyone happy, I am now being "selfish" and taking care of myself. Of course, that's after being diagnosed with adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue, and even fibromyalgia. Yes, I have been hard on my mind, my body, and my emotions. However, after some serious life changes - and walking away from some very toxic relationships - I am on the mend. It will take some time, but I already feel new life breathing into my being. So thankful that it's never too late to start doing things the right way. =)
Michelle - April 28th, 2013 at 12:22 PM
This blog was divinely read TODAY. I needed this in my life.
Kathi - April 28th, 2013 at 3:39 PM
Just started "7" on pg 20. Didn't even read this blog yet, but wanted to send you a message. My daughter loaned her book to me and I do believe it is my time to read it. Am giving up the scale for seven days and truly felt God leading me to! I love your writing style. If I didn't have to go teach my second grade class tomorrow, I'd read "7" til the end! Hi to Laura Story when you speak with her. I'm the one who gave her the yellow bracelet a few weeks ago and I know her cousins.
Amy Ellison - April 29th, 2013 at 12:33 PM
"We hold private disdain for the one who quit, the one who pulled out, drew a line in the sand, the one who said no more. We secretly wonder if they shouldn%u2019t have tried harder, stayed longer, if this isn%u2019t an indicator of their flimsy loyalty."

but.

"often the bravest thing we can do is stop fighting for something that will never, ever be well."

Thank you, from one struggling with guilt over a decision yet to be walked-out...
Dixie - April 29th, 2013 at 12:51 PM
A hearty AMEN to this one!!! It is so freeing to realize we get to choose life over death, even in relationships...doesn't mean we don't forgive, and pray for His very best in their lives, but sometimes they need to find that place without us being involved...He is more than capable of doing it without us; sometimes with us, but sometimes without.... Love this post!!!
Amy - April 29th, 2013 at 1:45 PM
My husband and I were JUST talking about this this morning and I am taking it as confirmation of what I already knew in my heart. When I was growing up as a kid in church - the instructions were clear - NO MISSIONARY DATING. Meaning, don't date a guy because you think you are so holy that you will rub off on him and he will be saved because of your incredibly powerful witness. No. That's a recipe for disaster. Yet, subtly, we (especially women) are encouraged to engage in missionary friendships or communities or even churches. When a relationship is draining the life out of us - it's all give and no take - well, we should just stay the course and if our soul gets destroyed in the process, so be it. Suffering for Jesus and all that. It's hard to know where the line is. Massive amounts of prayer and discernment are necessary. But thanks Jen for pointing out that there is a line and making the decision to cut bait is making the decision to leave redemption with God - where it belongs. LOVE that!
Katherine - April 29th, 2013 at 2:15 PM
Exactly what I needed to hear at this time in my life. Thank you.
Lisa - April 29th, 2013 at 5:40 PM
Coupla' things.
This would have been nice BEFORE I became obsessed with the hand sewn black chic skirt. That was too small so I had to sew a fat-panel in. That I sewed in upside down. That I had to hand embroider since the FTP threw proportions off. After I ripped out the piece and sewed it in righ side up.

If "sunk cost fallacy . . . Manganese . . . Even the word is ludicrous." Means anything to you, great tie-in. If not familiar, go rent Uncorked with Minnie Driver.
Rhonda - April 29th, 2013 at 6:23 PM
Oh I so agree with this. We let our kids walk away a couple of times and I have not one regret--nor do they!! Life is hard enough without adding unnecessary misery!!
Melinda Hohenberger - April 29th, 2013 at 7:33 PM
Thank you so much for this post especially the part about walking away gracefully. You gave me clarity say no more to a very toxic "friendship" that has consumed and evaporated me for the last eight years. I will no longer be the one she vents to. I will pray for her but will no longer treated as someone who has no value.


