Friendships can be special and are very important to us. It’s a connection that we seek early on in childhood. Hopefully, connections/friendships that will last a lifetime.
Proverbs 17:17 – “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” ESV
Sometimes these friendships can have a positive effect on us, while others, unfortunately, do quite the opposite. So what is the difference between one that is a true friend and one that is not?
Proverbs 18:24 – “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” ESV
None of us are perfect, and being friends with other human beings, there is bound to be small misunderstanding and disagreements. We can get worked up about the silliest situations. Usually though, a couple days later we hug it out, apologize, forgive each other and move on with our lives. As long as there is resolve, everything is just fine.
When a friendship starts to affect you personally and cause damage, that’s when there is cause for concern.
1 Corinthians 15:33 – “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” ESV
A little over a year ago I met a women here on the military base, at one of my lowest and most vulnerable times. Due to our husbands being away so often, our friendship grew quickly. We seemed to spend every waking moment together, traveling together, running errands together, sharing most everything with each other, etc. We depended on each other, and I considered her my best friend!!
As time went on, I realized that something was a little off. Whenever there was a small disagreement or misunderstanding (which was a lot), the blame was automatically placed on me, no matter what. There was no civil discussion, apologies, or forgiveness. I felt beat down, like nothing I did was right. I felt that if she wronged me, that I was not allowed to be hurt, because in her opinion it was my fault for having feelings. I was supposed to suck it up and be the doormat.
After a few large spats, I was encouraged to take a step back from the relationship, and be cautious with what I share and how much time I was spending with her. By doing this, I realized how much the “friendship” had been damaging me mentally and emotionally. I was always on edge, walking on eggshells to make sure my words came out the way she wanted them to. I realized I wasn’t sharing my life with her because I wanted to anymore, it was because if I didn’t I wasn’t a good friend in her eyes. There were all these expectations and double standards I was being held to, and I wasn’t happy.
I finally realized that I was part of a toxic friendship.
What are some signs of a toxic friendship?
- NO boundaries – When there are no boundaries in a friendship, this can become extremely dangerous. When you share EVERY little tid bit of your life, this can allow the other person to invite themselves into your marriage and/or other relationships, where they have no place being. Ultimately, we should be seeking Christ to be there for us, and help us through adversities. It’s ok to have companions, but we need to set boundaries as to what is appropriate to share with our friends, and when we need to seek solace only in the Lord.
1 Peter 5:7 – “casting all your anxieties on Him, because he cares for you.” ESV
Proverbs 25:17 – “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you.” ESV
- They demand your trust – Trust is something that needs to be earned, it simply can NOT be demanded. If you have reason to not trust this acquaintance or friend of yours, you are entitled to that feeling. You can respect a person and still not trust them, but these are two completely different concepts.
Psalm 118:8 – “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” ESV
- They are defensive and do NO wrong – Friendship should not be based solely on confrontation, but sometimes it is necessary, since none of us are perfect. If “truth in love” is CONSISTENTLY met with defensive words and behavior, this is “type A” material for an unhealthy friendship. A toxic friend will not own up to their faults, they think they can do no wrong, and will typically blame others for their actions. A true friend should be able to take confrontation, and recognize their wrongdoings/imperfections.
Proverbs 27:17 – “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” NLT
Ephesians 4:15 – Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.” ESV
Proverbs 27:5 – “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” ESV
- Selfishness and Anger – Most of the time toxic friends can be very self-centered. Conversations tend to be about them, they become jealous of your success or happiness, they constantly compare your life to theirs, and will become angry if things don’t go their way. They become pushy and demanding, and will emotionally manipulate you into doing what they want.
Proverbs 22:24-25 – “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” ESV
Proverbs 18:1 – “An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.” NIV
- Is conversation encouraging and inspiring? – Do you leave time with your friend feeling depressed, defensive, hurt, and belittled? Are your conversations full of negativity, and/or gossip? First of all, someone who gossips about others will eventually gossip about you. A true friend is a strong protector of their other friendships and of yours. Second, we should leave time with our friends feeling, optimistic, happy, encouraged, etc.
Ephesians 4:29 – Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those that hear.” ESV
Proverbs 11:13 – “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” NIV
Proverbs 16:28 – “A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends” ESV
After you have recognized toxic qualities in a friendship, it’s time to take action.
When you finally realize how long you have been hurt and frustrated with this friendship, it may be super easy to lash out and condemn them for being such a lousy friend. Or maybe your instinct is to get far FAR away, and you walk away without any communication about your feelings.
Try discussing how you’re feeling, IN PERSON!! Do NOT have these conversations over texting or any form of social media. You both need to meet face to face, so everything can be explained properly. Also, people tend to be a lot more courageous and daring with their words over texting, and we tend to say things we wouldn’t/shouldn’t say in person.
Set healthy boundaries. As I mentioned above, there needs to be personal boundaries. People with little to no boundaries, leave themselves open to emotionally dangerous people. We need to recognize appropriate boundaries and set them in place.
If your friend is unwilling to meet the boundary expectations, or continues to be toxic and disregard your feelings, then it may be time to “cut the cord”. Also, if a friend is unwilling to discuss the issue, or will not meet face to face, this is also a sign to get out. A person like that will never respect you, and will only continue to damage you emotionally.
Either way, start making connections with non-toxic friends. Once, you start spending time with healthy friends, you will find yourself a lot more happy and less on edge. Recognize the differences between a healthy relationship and your previously toxic relationship and focus on finding those positive qualities in others, and being a true friend yourself.
And ULTIMATELY forgive them no matter the outcome.
Matthew 18:21-22 – “Then Peter came to Him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” NLT
If you are seeking true resolve there needs to be forgiveness!
Proverbs 27:9 – “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.” NLT
1 Thessalonians 5:11 – “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” ESV