Friendships. They are a special kind of relationship, aren’t they? They seem to be such a big part of our makeup, maybe in part because we get to choose who we let into our hearts, impacting our lives. A sweet friend can enrich our lives in so many ways, bringing forth an array of blessings. However, friendships can also be the relationships that hurt us most. While some friends come in and change us for the better, others leave us feeling depleted or confused.
Proverbs 27:9 states, “Sweet friendships refresh the soul and awaken our hearts with joy, for good friends are like the anointing oil that yields the fragrant incense of God’s presence.” This is the one Bible verse that speaks directly to my heart when I think about friendship.
Did you catch that a sweet friend not only brings joy into our lives, but their love for Jesus is so evident that it makes us crave a deeper relationship with Jesus, too? Praise God for that!
Who doesn’t want a friend like that, am I right? But I am assuming because you landed here, your heart is heavy, and you are seeking wisdom about a certain “friend.” I’ve been there too, and I am so sorry you are left holding a friendship in question. Honestly, we all need a little discernment at times when it comes to dealing with certain friends. Especially those that start veering off in a direction that leads us to feel uncomfortable.
While we are all just a work in progress and bound to make mistakes, it’s important to know that there are clear differences between a healthy and unhealthy (toxic) friendship. Not only will we encounter such friends in our lives, but we could very likely be a toxic friend and not realize it. So, it’s important to take a deep look within and make sure we are being the kind of friend we are also seeking out.
But what does “toxic” mean anyway? Well, according to Google, a toxic person is anyone whose behavior adds negativity to your life. Well, that sounds pretty subjective because the way I view toxicity may be different from yours.
So, when we are unclear about what stance to take, we need to seek Truth. What does God say about toxic people? Two verses caught my attention as I tried to uncover His view on this topic:
1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.'”
1 Peter 3:9 “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
Here is what we need to hold to: God cares deeply about our relationships with others. That is because the company we keep shapes and molds us. Our close-knit circle should be those we don’t mind conforming too, as we will take on some of their qualities in time (1 Corinthians 15:33). However, when we do come across those who involve evil or bring about negativity into our lives, we are called to respond with grace and dignity (1 Peter 3:9). That doesn’t mean we allow them to continue to abuse or take advantage of us; it means we forgive them and gracefully let them go.
All that being said, we must be able to pick up on signs that lead to toxic behavior that could harm us or, worse yet, pull us away from God.
Here are five signs you may be in a toxic friendship and simple solutions to handle them with care:
1. Toxic Friendships Are One-Sided; Healthy Friendships Reciprocate
Friendship is a two-way street. Both bring their stories to the table. It should be a free flow of conversation where both share and listen to one another. However, often, one friend may monopolize the conversation or continue to bring emotional baggage, weighing the other friend down and causing a downward spiral.
Here are some signs your friendship may be one-sided:
They overshare and rarely listen.
There is little room for you to speak, and they rarely ask how you are doing.
After you leave, you typically feel drained or angry.
2. Toxic Friendships Ignore Boundaries; Healthy Friendships Respect Boundaries
Healthy friendships set boundaries. They understand that family and other roles need priority and honor and respect your time. When a friendship begins to overstep and take advantage of your energy or efforts, the outcome is generally not a good one.
Here are some signs your friendship may be testing boundaries:
There is generally unpredictable behavior or dramatic events involved.
They are often late to things that are important to you.
There is an unnatural (or different) response around your family members or other friends.
3. Toxic friendship Manipulate and Self-Serve; Healthy Friendship Are Honest and Giving
Sometimes we come across needy friends. Usually, it is a season, and we are called to carry one another’s burdens (and we should). However, when a friend gets to a point where they are continually asking for help, seeking out what you can do for them, and the pattern of behavior makes you feel uneasy, you must be honest with yourself.
Here are some signs your friendship may be wrapped in manipulation:
They avoid confrontation and/or play the victim.
There is a continual ask for favors.
When a concern is brought up, they grow angry or get easily defensive.
4. Toxic Friendships Aren’t Trustworthy; Healthy Friendships Are Based on Trust
Friendships should be built on trust, where both feel free to be honest and hold each other accountable. However, nothing is worse than finding out you are the center of a gossip ring or surrounded by secrets and lies that slowly become a sticky web you want to get out of.
Here are some signs your friendship may be untrustworthy:
Conversations typically revolve around talking negatively about others.
They place blame and rarely admit their own mistakes.
There is not much authenticity or vulnerability.
5. Toxic Friendships Make You Uncomfortable; Healthy Friendship Let You Be Yourself
Sometimes we come across friends who give us a different vibe. Whether it be different personalities or just uncommon interests, there are those friendships that just don’t easily form for whatever reason. In those cases, it may be best not to force them to happen and seek other friendships.
Here are some signs your friendship may not be the best fit for you:
They are always canceling plans.
The conversations feel forced and awkward.
You can’t be yourself around them.
Pray. When you find yourself in a friendship that just “feels off,” seek God’s wisdom and ask for His guidance. Allow Him to help you see that person the way He sees them. And when you do meet with that friend, invite God into the conversation and ask Him to give you courage and discernment on how to gently navigate your time, energy, and efforts with this friend.
Speak up. Often, being honest and sharing your concerns with your friend is just the nudge they need to make a change to save a friendship. Remember, though, that your words may be difficult to hear, so approach this with gentleness and kindness.
Let them go. Sometimes the hardest thing we have to do in this life is create space and distance between people causing us harm. Let the Holy Spirit lead you here and realize that if a person is changing you or turning you away from God, it is best to part ways. Grant them forgiveness and pray for them. Then seek out those sweet friends that will awaken your heart with joy!
Loving God, we are so thankful that You are our Friend, first and foremost. We ask that You walk beside us, lead and guide us, and be ever present as we seek out healthy friendships. We love that You are a God of deep connections and highly value our relationships with others. Help us grow intimately with You as we find friends who will help us do just that. Amen.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
Alicia Searl is a devotional author, blogger, and speaker that is passionate about pouring out her heart and pointing ladies of all ages back to Jesus. She has an education background and master’s in literacy. Her favorite people call her Mom, which is why much of her time is spent cheering them on at a softball game or dance class. She is married to her heartthrob (a tall, spiky-haired blond) who can whip up a mean latte. She sips that goodness while writing her heart on a page while her puppy licks her feet. Visit her website at aliciasearl.com and connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.