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 enemyProverbs 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 timesProverbs 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).