“The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Proverbs 12:26
Friendships are important, but toxic friendships can be damaging to our spirits. I recently realized that someone in my life was becoming a toxic friend. We weren’t terribly close to begin with, but every time I engaged in a conversation with this person, I walked away feeling angry, gossipy, bitter and short-tempered. At first I didn’t make the connection that these feelings were connected to the conversations I was having with this person, but during one particularly rough session, God revealed to me that my relationship with this person was becoming toxic.
I realize that we can control our feelings by choosing not to respond certain ways, but sometimes we don’t even realize we are responding that way until someone else points it out. When we make the connection that those feelings are spurred on by someone else (even if they are a fellow Saint), we have to make the conscious effort to protect our minds and hearts from being led astray. God calls us to spur one another on in good deeds, not anger (Hebrews 10:24). After this revelation from God, I asked God for forgiveness of my lack of self-control and I asked that he protect me the next time I spoke to this person. You see, Satan was using this person to lead me astray and I was falling right into his trap. I put on my full armor of God and the next time I spoke with this person, I walked away feeling normal again. No darkness, no bitterness, but instead joy and happiness. The person still said some things that would have typically stirred me up, but this time I was fully armored and I was able to converse with this person without Satan attacking me.
It’s vital to our spiritual health that we cut ties with people who lead us astray, or at the very least protect ourselves from these conversations. I’m not suggesting that we just end a friendship abruptly, but I am suggesting that we look for signs that a friendship is potentially hazardous and we apply scripture, prayer and guidance from the Holy Spirit to the situation to determine how to proceed in those relationships.
Here are 3 signs that a friendship might be toxic:
1. A Leech-like friend: I once heard a pastor refer to some people as leeches. I remember thinking how odd of him to do that, but once he explained it I realized how true it was. Sometimes we befriend leeches. These are the people who suck the life right out of you. They are probably friendly and probably do care about you, but it never fails, when you are done spending time with them you feel exhausted, worn out, possibly in a bad mood; you literally feel like everything was sucked out of you. You can’t always pin-point why you feel this way after speaking to or spending time with this person. I once had a leech-like friend and when I realized what was going on, I had to pull myself away from their presence. The time apart was actually beneficial to our relationship and as we rekindled our friendship I found they were no longer sucking my energy. Many friends who fall into this category may not even realize they are doing it. Most of the time these type of friends will complain a lot and ask for your advice, opinion or ideas. Often, these type of friends will not let you talk much and when you do talk, they tend to interrupt. This type of friendship is exhausting and it can take all of our good energy, which leaves nothing for our husbands and children. Be cautious of friends like these and should you encounter one, don’t be afraid to step back for awhile. Take time away, catch your breath, and pray about what you can do to safeguard yourself when spending time with this person.
2. A Gossipy friend: These types of friendships are very dangerous. As women, we tend to gossip more than our male counterparts. We ladies like information, we also like to be in the know, we care about other people and we tend to enjoy talking. All of those factors set us up as easy targets of gossip. Satan knows this and is quick to suck us into a gossip trap. When we have a friend who is a gossip, it is way too easy to get sucked into the conversation, contribute and walk away having gossiped about someone without even realizing we were doing it at the time. I, personally, have a difficult time setting boundaries with gossipy friends and often find myself falling for Satan’s trap. I like talking and it’s difficult for me to always leave when the gossip has started. This type of friend is a major problem for me and I imagine many women struggle with this type of friendship. It is important that when we recognize a friend of ours is a gossip, we guard our hearts, put on the full armor of God and not be afraid to stand up against the gossiping and to lead our friend towards uplifting and encouraging words. Just like a leech-like friend, you may find a need to pull yourself away from your gossipy friend temporarily or in some cases, permanently. Just like above, pray about the friendship and pray that God will give you the strength to stand firm in his words and his commands when engaging in discussion with this person.
3. The non-believer: Now, before I get a bunch of angry people, I am NOT saying you can’t be friends with a non-believer, but what I am saying is that it is very important to protect yourself when you spend time with non-believers. Non-believers are the easiest way for Satan to throw us off track. We often think the time we spend with non-believers is a way for us to minister to them, whereas this might be true, it is also a way for the non-believer to influence our thoughts and actions. We are the company we surround ourselves with, so be sure that you are spending a good amount of time with fellow believers in order to build your armor and strengthen your faith.
I pray that you choose your friends wisely and keep your eyes open for red flags in a relationship with a friend. This is something I am really starting to see more and more of in my life. Have you ever had a toxic friendship? Did you even know it was toxic and did you end it or take a break from it? I’d love to hear how you worked through a tough friendship.
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