Toxic Friendships

God did not call us to do life on our own. We are not meant to be isolated, which means we need friends and family, or friends who are like family in our lives.

This notion that we do not need anyone is not a biblical one. “No new friends,” shouldn’t be a life motto either. How do we build community and spread the Good News by only surrounding ourselves with the people we know?

 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.

Ecclesiastes 10-11 (NLT)

But platonic friendships should involve intimacy (non-sexual), and how do we become intimate with people we believe have become unhealthy for us? How do we navigate toxic friendships?

A friend should challenge you when you act out of character, call you out when you’re wrong but also have your back and love on you. They should push you out of your comfort zone in order for you to grow, but there should be no doubt in your mind about intentions.

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy

Proverbs 27: 5-6 (ESV)

When a friend becomes competitive, jealous, co-dependent, and surface-level, your friendship has moved into a toxic place.

If your friend continually puts you down, hasn’t pushed you to grow in years, but has actually hindered your growth, it’s toxic. If your friend encourages you to do the things you feel you have outgrown or put behind you because of your faith, it’s toxic. And it’s okay to step away, at least for some time.

Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you.

1 Peter 4:4 (NLT)

When you move away from gossip, harmful group chats, rumors, fake humility, certain lifestyles, and immaturity in general, your former friends may start to question you, and that’s understandable. You are changing.

When you go deeper in Christ, you begin to mature, which means your spirit feels convicted when you get up to the same old things you used to do that were sinful. However, many people choose to cut people off instead of navigating through the questioning.

Again, God did not call us to be isolated, friendships are not meant to be easy. If they are for you, they will get tested at some point. Don’t give up the fight so easily.

A friend loves at all times

Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)

If we are in Christ, we must be like-Christ, loving, forgiving, patient, and understanding…

Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)

That means we must be like Christ when we deal with those who have become toxic. That does not mean we allow people to maltreat us, however. It means we create and then communicate boundaries. Once we have verbalized our boundaries, we can then decide if the friendship can remain close with limits or if that person becomes an acquaintance. An acquaintance is still a friend who does not have as much access to your life.

When you cut people off all the time, you’re likely cutting off a blessing. Someone you got rid of may have been an answer to one of your future problems. It’s also likely you might have been a blessing for that person until you took yourself out of that equation. If you continue to subtract yourself from everyone, you become isolated.

You then become the toxic one because you are not mature enough to maintain friendships. You become the person you did not want in your life.

How do we change this? We reach out at some point. We apologize and acknowledge our portion of the breakdown of a friendship, even if we did not do most of the breaking. Then we decide where the person belongs in our life moving forward, either at a distance as a cordial acquaintance or as someone close to us.

As Christ-followers, we are supposed to be the example. So let’s be the example today.

Then join me here next week for part-two of Toxic Friendships: When God is Calling You Away From Certain Friends (or how to cut people off with grace).

Is Fear Ruling Your life?

I realize my life vacillates between living in faith and fear. When I live in faith, I make decisions immersed in God’s presence and blessings. When I live in fear, God isn’t there. The quality of my life deteriorates; I end up feeling anxious, unsteady, misunderstood, and alone.

Throughout my lifetime, I have been blessed to always have people speaking life into me, both Christians and non-Christians. From family to friends, classmates, professors, to strangers. Many people have told me that I am smart and full of talents. I was told from a young age that I would be successful, a leader, at the frontlines of change and innovation. But somehow, my mind warped that into fear. How can I live up to these kind words?

I renamed my fear into something cute and more appealing than fear, though, I called it perfectionism. That’s more acceptable than the word scared, and I could use it to explain away my lack of advancement. I was afraid people would find out that I am not as talented or as smart as they think. Of course, hiding my skills made even more people believe I did not have any. Some people even began to assume I was lazy, they would measure my progress next to my gifts and come back confounded. How could I be an intellectual with nothing much to show for it?

Many times, God has called me back to Him, to go deeper, get closer, recognize His presence, and step out in faith. Several times, I let fear block the call. Instead of obeying the Lord, I would do what was safe: stay at a job that did not care about me, hang with friends who did not care about me, continue to be with a guy that God did not want for me, and constantly compromise my morals and beliefs in order to not burst the bubble of safety that I had imagined. But what I viewed as safe, was actually a trap.

Every time I run back to a guy, friends who regress my progress, a job, or partnership, I get further away from Christ. No matter how fun or nice they seem.

Let’s think about Egypt in the bible, often described as lush and beautiful, where people went to look for help or to prosper instead of turning to Christ.

Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord or the beautiful land of Egypt

Genesis 13:10 (NLT)

In Numbers, the Israelites, who were just freed from slavery, oppression, subjugation, and violence, the same people who were shown numerous miracles in the wilderness, wanted to go back to Egypt at the first sign of an obstacle. How often do we run back into chains, sin, and oppression when things get tough? For example, how many times have you run back to an ex, a situationship, a friend, a certain lifestyle, or a profession when you felt challenged?

The Israelites were going to be taken into a land flowing with milk and honey, abundance, a bountiful community, but they allowed fear to grip them and overtake their lives. To them, Egypt, a place where they were subjected to inhumane treatment, looked more appetizing than obedience.

Sin and disobedience can often mirror pleasure, fun, and satisfaction but only on the surface. The deeper you involve yourself, the more trapped and eventually imprisoned you become. Unfortunately for them, because of their blatant disregard for God’s presence, they were figuratively imprisoned, destined to wander in the wilderness for forty years.

How many miracles in your life must God complete before you stop treating Him with contempt and before you stop questioning Him? How long will you hamper your prosperity and remain in the chains of your mind, also called anxiety, perfectionism, immaturity and lack of self-love before you choose to run to Christ?

How long are you going to run back to the safety of your job where you live paycheck-to-paycheck and ignore the call God has on your life to be an entrepreneur and change the world for good? How long are you going to run back to that relationship that breeds tepidness, mediocrity, and even sin when God’s has someone better for you?

And how long will you continue to overlook the behavior, lifestyle, and beliefs of your friends because you’ve known them all of your life instead of obeying God who wants you to isolate and become closer to Him?

When will you stop being disobedient and allowing fear to rule over you? When will you stop wandering, afflicted by fear?

God has plans to prosper you; He has performed miracles for you. He loved you so much that he gave. And will continue to. So why are you afraid?

For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life

John 3:16 (AMP)

However, even if you’ve been living in fear, there is a way to turn it around.

Instead of burrowing away in guilt because of your disobedience, let’s instead activate God’s grace. Unlike the Israelites who God forced to wander in the wilderness for forty years due to their contempt, we are living under His grace, due to the gift of Christ on the cross.

So join me, the former perfectionist, in repenting and taking action today by choosing to live in faith instead of fear.

Discovering Purpose

When I chose to be saved again, to recommit myself to Christ as an adult, and to mature in Christ, I was consumed with fear.

How could I possibly prove myself to be a good Christian if I lacked vision? And without vision, how could I even begin to contemplate purpose? Purpose, at the time, was this abstract concept that I seemed to chase but could not find. And this easily led to feelings of inadequacy, which then led to doubt and fear.

Eventually, I realized that I was leading a fear-filled life, a life God did not mean for me to be living. We are meant to be free in Christ, not chained to worries.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 7 (NLT)

This revelation led me to draw closer to Christ. You see, God left us with perfect instructions on how to live our lives as Christians. When I began to not just read the Bible more but also reflect on its passages, my understanding of purpose solidified.

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 

Mark 16:15 (ESV)

If we are followers of Christ, we are meant to spread the Gospel. We are meant to bring people to Christ. We are meant to help shine a light in darkness. That is our purpose.

Declare his glory among the nations,

    his marvelous works among all the peoples!

Psalm 96:3 (ESV)

Now, there can be a difference in each of our methods. One person may bring others to Christ through their singing, and another through preaching. And yet another through leading. God has given us each unique skills and talents in order to strengthen the church by bringing more people into the family of Christ.

So if you can sing, use your voice. If you can write, put words to paper. If you can nurture, raise your kids up well, allowing them to understand and accept Christ early on in life. And whenever you feel doubt or worry starts to creep up and spread, turn back to the book of instructions and ruminate on His word.

Purpose has never been this abstract concept but one that is very clear and concrete. So set down your fears and feelings of inadequacy and today, declare that you will live in purpose and in freedom instead.

Helpful Tools: Want to learn more about your God-given skills? Visit the Spiritual Gifts Test website and take the test.

The Cult of Purity: Part Two

Rahab is one of my favorite women in the Bible because of her checkered past. She, like me, does not easily fit into the image that purity conjures. Yet her courage and faith, not only reconciled her with Christ but also made her pure again and cleaved her to a royal family.

Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road.

