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).

Beauty in Brokenness

Struggle seemed to have captured me the minute I asked to go deeper in Christ. My romantic relationship with the perfect match (on paper) ended suddenly, my lucrative job fell through, and God began to show me parts of myself that were not so great. Before I knew it, depression enveloped me.

Months went by and the only thing that seemed to greet me were closed doors. Opportunities would present themselves, opportunities I knew I was qualified for, sometimes overqualified for, but I received rejection after rejection. Even the things I usually used to comfort myself, fell through, over and over again.

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.

1 Peter 4:12( NLT)

Then a morsel of respite presented itself in the form of a job. The job required a huge salary cut and no benefits, but it was job that would allow me to work in the house of the Lord. Though I could hardly live off of the money I made, I was convinced that this difficult season in my life would finally come to a close. God had heard my prayers

Those who plant in tears will harvest in shouts of joy.

Psalms 126: 5 NLT

Months later I was laid off without notice. The salary I could hardly get by with vanished and I felt I had hit rock bottom. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of shame. I had never been laid off before, and even though they informed me it had nothing to do with performance and everything to do with lack of funds, their explanation did not seem to add up. I had such a horrible experience working there that I felt it was personal and extremely callous.

Shame ballooned into a deep sadness. I had never been without a job and I used to take pride in that. My family and friends lived so far from me and several of the people I felt closest to in Texas, suddenly became too busy for me. I felt that I had made a huge mistake trying to follow God’s instructions, and slowly my heart began to harden against Him. I was broke, felt purposeless, and wasn’t sure why I was needed at all in this world.

But in that dark and empty place, I learned to be vulnerable, something that I have struggled with my entire life. I learned that I needed people. Because I lacked, I was forced to ask for help, and though I felt embarrassed, I recognized that I couldn’t survive without help. This need to depend on others, broke me.

In my brokenness all of my flaws surfaced. I discovered I struggled with pride, un-forgiveness, stubbornness and a lack of self-discipline and this shocked me.

I realized that my pride obstructed me from being vulnerable, from asking for help, and making connections with people. My lack of self-discipline impeded my ability to fast and be more prayerful. Even though I was still in a place of blaming my issues on the Lord, who truly only has plans to prosper me, I knew that in order to climb out of despair, I had to trust and depend on Him.

My stubbornness transformed me into a bad listener. I was (and I am still working on this) someone who interrupted a lot, did not take advice much, and was skeptical of other people’s opinions. Though I believe my somewhat defiant personality can be a strength in that I tend to forge my own path, it’s also a weakness that has hampered me from being more successful and listening to good advice.

Lastly, after my somewhat traumatic experience at my last job, un-forgiveness pooled inside of me. I am usually able to forgive quickly because I give many people the benefit of the doubt. But I felt burned, humiliated, and let down by people who were supposed to mentor me, build me up and support me, for they are my family in Christ.

It took me a long time to realize that I was struggling to forgive them because I felt justified in my un-forgiveness. Not only were they wrong but I protected them, and continue to, by never fully disclosing what I felt I was forced to endure. But God revealed to me, after I fasted and prayed, that my heart could not thaw unless I forgave, and that I should be even more forgiving of my family in Christ. Christ forgave me and endured the cross to save us all, even though we did not deserve it. So who am I to not forgive people who probably do not understand the pain they have caused me?

In this season of brokenness, I discovered beauty and rest. I learned to be content, even though this season isn’t over just yet. My circumstances may not be awesome but I serve a God that is awesome.

I have learned to improve myself, and even though it’s been incredibly difficult, it stretched me and pushed me to a place I would have never discovered. I learned the beauty in forgiveness and the beauty in recognizing my flaws and boasting about them because the power of Christ works through my weaknesses.

And those friends who abandoned me? I have forgiven them but also recognize that fair-weather friends aren’t friends at all. So I thank God for revealing them to me.

What has God revealed to you during your most difficult times?