Ann McGhee - April 29th, 2013 at 9:00 PM
Thanks for the Big Ole Belly Laugh!
A couple of thoughts to add . . . In my husband%u2019s family toffee is called %u201CCrunch.%u201D My Mother %u2013 in %u2013 law, Elizabeth, used to make it every year at Christmas with friends she had known since childhood. The first time I saw her make it, she and her friends were in their mid- sixties. It was a P-R-0-J-E-C-T!
For many years, my family enjoyed the wonderful, mouth melting product of her labors. She would make us a couple of batches and bring it to us when she came for the holidays. We would share it with friends who came to our home during her visits. Knowing what a true labor of love it was for her to make it, always made it the sweetest of gifts.
Word got out about %u201CElizabeth%u2019s incredible Crunch.%u201D I started to get bombarded with requests for the recipe . . . %u201Cthat is, if it isn%u2019t a family secret.%u201D I would get it from Elizabeth, and give it to them and then they would contact me and ask if I would teach them how to make it. I told them, %u201CI%u2019m sorry, I%u2019m just a connoisseur, I am not a Crunch Yoda. Besides, do you realize how much work and how hard it is make good Crunch? It is a fine art form. It is something that cannot be taught in one sitting (or more accurately, one long standing.)%u201D But my friends were not to be thwarted. A group of women leaders I was mentoring rioted and demanded I contact Crunch Yoda to come disciple them in the fine art of Crunch Making. After realizing they were stealing all our secret stashes of Crunch, I relented, petrified these crazy eyed women would leave us only crumbs. So, down Elizabeth came from PA with her candy thermometer in hand.
Eight women gathered in my kitchen and Crunch Yoda showed us how and when to stir, to turn up or down the heat, to add an ingredient, know when the concoction was ready to pour out on the prepared surface . . . every bit and piece of advice she had learned standing next to her mother, and that she and her friends had perfected, she poured out to us. When we were done hours later, we had a taste of heaven to savor and share with our families.
It confirmed what I already knew for myself. Though I enjoy Crunch, I have no desire to be a Crunch Maker. For most of the women that day, they discovered the same. They were not called to be Crunch Makers either. But we all also learned, that if we really wanted to learn, we would need to apprentice ourselves to a Crunch Yoda like Elizabeth. Some tasks, projects, require a master to teach us how to create works of art such as Crunch. And to make really good Crunch, you must stand at the masters side and practice over and over again each part of the process. If your heart and soul and passion calls you to such a work, then go find your Crunch Yoda. If not, then enjoy the craftsmanship of others guilt free.
Elizabeth made Crunch into her 80%u2019s and was always willing to make Crunch disciples by standing alongside them and walking them through the process. She died a few years ago and with her went our family%u2019s Crunch Connection. Our family misses them both dearly.

Amy - April 30th, 2013 at 7:42 AM
Thank you for writing this article! I believe God is using it to affirm our decision to pull our daughter from her toxic school environment and strengthen us for the road ahead. You are a blessing to me personally and as is evident by the number of comments listed, to many others as well! Thank you again for your honest and insightful words.
Hilary @ KatrinkaJane - April 30th, 2013 at 10:59 PM
Wow.
...wow.
This.
THIS is one of my top prayer needs right now. My soul is so weary, and I feel like I'm going crazy sometimes, dealing with my situation for the last 15 months. I'm afraid it probably falls into the "simply too worthy to abandon, regardless" category, but man...just to entertain the possibility of releasing all of it is such a relief. Thank you. Guess that leaves me with prayer and asking for intercession. Thank you, Jen.
June - May 1st, 2013 at 2:40 PM
I would like to put the finish on this, "know when to walk away and know when to run!" For the sake of graciousness and keeping those tender parts tender, I'm running. Thank Jen, The Lord used you to confirm what He was already telling me, your good hearted words were the nudge I needed to be courageous and leave these toxic friendships.
Kim Tavernier - May 2nd, 2013 at 3:39 AM
Walked away from trying to help someone navigate a broken relationship because they didn't really want help, they wanted to be right.
Sheila - May 2nd, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Jen,

