Defining Harmful Behavior

Reading Level: Leisurely

A reader asked, “Define harmful behavior.” There are many ways one can define or recognize the harmful behavior of others in your life, or even behavior of your own that is harmful to others or yourself, but the easiest way is to evaluate the results.

God says that real love does not do harm to another person, so living according to real love causes a person to completely obey all the laws of God due to living a loving lifestyle (Rom. 10:13). Thus, a person who truly loves you will not consistently live a lifestyle that brings harmful results in your life. Granted, we all lose our tempers at time and say or do things that later we have to apologize for, but the key difference is whether or not a person brings more harm than good.

Let’s take a look at how to evaluate behavior by the results.

  • Does the person consistently say or do things that improve your self worth or lessens it?
  • Does the person’s actions consistently cause you to feel joy and peace or fear?
  • Is your physical health well? Or do you notice symptoms of various illnesses increasing whenever you are around that person?
  • Does being around that person give you energy or drain your energy?
  • Are your conversations consistently rational or are severe arguments with hostile words and actions taking place?
  • Does the person encourage you to fulfill your dreams or belittle your dreams?
  • Does the person desire you to succeed or try to make you fail?
  • After talking with the person, do you feel that they are interested in your life or only in you fulfilling the wishes of his/her life? If it is the latter, you will often feel resentful due to your desires and needs always being overlooked.
  • Does the person appear to give fairly equal consideration to your needs or insist that the majority of your time and energy is put into his/her needs? If it is the latter, again you will feel resentful after doing things for this person that normally should make you feel happy.

In Scripture, there is a passage that describes a wife of noble character. Many people use it to describe the ideal or perfect wife. Many of the points can apply to either gender, such as the quote, “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life (Pr. 31:12).” This is a verse that I quoted to a friend who was having difficulty coming to terms with the fact that his spouse needed professional help. She was continually doing things to harm him, and even enjoying the fact that she was harming him. A person who truly loves you will not intentionally harm you on a consistent basis. A emotionally healthy person only displays harmful behavior on rare occasions and usually during a time of extreme illness or stress that causes behavior out of their normal lifestyle.

In the book of Proverbs, wisdom is spoken of as a person. It says of wisdom, “Whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm (Pr 1:33).” Let’s come back to our initial point; what are the results of that person’s behavior? If the person’s behavior causes you to be fearful of harm, whether physical or emotional, it is harmful behavior! If you answered “Yes” to the second half of the above listed questions, that the behaviors were bringing various negative, harmful responses in your mind, emotions, or body, it’s harmful behavior. Sometimes we ask whether or not it is harmful behavior because we are not ready to admit to ourselves that we already know it is; we are fearful of the changes that we need to make.

Look again at that proverb. If you are living according to wisdom, you will be at ease and not fear harm. If the person in question causes fear of harm, continuing the relationship as it is now is not living according to wisdom.

Choose wisdom and a life without fear of harm!

For more information on identifying harmful behavior, see my posts, “Recognizing Real Love Part 1 & 2.”

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