James 2:25 NLT

She married Salmon, one of the spies she helped to hide in Jousha 2. She gave birth to Boaz, who married Ruth. Ruth gave birth to Obed, who was the father of Jesse. Jesse fathered King David and Jesus came from King David’s line. Rahab went from being deemed a harlot to being mentioned in a family line with Christ. So of course even I, with my tattoos and my own unwholesome past, became part of Christ’s family once I accepted Him into my life. Even with my mistakes, I am God’s masterpiece.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2: 10 NLT

Here is a shortened version of my story:

Men were never hard for me to get, I never sought boyfriends or male companions, and I often found myself in relationships or relations (unholy ones) with men, serious men too. The ones who worked in hedge funds, engineering or were billionaire heirs. Though I never bragged about these things or even worked hard to acquire this kind of admiration, my friends and acquaintances saw me as some kind of gem, and at times, I was addicted to the way they venerated me. So I hoarded it.

Internally, this made me feel small and worthless. Externally, I beamed with false pride.

Often, I did not have deep feelings for these men. I was attracted to them, but hyperaware of how incompatible we were. Many of them reduced me to my appearance and were happy with just some kind of trophy girlfriend they could brag to their friends about, I often felt owned by them instead of equal to them. Internally, this made me feel small and worthless. Externally, I beamed with false pride. I even began to give advice to the many women who wanted to be just like me, because they believed their value was in being devalued.

Even though I knew God had more for me, it took me years to understand the damage these flings and relationships caused to my psyche. It has taken me some time to unpack the depth of the impact disregarding God, dishonoring my body and not following His instructions has had on my life. It took me leaving my favorite city in the world, my hometown, in order to fully confront this issue.

And once I became obedient to God, followed his instructions, moved, surrounded myself by “Godly” people, worked at a church, served in church, promised to save myself, the same issues not only persisted but began to reign down on me, with more problems added to the mix. Though it took some ups and downs that I will discuss more in an upcoming post, I refused to yet again become a slave to my flesh and my ego. God freed me from that bondage and I accepted my status as clean, as a new creation, as pure, just like Rahab.

So even if I don’t fit into the carefully curated image of purity in the media, I am confident that Christ views me like royalty, fearfully and wonderfully made. And I am here to tell you that you are too. He sees your mistakes, your past, the trials, and tests you haven’t yet endured, and still loves you.

The Cult of Purity: Part One

Oftentimes, I too am lured by the sleek edges, happy homes, and glossy photos of “the pure,” or the women who were always wholesome. The ones who come from two-parent homes where their families didn’t yell much.

The ones who wore purity rings in high school and joined Christian sororities in college, the ones who then went on to marry at a reasonable age (at 25 or younger) and saved themselves for their one true love who God spoke to them about.

These women often live in huge, well-organized homes with good lighting. And the lighting is important you see; because it allows for picture-perfect social media feeds. Their Instagrams are decorated with photos of the perfect family, beautiful children who begin to prophesy at the age of three, husbands who are too good not to brag about, and of course the “pure woman,” she has perfect hair and expertly applied makeup, she’s fit and eats clean. She’s the woman you could’ve been; if only you’d been pure.

But I am not that woman.

I am not an Esther, a Ruth or a Sarah. I am a Rahab.

Every time I stumble across these feeds, or more accurately, whenever I seek the social media accounts of women who’ve made the right choices in life, I begin to feel a sharp pang of guilt, or envy, your call. It’s not because I fail to understand that social media is a lie, full of filters, photoshop, false smiles, and tricky angles. It’s not because I’ve been bamboozled into believing these women actually lead perfect lives, despite what their accounts and various books say. It’s because I can’t relate. I am a Christian. But I am not an Esther, a Ruth, or a Sarah. I am Rahab.

I am Rahab because I am a woman with a past. Not a past of prostitution. I never worked in a brothel, I was never an escort nor any kind of sex worker, but I have a past none the less.

And my past is what blocks me from relating to the image that purity conjures up: I have never worn a purity ring, I avoided the Christian groups at my university like the plague, I didn’t start serving in a church until last year, God didn’t speak to me about my first love. In fact, I didn’t even speak to God about him until we were at least a year in and not exactly living purely. And wholesomeness was a concept I viewed as inaccessible at best, and a lie at worst.

This hostile view of wholesomeness stems from the image it conjures up: Perfection. Something I can never live up to and something I don’t believe any human can. Yet groups, blogs, and Christian influencers shape their ministry around this false image. And over and over again I have compared myself to the glossy photos of what my life without a past might look like, perfection.

I originally created this blog in order to dismantle the false narrative of purity and to disband the cult of purity and perfection. I am imperfect but I am pure. I have a past but I am made right with God. I am a new creation.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

But then God placed an even greater responsibility on my heart, to build women and girls up, especially those who have a past, and restore their identities in Christ. To use my story as an example, and to share stories with other women in order to free ourselves from shame and the false notion that only the perfect get to experience God’s love, grace, mercy, and a flawless social media feed.

What have you been running from in your past? I’ll tell you more about mine in part two.