While it is easier to notice where others are in the toxic triangle, it is of utmost importance to recognize when you yourself have entered into it so you can guard your heart and mind from greater toxicity. Try using the approach outlined in this program to improve the health of your relationships—especially those which tend to pose a challenge.


Reflect on the following questions.

  • Think of three relationships in your past that have posed a challenge for you. Was there some toxicity in the interactions, including from your side?
  • In difficult relationships, where do your typically cross the line from “home plate” and enter the toxic triangle? In other words, what is your first base on the toxic triangle?
  • If the situation or relationship does not improve, where do you move next? What is your second base, so to speak? (In the toxic triangle, you don’t necessarily move in a circle. You could jump across to an opposite end.)
  • Do things tend to get so out of hand that you reach a third base and the relationship is approaching its demise?

With toxicity, there’s no cheering for sliding back into home base! In fact, once you step out of the triangle, you’re likely limping emotionally. So the best is to know what draws you into the toxic triangle to begin with rather than remain objective and respond to circumstances in a healthful and helpful manner.

As a pastor, you are likely often called into very toxic situations and relationships. There might be times when you find yourself shot at in the cross-fire. How do you respond? Or do you simply jump right into the toxic triangle by reacting?

Your reaction or response to challenges is influenced by several dynamics.

Past Issues

Some relational dynamics that are distorted by past issues, including issues from your early childhood. If you are not careful, these dynamics can write the script of your future outcomes. For example, if your early experiences include some unreasonable folks, you may believe that your life is filled with unreasonable people—and more than what most other folks have to endure. Your past shapes your perceived reality, which you then project on those with whom you have conflict.

Unreasonable expectations

Your expectations can shape how you view people and circumstances, which inevitably leads to discouragement and disappointment.


Your internal script, or self-talk, influences how you perceive challenging situations. If you have a deep need to be liked, approved of, or respected, it will influence how you perceive others and react toward them. Even if you resist entering into the toxic triangle, your self-talk can lead to limiting beliefs about yourself and about others.

Sketch It

Make a rough sketch of the toxic triangle, and indicate where you typically step into toxicity, keeping in mind that it is not necessarily right on one of the three components. For example, as a person in a people-helping profession, a toxic engagement might start with you wanting to rescue or fix the person, and when the person resists being rescued, you feel like a martyr, meaning that you enter someplace between those two corners. Draw arrows to indicate what your subsequent bases are.

As a vocational people-helper, you are granted the high honor of being invited into the private world of others to journey with them as they strive to gain perspective and victory over the challenges before them. The moment you try to fix them, though, you are violating the fundamentals of relational accountability. Authentic accountability is by invitation only. The situation becomes problematic when your pride kicks in, causing you to move from being a trusted advisor to a fixer, which is just another form of controlling. And face it, no-one likes to be controlled by another person!