How To Cut Someone Off The “Christian” Way


Anonymous asked a question:

I want to cut my brother out of my life because it’s hurting my faith & self-esteem. i wanted to know your opinion on taking bad influences like him out of your life … am i a bad person for even wanting this? how should i get past this whole ordeal?
(edited)

Dear friend, first please know that cutting people out of your life is absolutely acceptable as a last resort. I say this with hesitation, since we’re all so quick to find reasons to give up on others (me included), but there’s no rational reason to stay in a place of abuse and endangerment. We must discern the difference between finding someone unpleasant and running from someone tyrannically cruel. If the person we’re talking about is mercilessly manipulative or physically abusive, then much of what I’m about to say must be cautiously applied, or even withheld.

When it comes to family, the dynamics make it brutally difficult to exercise boundaries. Family is tangled with history and an almost helpless weight of loyalty. If conflicts with friends are firecrackers, then family is like defusing an atomic bomb.

Please allow some grace as I try to give unbiased advice both to you and myself.


1) Keep distance, but leave the door open as wide as possible.

I really believe having some space between you and your brother is a totally acceptable move. You are not a bad person for needing that distance. It’s the same way you need space from friends, from your spouse, even from your children. The amount of space is almost directly proportional to the hurt and healing process.  In other words: you take as much time as you need.

But with family, it’s not really a space that can remain permanent. The phrase “cutting them off” is reserved for moochers and abusers and freeloaders. If your brother is lying, stealing, cheating, and basically all around a parasite, then of course you can cut him off: but for a season.

That season lasts about as long as your brother is acting a fool. But if he comes around again, whether for help or for the holidays, keep an open door. Severing ties with family should never be a one-time-for-all decision. Yes, he may be lying again: but having an open door absorbs the risk of that possibility.

Carrying hurt-baggage into the next cycle of life after your brother has changed (and I believe he can) will adversely affect your heart more than someone else hurting you, long after the trial is over.  A grudge poisons at an imperceptible rate, drip by drip, until you’re closing doors at even the best people in your life.  Those who are cold to their family have built walls that are impossible for others to climb.  So please be wary of that and endeavor to keep the door of grace open.


2) Have the awkward, uncomfortable, straight-up talk.

If you simply walk away from your brother — which again, for a season you can — but then don’t tell him why, he’ll have nothing to consider.  Even if you think he might know and he’s heard it from you before, it would be wise to tell him exactly what you’re doing and why.

There are some who would advise against this.  “You don’t need to tell him a thing.”  Or some would go hyperbolic and say, “Let him have it and then cut him off!” But as graciously as you can — preferably face to face though a letter works too — tell him what’s up.  Encourage him with how things could be, but tell him how it really is.

Please believe me that when I was cut off before, I was told exactly why and I’m appreciative.  At the time I hated hearing it and I came up with reasons why they were wrong and I was right.  But I couldn’t escape the undercover truthfulness of their words.  At times they would echo in my mind: If I don’t cut you off, you’ll end up nowhere.  And later I found out they were right.  I’m grateful they were honest. 

I’m never grateful when people cut me off without a word.  In fact, that’s really doing a disservice to someone if you don’t tell them what’s wrong.  As hard and awkward as it’ll be, please succinctly prepare that in your mind.


3) Bad influences are bad. God is badder.

There are plenty of Bible verses about bad influences and wolves: we should be cautious around them.  Light has no fellowship with the dark. Expel the immoral brother.  There are wolves among us.  Right?

But we must balance these with verses about the prodigal, the tax collector, and the whore.  There is grace and mercy for them.  As much as bad influences might “infect” us, there’s also a mission in which you, the good influence, have come to be a light like a city on a hill.  Like C.S. Lewis says, you’re pretty much the good infection.

That will require more strength than you can muster on your own.  Lots of prayer, which I’m sure you’re doing.  Lots of saturation with the Bible, with other Christians, getting counsel (even through a blog like this), and dare I say being able to vent to your friends. 

It’ll require daily forgiveness.  Absorbing some of the pain he has caused you.  Regrouping and replenishing when he’s been selfish.  Pleading with the Holy Spirit to change him, but also change you.  In short: when someone begins to cut into your faith, you’ll need to go back to the author of that faith and power-up again. Which brings us to the last thing.


4) In the end, this is not about you and him, but you and Him.

It’s possible your brother might never change and that the situation will stay the same.  But God intends to keep working in you

Your brother is not so much an enemy on a battlefield as he is a self-selected slave on a minefield.  Of course you know it’s not your job to rescue him, but I do believe one day he’ll run his life dry and you’ll be the steady beacon that was always there. In the meantime, it will have been up to you to examine your own heart in this and grow in humility. 

Your brother will remember your patience, if you were patient.  He’ll remember your graciousness, if you were gracious.  And even if he doesn’t recognize that, you will recognize that.  God does too.  Pray hard about what God is doing right now, because I believe He is definitely doing something — and He always works for your good and His glory.  Believe that.

— J.S.


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13 thoughts on “How To Cut Someone Off The “Christian” Way

  1. Very wise, and very well written. But for the grace of God go I, is something to keep in the back of ones mind. Always keeping the door open is linked to Gods grace, and personal humility, and love in good ways, as stated above. I am printing this out to place on my desk. Bless you for writing it so aptly for me.

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  2. I’m sorry but the in my case when my family members are engaged in witchcraft and promoting homosexuality and causing me to exasperate my chronic illness then they are cut off until they can be a good functional encouraging part of my life and respect my Faith. Some people have no desire for God. Unless and until they change,they are not welcome in my life. The door is closed and pad locked.

