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).

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.