How would you define a good friend? Most of us would list qualities such as…
The Bible says this…
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.”—Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Good friends pick you up when you fall; they do not tell you what you want to hear for personal gain (see 2 Timothy 4:3). They speak truth in love (see Ephesians 4:15).
This kind of relationship is hard to find. Yet, we want these relationships in our lives because we know that we are made to be in fellowship with one another.
But friendships can sometimes take an unexpected turn. They can become toxic. And if your heart is looking for true friendship, it can be blinded by the toxicity of a bad one.
Seven Signs You May Be in a Toxic Friendship:
- You walk away from your friend feeling drained with no encouragement. When you are going through times of trial, you need a friend. But when you walk away feeling patronized, depressed, and discouraged, it is time to think seriously if this friend is lifting you up or pushing you down.
- You are continuously being led into temptations that go against God's word. Unfortunately, this is incredibly common. If your friend is constantly gossiping, asking you to engage in behaviors you are not comfortable with—slandering, putting others down, and promoting selfishness—it is likely that he or she is toxic. If so, the malice will only continue, so it might be time to separate yourself from this person.
- Your friend is jealous. The only jealousy that is righteous is God's. When a friend is jealous, it is driven by fear, not adoration. A sure sign of jealousy is questioning not only where and how you spend your time, but also with whom you are spending it.
- Your friend expects you to listen to him or her, but he or she doesn't listen to you. This is a one-sided friendship. This friend is, unfortunately, only there to be served rather than to serve others. One way to identify this toxic behavior is if he or she is the one talking during every conversation you have. If every subject that you bring up is turned to focus back onto him or her, you could be in the presence of a toxic friend. Now, this is not to say that there are seasons of difficulties, and your friend (or you) needs a consistent confidant by his or her side. We are discussing a long-standing pattern of communication and a crafty way of controlling the conversation.
- You find yourself putting on masks around your friend. If you come to realize you are working hard to give your friend the “right” impression and struggle to be yourself, especially if you have been “friends” for quite some time, this could be a sign of toxicity.
- Your friend blames you instead of encouraging you during trying times. This can be a hard one to identify. This toxic behavior could be passive or aggressive. Pay attention to how you feel and ask the Spirit to reveal to you wisdom about the friendship. Remember, there is no condemnation in Christ, so the blaming behavior is from the enemy himself, and he might be using a friend to provoke the feeling of condemnation in you.
- Your friend is only supportive when it benefits him or her. This is another hard-to-spot toxic behavior. If you find yourself walking away from your friend sometimes feeling supportive, and other times not, it is worthwhile to take a step back and ask the Spirit to show you what is really going on beneath the surface.
How Should You Respond to Toxic Friends?
First, if you were able to identify multiple signs listed above, we want to encourage you to stop and pray. Ask the Lord to start working on your heart in a direction that is healthy and honors Him.
- “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”—James 1:5
Second, pray for your friend. The Bible instructs us to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us” (see Matthew 5:44). Our human nature tells us to fight back, often with words and slander. But this is not God’s instruction.
When we fight back with weapons of this world, it grieves the heart of God.
- “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”—Ephesians 4:30-31
Lastly, start to prayerfully consider wise counsel. We are not supposed to go through this life alone. And God wants us to seek His ways. He instructs us to stay in His Word, pray, and seek wise counsel so that His plans for our life are made clear…
- “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.”—Proverbs 15:22
- “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.”—Proverbs 13:20
Without wise counsel, it is only a matter of time before the toxicity of others starts to permeate in your life.
Is It Time to Seek Wise Counsel?
Sometimes, when we have been around toxic relationships for far too long, it is nearly impossible to see your way out. Toxic friendships are one of the enemy's schemes to distract you and tear you down all at the same time.
If you are battling depression, anxiety, doubt, fear, and unbelief, you need to seek wise counsel. Cut off the lies and embrace the truth.
Read Sheri’s story as she explains what it was like for her as she reached out for wise counsel.
Sometimes in life, we are called to carry our friends, and at other times we need to be carried by them. Sometimes, with the lingering stigma of being in a bad place with my mental health, I found the right outside influence of connection was essential.
As for my experience, when I began to open up to my friends about my struggles with depression, it seemed like they either start edging me out or they ghost me immediately.
When you get right down to it friends want fun friends, and depressed friends are not fun friends! I have had to be very selective in my choice of friends.
So, with all this being said, I was afraid at first to ask for prayers from a complete stranger [1-on-1 prayer intercessor], but I was feeling desperate and beat up.
I took a risk and reached out to Curt Landry Ministries for prayer. I am glad I did take that risk. My prayer partner was so understanding, kind, and she didn't pass judgment. She actually listened to me. There's a difference between listening and hearing, and I felt relief from the torture of depression.
I highly recommend to others who are struggling with any issues to do what I did, reach out and take the risk. The enemy wants us to sit in silence and be tortured by evil spirits.
I thank Curt's prayer ministry from the bottom of my heart! Keep up the great support and service you offer to complete strangers—because it’s helping hurting people. May God richly bless your prayer team and ministry.