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    1. Wow Sonya – this sounds like what I’m dealing with. I’ve actually put a good amount of distance but now, I keep getting messages from them asking for forgiveness….I do forgive, of course but I don’t want them around me and my family. I don’t know how to respond to that.

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  3. This is a tough one. When you are trying to please God, it seem like every one around you isn’t. It is so important to surround yourself with other Christians. Yet not all Christians are “healthy” minded and have really bad manners. Sound familiar? Seek out what is reasonable. Do not settle for bad advice. God has the ultimate say. Leave a Church that is funky. Do not let any Church tell you something that you know is contrary to God’s word. Be Smart. Be calm. Believe it or not, it is really hard do take this advice for my own life. Just know that you are not alone !

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  4. I have a sister in law who is Christian but with me she shows no respect which she has expressed over and over again. It seems like she is only my friend based on how I can bless her. If she reaches out to me, I respond. If I reach out to her, she ignores me. I have decided to cut her off and keep my distance. She is now unable to contact me and now I have so much more peace because I feel like I ended the game that she is playing. She seems to have problems with many of her relationship works, church and family. I always felt bad for her but now this is affecting my peace so I am now keeping my distance. I do know our paths will cross again and I will make a quality decision to show her God’s love.

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  5. Would it be too much to ask for scripture, Biblical examples, etc?
    Because I’m teaching against the ‘cutting out’ of people based on how they make us feel, etc…..BUT also using WISDOM as to who we make close friends, spend our time with, etc…

    As believers (rare) we must always remember that we are servants, we are slaves and we are not here on earth (after salvation) for any other reason than to share the GOSPEL and to SERVE God; loving those within the body and showing the ‘love’ of Christ to the world by NEVER wavering in our faith and always placing Christ first. We CONSTANTLY are hit with the idea that Christ ‘wants us to be happy’ and we have ‘rights’, but in reality Christ wants us to find our Joy IN HIM, THROUGH SERVING and to remember that here on earth WE HAVE NO RIGHTS….

    I can go much deeper than this, but we MUST be careful in this concept of worldly thinking that ‘we have rights like everyone else and God wouldn’t want us to be mistreated..stepped on…used..’

    In reality, these things WILL happen, but the difference between US and the WORLD is that we ENDURE through hardships for the sake of CHRIST, not to ‘protect ourselves’…
    Christ ALLOWED His people to go through NIGHTMARES, HORROR, HELL ON EARTH, TORTURE, ABUSE, REJECTION, ABANDONEMENT, SORROW and everything in between….
    Instead of saying, ‘protect yourselves, one to another..’ He instead says relentlessly, ‘ENDURE….have patience….MY grace is sufficient….FORGIVE your enemies…do GOOD to those you hurt you….LOVE ONE ANOTHER (believers) as Christ loves His Church…’ and on and on.

    So the next time you’re thinking, ‘I don’t DESERVE to be treated this way! I’ll just block and ignore them…’ remember that THAT is the FIRST reaction the WORLD has….and Christ taught us to endure all things, even abuse and even to DEATH in some cases, for HIS sake…

    Life is VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY hard…..and torterous, manipulative, spiteful people abound…But we don’t have a ‘put ourselves first’ card from Christ…Instead He’s given us an ALL EXPENSES PAID ‘my Grace is SUFFICIENT’ trip to heaven through Faith in Him and Enduring until the end.

    God bless!
    J

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    1. Cutting anyone off is an absolute last resort. This is made clear two times in Scripture: once by Jesus and once by Paul. It’s never, ever a first line of defense, but the very last thing we would want to do, and done with a grieving heart. And even then, we leave a door open.

      Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. These passages are abused a little too much, but they do make clear that a relationship can be so toxic, we must consider the possibility of letting them run dry. This has nothing to do with persecution or being generally compassionate towards people. This is about friendships and close relationships that become so physically & mentally dangerous that it’s unsafe to stay. We have grace: but grace is for you, too.

      When I hear Christians burden each other by saying “love and forgive” all the time, it’s really promoting a form of enabling that doesn’t touch upon the nuances of an entire situation. Love and forgiveness doesn’t automatically mean friendship. A woman doesn’t have to stay near her abusive ex-husband. A parent doesn’t have to continually give money to their drug-addicted child. A child shouldn’t have to stay near an abusive parent. If we use the Bible to force someone to “be nice” in a harmful place, we’re coercing someone into a fake-smile. I will never, ever make someone stay in an abusive home. I refuse.

      I understand all you’re saying and I believe love is our absolute first priority, but I have to disagree with your generalization. It sounds too much like an idealistic fantasy in which Christianity is beating yourself up into an impossible standard. I’ve counseled too many people who have guilt-tripped themselves into staying in deadly relationships. I won’t do it anymore. There are a million reasons to stay, but there are legitimate reasons to escape, too. We’re called to be like Jesus, but we’re not Jesus.

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  6. This was such a sincere thought out answer. Nice to read something you know is genuinely coming from a point of view of ultimately pleasing God and doing what is right in his eyes and not the worlds. Thanks this has helped me with a situation with a family member

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  7. This is wonderful. I want to block out someone so badly because it’s easier. But as Christ led individuals it’s a necessity to show grace , mercy, and love above all else. We told to be salt , don’t run away from it. Jst be different from it . I will continue to ask God to help me get through this but I will also remember my goal here on Earth,.. be a disciple. I will be.

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