Thank you so much for this entry. It's funny that you mention the nature of 7th graders, because right now I am finishing up a career as a 7th grade teacher in an inner-city school. I have officially resigned for next school year and have a month left of school to go. I have struggled for a year now whether to leave this job or not. I wanted to make a difference; I wanted to change the world; I wanted to touch kids lives with the love of Christ. But, there is only so many times you can be called a, "#*&@# @$#*#" in class before it gets to you.
This line is particularly poignant to me: "the levels of unhealth and spiritual pollution can murder everything tender and Christlike in us,... It can destroy our hope, optimism, gentleness." That's exactly how I feel. This job is taking so much out of me, and enough is enough. Thank you for writing this; it has confirmed that I made the right decision
Sharon - May 8th, 2013 at 8:30 AM
After 12 years of pouring into the vat, I am leaving a ministry in Christian Ed that I LOVED. We have just grown too far apart with too many conflicting views on how to lead the next generation. I am taking the next year as a "sabbatical" to heal and raise my family. For those of us who have had the courage to walk away, are there any "must reads" or "must do's" to help with the healing process? I have much to muddle through as I'm sure others do too. Is there a support group for recovering Christians who love Jesus but been burned by organized Christianity? : )
Marie - February 12th, 2014 at 3:46 AM
Hi Sharon, this is late, but in case you still see this, try 'When we were on fire' by Addie Zierman.
Mandi - May 13th, 2013 at 4:31 PM
Thank you Jen.
JoEllen - May 13th, 2013 at 8:46 PM
This was just what I needed!
Lita - May 16th, 2013 at 11:37 AM
Thank you for so eloquently wording my sentiments! I made a gigantic decision last summer that has continued to plague me. Did I make the right decision? Was I being selfish? Was I being impatient? Should I have stuck it out? Thank you for putting my heart at ease.
J - May 16th, 2013 at 7:10 PM
I can't imagine you get to all 218 comments but. Girl..... I needed this one. Be assured that the HOLY SPIRIT is moving you in your words and TIMING. Thank God! Wow. I started my own business right when I had my 2nd baby (crazy but who knew? not me) and I have decided to walk away because I can't be the kind of mom I want to be and keep doing the business. And I'm the girl who usually stays out of pride. Thank you!!
Lauren M. - May 19th, 2013 at 7:15 AM
This perspective is so freeing. I think it's the world's view of quitting that messes us up and makes us stay at something we need to move on from b/c we don't want to be seen at week or quitters. (I think this also ties in with the world's glorification of being super busy) But, hey isn't doing the right thing usually the hardest ? It's easier to stay stuck and hope for change. It's really hard to quit, move on, start something new. The cool thing about hard things is that they remind us that we are weak on our own and we need Jesus. Thanks Jen for this great perspective, especially for women who have a seemingly inborn desire to "do it all".
Meredith - May 21st, 2013 at 4:17 PM
I don't even know where to begin, but just let me say...thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for writing this. This is my first time visiting your blog and I couldn't be more touched and encouraged by reading these thoughts. As a Christian, I think the line gets very blurry on when the time is to walk away...Is that giving up hope? AHHHHH....over this past year I have felt a strong urge to check myself into the looney bin over being okay with walking away from toxic co-dependent relationships. I folded a long time ago, but the guilt of "giving up" has been lurking for some time. Bless you!
Amy - May 28th, 2013 at 9:17 PM
Thanks you over and over for this post...every time I feel the urge to lash out, be proven right, seek revenge, I re-read and know that is not godly! Thank you for spelling this out so clearly!
Kim - June 1st, 2013 at 10:44 PM
These words spoke such truth about a situation I've been facing. Especially loved this: often the bravest thing we can do is stop fighting for something that will never, ever be well."

I just broke up with my boyfriend of 3 years. We had planned to get married and had the full support of all of our friends and family. On the outside, it looked like we had the perfect relationship. But on the inside, I was slowly dying. The Lord had made it clear to me awhile ago that we were not right for one another, even though we are both good people. I have nothing against the man I broke up with almost 3 weeks ago and have perfect peace that this is right, but it was, by far, the hardest decision I have ever had to make and these have been 3 of the hardest, loneliest days I have ever faced. In the midst of it all though, God has reminded me over and over that He is over and in and through all of this and that trusting and obeying Him is the bravest, best, thing we can ever do in any situation.

Thank you for writing so honestly and bringing such encouragement. And for making me laugh. :)

And if you ever decide to give toffee another go, there's a brilliant recipe for toffee that I've used for several years here: http://frenchknots.blogspot.ca/2008/12/toffee-101.html
She gives good instructions on what the caramel should look like as it goes through the various stages, and instructions for when to keep stirring and how to test for doneness.
If you ever decide it's time for another shot.
Else, there are plenty of places to buy delicious toffee! ;)
Deb - June 2nd, 2013 at 1:51 PM
I cried all day yesterday...Seeing this piece was timely, maybe a day late.
When I was a kid I thought tragedy was schools burning down, plane crashes, car crashes, etc. I did not know enough to worry about disease, the weather, that worry came later as I became a mother.
Now my mothering days are past. I know more. Have seen more.

