Today, we’re talking about Primal Rule #2, avoiding poisonous things. If the first primal rule to live by is to put good into your body (via good food choices), then it seems a natural progression that the second primal rule would be to keep bad out! To keep poisons out might seem like a no-brainer, you may even think avoiding poisonous things is common-sense, but it’s not always that clear cut!
The real issue at hand isn’t avoiding poisonous things, but identifying them so we’re able to avoid them more easily.
Merriam-Webster.com Definition of Poison
1 A i: a substance that through its chemical action usually kills, injures, or impairs an organism
1 B i: something destructive or harmful
1 B ii: an object of aversion or abhorrence
2 A i: a substance that inhibits the activity of another substance or the course of a reaction or process; a catalyst poison
Poison in Disguise
This summer after moving to a house in the woods, one of my boys’ first outings came as an assignment from me. I wanted them to identify poison ivy and Virginia creeper; two plants whose urushiol oil I didn’t want anywhere on my children or tracked throughout our new home. We watched a few YouTube videos together and then I sent them off into the woods to find specimens they could point out to me—so I could be confident of their ability to identify the plants. I wanted to ensure they knew what to look for, so they’d easily be able to avoid the poisonous plants lurking all around us. One thing we quickly realized is that poison ivy leaflets look a lot like harmless raspberry bush leaflets! UGH!
Why would God make something so poisonous look so similar to such a tasty and refreshing treat? Regardless, the same concept (the proverbial wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing concept), applies across the board in adult life. For instance, poisonous food (read, foods with tons of sugar and chemical additives!), people, experiences, and environments often appear harmless—or even to our benefit at first!—just like poison ivy may appear to be a budding berry bush.
So, if we need to work on identifying poisons in our life in order to avoid them more easily, where do we start? Let’s reverse engineer! A poison is something that kills, injures, or impairs us; or that is destructive or harmful to us. To sum that up, if something we’re physically near, or mentally or emotionally a part of is imparting a negative reaction to our bodies or our mental or emotional states, it’s a poison.
Now, be a little bit careful here! I shouldn’t need to explain to adults that there are negative things in life that aren’t poisons, but I believe it’s worth noting that not all unpleasant experiences are bad. After all, we feel the burn during exercise, discipline isn’t pleasant in the moment of correction, and suffering is something God uses to refine our faith—like gold in a fire. So, don’t lump all negative things in your life into the ‘poisonous’ category. Do take a look at how particular things that you’ve allowed to be a part of your life are either adding to or taking away from your health; mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Kinds of Poisons
The below categories are my opinions only. None of these descriptions are exhaustive lists, but rather just starters to open your eyes to what a poison of that kind may masquerade as.
Physical Poisons (Definition 1 A i: a substance that through its chemical action usually kills, injures, or impairs an organism)
This one’s easy. Poison ivy is a physical poison. Arsenic is a physical poison. Anything with a Mr. Yuck sticker is a physical poison. These are super important to avoid, but hardly what trip most of us up. How often do you hear of someone who’s doing poorly in life because they just can’t stay away from rat poison? Hopefully, not often! What I would expect to see people tripping over most when it comes to physical poisons are food allergies and/or sensitivities to foods they may not consider poisonous, but that they’d be much healthier without! Examples might be things like dairy or gluten. There are a lot of items out there that we all call ‘foods,’ that really do a lot of harm to our bodies. Other than foods, take a look around your house at everything you physically come into contact with in your:
Garage / Utility Room
Under the Kitchen Sink
Backyard / Shed
That rash on your knuckles may be the result of the chemical on the grass seed you spread around the yard last Saturday!
Also, if you hold a job that has you using chemicals on a regular basis. Take a look at the SDS’s for what you’re frequently working with. Your employer is required to have SDS’s available for you, and it’d be wise to see how the chemicals you use regularly might be affecting you now and what they’re known for causing in the future.
Mental Poisons (Definition 1 B i: something destructive or harmful)
Mental poison is any thought that’s so consuming you’re not able to concentrate on anything else. Obsessing over anything, to the point that you aren’t able to concentrate on other thoughts and ideas, is destructive. Your brain needs time for light, pleasant, fun, positive thoughts!
Are the deadlines at your job constantly stressing you out?
Are you the only responsible adult in your house and the strain of juggling a job, bills, dinner menu’s, etc., is just a heavier weight than you can carry alone… day in and day out?
Does your mind race at night before bed only to wind down as the alarm is waking you?
If you’re struggling to entertain positive or restful thoughts because you’re too concerned about the poisonous one(s), that’s an issue!
Emotional Poisons (Definition 1 B ii: something destructive or harmful)
I’m not a doctor, or a counselor, but emotional poison (or abuse if we’re using real terms), is incredibly harmful. Regardless of what we call it, it poisons us from the inside out. Emotional poison cuts deep to our inner selves, often to our hearts. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Edmund Burke said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Take a moment and think about this, does anyone close to you:
Negate you or your words, thoughts, and concerns?
