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Toxic Relationships and How to Change Them: Health and Holiness in Everyday Life

ISBN: 978-0-470-43369-0
304 pages
August 2008, Jossey-Bass
Toxic Relationships and How to Change Them: Health and Holiness in Everyday Life (0470433698) cover image


In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Clinton McLemore— a leading expert on interpersonal relationships— gives you a powerful roadmap for promoting healthy and productive relationships. Toxic Relationships draws extensively from psychological research and Christian theology and is filled with practical strategies you can use to create better communication at home and at work. You will learn how to increase appreciation, tenderness, respect, comfort, and understanding in all of your relationships by recognizing the eight basic "default styles" that most of us use to respond to others. By using biblical examples, Dr. McLemore shows how we can change our own destructive behavior and influence the behavior of others by understanding these eight toxic strategies:
  • Controlling
  • Drifting
  • Intruding
  • Freeloading
  • Humiliating
  • Scurrying
  • Victimizing
  • Avoiding

Create loving and healthy relationships using these proven methods for transforming toxic interactions with others.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations.

Foreword by Les Parrott, Ph.D.

Matters of the Heart.


PART ONE: Relationships as God Intends.

1. The Spiritual Significance of Everyday Life: A Brief Theology of Relationships.

2. Foundations of Health and Holiness.

PART TWO: How People Train Each Other.

3. Making Sense of Everyday Behavior.

4. Modes and Styles of Ordinary Interaction.

5. The Hidden Rules of Human Relationships.

6. Overview of Interpersonal Toxicity.

PART THREE: Eight Ways of Disappointing the Father.

7. Controlling: Bossing and Ordering.

"Beware the leaven of the Pharisees" (Matthew 16:5).

8. Drifting: Obeying and Conforming.

"Solomon, whose heart had strayed, turned toward other gods"(1 Kings 11:4).

9. Intruding: Crowding and Smothering.

"God was harsh with Job’s advisors, whose advice had been false" (Job 42:7).

10. Freeloading: Clinging and Depleting.

"Those who will not work shall not eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

11. Humiliating: Demeaning and Belittling.

"When Hagar became pregnant, she despised her mistress Sarai" (Genesis 16:4).

12. Scurrying: Whining and Appeasing.

"'Woman,' anxiously protested Peter, 'I do not know the man'" (Luke 22:57).

13. Victimizing: Injuring and Exploiting.

"His brothers spotted Joseph a long way off and conspired to kill him" (Genesis 37:18).

14. Avoiding: Withdrawing and Rebelling.

"But instead of going to confront Nineveh, Jonah decided to run away"(Jonah 1:3).

PART FOUR: Toward Relational Health and Holiness.

15. Three Myths About Behavior Change.

16. Getting Out of Your Own Way.

17. Some Final Thoughts on Changing Others.

Sources and Recommended Reading.

The Author.


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Author Information

Dr. Clinton W. McLemore was on the full-time psychology faculty of Fuller Seminary, has consulted for over twenty-five Fortune 500 companies, and has written five previous books including Clergyman's Psychological Handbook and Street-Smart Ethics: Succeeding in Business without Selling Your Soul. In 1983, he also founded the prestigious Clinician's Research Digest, now owned and operated by the American Psychological Association. Dr. McLemore is frequently interviewed in the media and is a celebrated speaker.
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