I find out, now, that tragedy is loss of family. Total utter complete rejection of my person-hood by children, step children. I now know that families disintegrate.
Yesterday, with help from my brilliant daughter, who I learn great lessons from every day, I was given 'permission' to draw a line in the sand.
This decision puts a heavy challenge to my marriage. But I think without making this decision my spirit would be destroyed. I was well on my way in that direction.

I have a daughter, first born, who has made one bad choice after another and in the process has destroyed her children and broken my heart. Her life story is a dirty book.
I have a step daughter who is vicious and has worked very creatively to put a wedge in between her Father and myself. Her Father is the best thing that has ever happened to me....But he refuses to see how she hurts me and who she is....he can't bear to open his eyes.

When I was young, all I ever wanted was a family....because I really didn't have one. I was the only child of two very distant people who drank heavily. My life existed in my imagination.

So, the idea of stepping away....which I should have done years ago....is a hard one to swallow. There are some things worse than death.
Oddly, I make great toffee....without much problem!
Kirsten - June 4th, 2013 at 9:14 PM
I don't mean to be a cheeseball...but I am going to be one. I recently came across your blog after reading your post Worst End of the Year Mom Ever. Which by the way was dead on. I am there.

Here comes the cheese...I really truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is unclear. Sometimes it's like getting hit in the head with a sledgehammer. I just had a sledgehammer moment when reading this post.I found you for a reason. For that I am sure.

I am at a crossroads in my life right now. I would get into the nitty gritty but quite frankly I'm guessing you just couldn't possibly have that kind of time so I will sum up. Family feud. Nuff said. In-laws...nuff said. Anywho...my husband and I have decided to walk away. Not from his entire family...just an incredibly toxic, poisonous, stressful, sad, hurtful relationship. We have beat the dead horse. We have gone back and forth to the well. It's dry. We have been bitten "three" times. We are done. It is terrible. Yesterday I had a particularly stressful day because of it (we live across the street from one another to add insult to injury). So last night I had a conversation with another one of my in laws (we are not feuding with all of them). During our conversation we agreed to take the high road. That despite all the evilness surrounding us we were going to just move on. Be done. Say no more. Even though the thought of that is sad and final etc...it has to be done. For our survival. Our health. Our sanity.The juice ain't worth the squeeze.

Before bed I sat and read a bunch of Pinterest quotes...mostly inspirational. As I read them...I felt a weight in my chest lift away. Each inspiring quote I read...I felt a little lighter. At peace. All day today...at peace. It's been downright lovely. Then because of a seemingly innocent post on Facebook directing me to your post re: Worst End of the Year Mom Ever I thought hey "this girl is hilarious I wonder if she has a blog?". Now here I am...This post spoke to me. Because hey I would be lying if I didn't admit that we feel like douchebags when relationships (especially close family ones) fail. If we take the high road though...maybe it isn't a failure after all. Like you said..."You'll never regret being gracious...".

So I think I found you at a pivotal moment in my life. I was meant to find you. I'm so glad I did.

Oh...and I have a great story about my own misadventures with making Taffy. I feel your toffee pain. I really truly do. Thanks for being awesome.
Holly - June 4th, 2013 at 10:04 PM
Love love love this post!!! BUT .... What to do when that toxic relationship is a family member who's a professing Christian? .... sigh
Emily - June 7th, 2013 at 12:35 PM
I'm wondering....what do you do once you do burn that bridge? I probably should have walked away from my ex-boyfriend, we go to a super small school and before the summer started, I talked to him and felt the need to tell him exactly how I felt about his actions. unfortunately, I feel like I should've just not even had that conversation and just walked away. Now I feel like an idiot. Is this something that I should just let go and forgive myself? or what else can I do? I was an idiot for not walking away I told him what everyone had thought about his actions over the last year...because no one would tell him, he didn't know what others had said....I just wish I never said anything and just left it alone.
Jammie - June 9th, 2013 at 3:08 PM
Wish I would have read this in April when it was posted. But, God has PERFECT timing. Trying to figure out if I need to walk away from a friendship. This post is extremely helpful. Thank you, Jen.
Ramblingirl - June 13th, 2013 at 8:28 PM
Where was this blog post when I needed it??!! Just kidding! I just left a position in church after much prayer, counsel, crying, crying, prayer, and counsel....and some more crying. I know I did the right thing but so much of what held me back was not wanting to be a quitter. Thanks for the good words on a tough subject.
Melissa - June 14th, 2013 at 12:35 AM
So. Good. Amen.
Sarah - June 14th, 2013 at 7:50 PM
Well, I am worried about your toffee problem. I have a fab recipe that I have not been able to mess up. Of course, I am also the one who thought Life of Pi was actually about a tiger.