Now consider: if we’re commanded to guard our hearts, and we become aware that we’re allowing poison in (via any one of the innumerable ways emotional abusers attack), are we then allowing evil to triumph if we do nothing to stop the poison?
The answer to that question is incredibly personal and I have no interest in answering it for you. You’ve got to examine your own situation in order to answer that for yourself. I’m also not suggesting that anyone is allowing evil to triumph by putting up with emotional abuse. My goal is to showcase God’s love. Bring to the forefront that what’s going on is that you are being poisoned. Not blame you or make you feel as though you’re responsible for it. My goal is to help you see that it’s not God’s will for you to accept being emotionally poisoned.
So, Why Do We Allow It?
Again, these are just a few ideas and thoughts on how we’ve been poisoned in the past or why we might allow it to continue. Not an exclusive list, just a couple of thoughts.
Unfortunately, sometimes things in life just pass us by. Maybe we haven’t been paying enough attention to our surroundings, or maybe we’ve allowed something to slowly creep in and now something that wasn’t a threat at first is overwhelming. Ever hear that the days pass slowly and the years pass quickly? That’s it! We’re so caught up in our day-to-day-crazy that we can’t see the forest through the trees. Just like with poison ivy, we brush up against it one day in the woods, and it isn’t until some time has passed that the err in our ways comes to light. The funny (or sad! and depressing!) part is, we usually wonder why we’re itchy! We can’t think outside the box enough to see how we got where we are! We don’t see what has happened until we’re already in the thick of it.
Change Isn’t Natural
So, what happens once you see the rash, or once you realized that you’re in the thick of being poisoned mentally or emotionally? Easy, you’ve got to make a change!
Easy, you say?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
Some simple changes might be fun, like picking a different shampoo the next time you’re out shopping to keep from getting dandruff. Unfortunately though, some of us might need to make changes that are nothing short of agonizing, like distancing ourselves from people who damage or hurt us. Not so easy after all, huh? Even though change may not come naturally, if you’re settled on that it’s time to remove a poison from your life, you’re already moving in the right direction!
Getting Rid of the Poison
If you’re concerned about a particular physical ailment, consider an elimination diet. There’s nothing that will tell you more conclusively whether a food is negatively affecting you than cutting it out and paying attention to what happens when you add it back in. Drop the word diet, and the same concept applies for household chemicals, and other substances, you might come into contact with.
If you’re not concerned about your mental state, I urge you to re-evaluate your thoughts. I’m not saying everyone’s a basket-case! Just resolve to set aside a few minutes to take an inventory of your thoughts. If you had to make a three piece pie chart of your thoughts, and the pieces were good, bad, and in-between, what piece of the pie would be the largest? If you’ve got all puffy clouds and unicorns, that’s awesome—you don’t need to be concerned! If you’re not sure, or if it’s definitely not good, set that realization aside, take a breath, and assign a time to come back to delve in a bit deeper. The point is to allow yourself to look at your thoughts with an outside perspective and see them for what they really are—poison or productive. If you’re consumed with poisonous thoughts, begin by analyzing them one by one and come up with a plan of attach on how to overcome each individual thought. If you can’t do it alone, ask for help.
If you’re concerned about being emotionally poisoned, my greatest hope is that you’re able to recognize what’s happening. If there is any question in your mind or heart about what you’re experiencing, refer to the Bible. It is our one source of TRUTH. The word of God will not lead you astray and it will help you discern whether or not what you’re experiencing is healthy or poisonous. If you’re a new believer or find that you’re not able to glean what you need from the pages of the Bible, there are ways to get help. As I said earlier I am not a counselor, I am not qualified to advise you on how to deal with a potentially abusive person or keep you safe in a potentially dangerous situation, but there are tons of resources available online that can point you toward safe physical spaces, and online communities that provide all sorts of necessary additional support.
The great thing is ladies, even though change isn’t natural for most of us, it’s NEVER TOO LATE to realize you need it!
Even better than that? We can turn our past mistakes into wisdom that will help us avoid poisons, of all types, in the future.
If you’re tackling anything other than changing your laundry detergent or avoiding Mr. Yuck stickers, get help! Whether it’s from a close friend, or by enlisting my help, solidify your chance of success by surrounding yourself with as much love and support as possible.
Lord, you are our wonderful and masterful creator. You’ve loved us from before birth, you knit us together in our mother’s wombs. You’ve created us so that we can glorify and honor you. Sometimes though Lord, we find that we’ve let poison into our bodies and lives. The poisons change who we are; take us away from what you’ve created us to be; take us away from your plan for us. Lord, whether the actions we need to take toward change are simple or complex, please help us to identify the poisons around us, so we can weed them out of our life-gardens—help us make and keep the changes that will remove old poisons from our new lives.
We love you Lord and I ask these things in Jesus precious name. Amen.