50 vanilla wafers, crushed
1/3 C butter, melted
1/4 C brown sugar, packed

Mix ingredients together, press into bottom of 9x13 pan bake 8 minutes at 350.

1/2 C butter
1/2 C brown sugar

Heat to a boil, then boil 1 minute (don't worry about the temp!). Pour on crust. Let stand 2 minutes, bake 10 minutes.

6 oz chocolate chips

Sprinkle on top of hot toffee. Wait a few minutes then spread it out.

Has been foolproof for me. Only problem was the time my sister tried to make it with margarine. BUTTER all the way!


Southernmom - June 21st, 2013 at 6:49 AM
I have been so criticized about why I chose to walk away from a toxic environment and toxic family members. I think the part that bothers me the most is that they seem "holy" while I appear the weirdo quitter. God clearly told me to leave a situation. I began to be a watered down version of the Christians that I was hanging out with. I obeyed and though I am lonely at times, I have no regrets.
The family is the hardest part. How do I deal with the constant animosity they have toward me? I am protecting our children from the toxic environment that they create. No child deserves to be fed lies, manipulated and possibly harmed.
nickole - July 23rd, 2013 at 10:27 PM
this blog speaks to my heart---more than you'll ever know. Walking away from toxic relationships is not easy and while my biggest fears include being misunderstood, I have come to the realization that sometimes you simply have to walk away....set boundaries...release yourself and your children and your husband from toxicity...even when other people tell you that you're foolish or 'blood is thicker than water' or whatever religious jargon they want to throw your way.

The truth is that toxicity is poison and if you don't get away from it, you will slowly die.

thank you, Jen Hatmaker.
Stacy - September 24th, 2013 at 3:14 AM
Ohmigoodness. I am a new reader, and was hooked in with the same blog post that connected the greater portion of the free world. Hence, I realize that it is *highly* unlikely that you may even get this comment, and that is ok. I think it is important enough to just acknowledge.

For me, I *totally* cannot deny that I stumbled on this one by accident. I work 3 jobs (because I am crazy sauce), and the one that is the main bread and butter, taking most of my time #provideshealthinsurance, is the one that I am so miserable at.

I am a therapist for suicidal teenagers at a community mental health agency, and *they* are not the problem, if you catch my drift. It has become so very toxic there, and I feel like I can't breathe. Today was day 1 of my 2 week I need a vacation break, and I am deciding whether or not to put my 2 weeks in when I return.

This was SO freaking helpful to me with that thought, and helped me remember that I am too young to sell my soul in a way that leaves me on empty. I am grateful, and like the rest of your readership, wished it was possible to live in more than one state. :)
Carrie V - September 26th, 2013 at 12:43 PM
thank you for this encouragement! I needed to hear this today as i continue to deal with a major life change we made a year ago. When we were deciding what to do, God gave us Hebrews 12:12-13 ("lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.") but it is easy to question that decision when you are still adjusting to a new life and there are those who think you are "running away". God wants us healthy, and sometimes He does ask us to just walk away. thanks again
Marietta BH - October 17th, 2013 at 11:43 PM
It is so crucial to know what your limits are and when to give up. Many people mistakenly think that one is weak if they walk away and that is not true. We are so caught up with other people's viewpoints and judging ourselves that we never stop and think about our own mindset. Being a Hindu female, we deal with this constantly since 'society' is what 'matters most.' Where do you think arranged marriages, pre birth christenings and expensive bridal dowries come from?
anonymous - February 11th, 2014 at 1:00 PM
Thank you. Just read your post for 2/11/14, and clicked on over. I've been dealing with a difficult person for a very long time, now, and have such guilt for wanting to walk away from our relationship. What's more difficult is that we are neighbors. I have tried to love this person as Jesus would, and though I know we should live and love sacrificially, I don't think God would have us love without boundaries. I am so grieved that over the years she has not chosen to stop playing victim. But she hasn't. And she's looking for victim supporters. It's so achingly difficult to watch and exhausting to witness. I've been asking God for guidance and strength to do the godly thing. And, I guess...for me...that means to choose not to be friends, but to love her from more of a distance. I know this will hurt her and she won't understand, and she'll likely be angry at me for pulling back. But, honestly, the counsel I've received is that if I were truly real with her, about the exhaustion that she causes because she refuses to move forward, is that she wouldn't hear my message. I feel like a schmuck. I feel like an abandoning friend. But I've stepped back enough to see that I'm loving in the only safe way I can to still be able to function well. I believe that I'm hearing from God on this one, though, so I can't worry about my feelings. I have to put on my big girl panties, be mature, be loving, and be healthy. Where's the chocolate (or the toffee?). Thank you, Jen.
meredith - March 7th, 2014 at 4:04 PM
Dear anonymous,

Last month, I found your comment on Jen's blog just as I was in the middle of an issue that could be similar to yours. And honestly, your response saddened me. I've been thinking about it ever since.

Your situation is unique to you and only you and the Lord know the motivations of your heart and the details of your relationship with your neighbor. I keep that in mind as I appeal to you to consider taking one more step.

You stated that you haven't shared with your friend what's on your heart, specifically the "exhaustion that she causes...". Could you consider approaching her in love and humility, to 1) assess if she is really hurting and needs a counselor and/or 2) to see if she doesn't realize the sinfulness of her attitude and it's affect on you?

If it's true that you want to be mature and loving, then avoiding the conflict to protect yourself seems just the opposite. You protect yourself from exhaustion when you have the opportunity to point her to Jesus' magnificent freedom. Not only that, it could leave a wake of confusion and pain for your friend.

Could you pay her the respect of being honest with her? Maybe your current thinking will be justified. Or maybe you will show her a grace that she craves and your relationship will be restored. Only the Lord knows.

Please receive my words with the kindness and humility with which I write them. I advocate here on behalf of your neighbor and for the restoration of relationships in order that the Lord's name will be made great.

grace and peace to you.


Nicole - March 6th, 2014 at 10:10 AM
I don't know if you are able to even read all the comments you receive. I have recently discovered your blog and LOVE it! I have also read a few of your books in the past few weeks and can not get enough! My 10 yr old daughter is now reading 7. :-) I love your honesty & humor. I am a pretty confident person, but I have also spent years feeling I can't be me. Like it's not ok to just be me....to just admit things like you do & say here it is & that's that. Like not being able to keep up with chore charts or different things like that! I'm a pretty no-nonsense person. I love your blog about things you're not a fan of! But this blog in particular was brought to me at the perfect time. My husband & I have been married for 15 years, we have 2 daughters. Just like everyone else we have had our ups & downs but have been able to deal with & navigate those things pretty well. In November we had to "take a break" from some family members, (the relationship with them has never been an easy one). The time away from them has made us realize what a negative affect they have had on our marriage & family. It's sad because it is family, but we just can't take anymore. We have been seeing a counselor at our church, but it also helps to hear or read more on these kinds of things. I think as Christians we are taught to "turn the other cheek" and keep putting up with things....which we should to an extent. But I also believe that God does not want us to be door mats! This has been a VERY difficult time for us, but has been a time of spiritual growth and putting our little family back on a healthy track. For us it has been a matter of discerning between the Holy Spirit's voice and Satan's voice. Trusting God is the key & I have to admit that has been so hard. Wanting to handle things MY way & not HIS way. Feeling like this will never end & what's even more frustrating...these people are Christians! I know, prayer & faith in God is the answer. Just. So. Hard. Thanks so much Jen for your encouraging words and honesty in everything you write. Such a breath of fresh air!
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