Updated: May 9
Friends. How many of us have them? Better question, what is a “good” friend? Using the word friend alone should mean that the person is of course “good” because they are close to you, in your inner circle; they are a friend. However, over the years, I have noticed that “friend” does not always equal good. Who we consider to be a friend can actually be toxic for us.
Sometimes the person fulfilling the role of friend can secretly be what is hindering you from experiencing the fullness of the purpose God has for your life.
Middle school, High school, the (classic) movie Mean Girls, and just paying attention in my adult life has taught me one thing: just because they are around you does not mean they are for you. I have been through this myself. Someone I considered to be a “friend” was actually like having an enemy around. We’ve all heard that saying “With friends like these who needs enemies.”
From the outside looking in, this dynamic is easy to see. I know I’ve been there. Telling people I care about that who they are surrounding themselves with toxic people. On the flip side, I have had plenty of people try to tell me that I have a sheep in wolves clothing in my circle.
This isn’t always easy to spot. There are clues, but we may shake it off. Certain comments rub us the wrong way, but we doubt it can be anything serious.
I want to talk about some signs of a toxic friend. As you read through this list, really evaluate if you’ve been noticing this in your friendships.
7 Signs of a Toxic Friend:
Negativity. Ask yourself, is this person constantly bringing me down? Of course you aren’t hanging around with people cursing you out to your face and yelling at you (hopefully not, if you are, please stop what you’re doing and delete that person’s number). Be aware that negativity can be subtle. Does this person always have a negative response no matter the situation? When asked to go see a movie, they negatively reply: “I don’t know girl, you know I never like movie theaters, it’s always cold and somebody always has a crying baby up in there…” You talk about a possible promotion at work and they hit you with: “I wouldn’t go for it if I was you. They just gon’ give the job to someone else. We’ll never get out of these dead end jobs.” No matter what the situation, they manage to bring a dark cloud to the topic.
Drama. Does someone in your circle come with the same petty issues you would see on poorly scripted reality tv? This is a clear sign you have to rethink your circle. Not only is there always an issue going on, but it is never that person’s fault. They do a pretty good job at making sure the blame for the drama goes to someone else. You can’t have a conversation without hearing about how she’s been wronged in one way or another. Aren’t you exhausted?
Gossip. This is a big one! Does your friend spend more time talking about other people than focusing on their own life? Without fail, the topic of discussion goes to someone else and what they’re doing, if they need to be doing it or not, and who’s doing it better. If they spend time telling you someone else’s business, do you seriously think they aren’t doing the same to you with someone else?
Dishonesty. What’s a lie between friends? A relationship killer! Have you caught your friend in the midst of several lies? Not just white lies, but the kind where they basically are inventing alternative facts. You’ve seen them do this on several different occasions. The thing about telling a lie, is that you have to keep telling lies to cover it up. When you are in close proximity to someone, it does not take long to figure what the lies are. How can you trust somebody, trust being a key to friendship, that can’t be honest?
Passive Aggressive. This one is a little harder to spot, but with some observation you can notice it. Regardless of the situation, do you find that your friend manages to take a jab at you? If you get something new, they have to comment with “must be nice, we all can’t have people buy us nice thing”, even though you bought it for yourself. When you come up with a new idea, they are there to remind you how you aren’t good at following through with things and maybe shouldn’t try to do “the most”. You do not have to worry about criticizing yourself because they do that job for you, and they do it often.
Only want to receive, never give. Giving is part of friendship. When my close friends are in need, I do my best to help however I can. If a person in your group of friends does all the taking but never is around to give, that’s a problem. I do not mean money. There are so many ways to give: time, emotional support, or just helping move a couch. When it comes time to pitch in and lend a hand, they can not return a call or text message. However, when it is them in need, then they have no problem making that known to all. Usually, by making you feel bad if you don’t help them.
You dread being around them. The sure sign you have a toxic friendship: you can’t stand being around that person! Friendship should bring joy and fun, not dread and anxiety. We all have our moments when we want to be alone. If a specific someone comes to mind and you have to “mentally prepare” to be around them, then you should reevaluate why you consider that person a friend in the first place. When you think of why you dread being around that person, some of the above most likely comes to mind. That feeling you get telling you to stay away is the answer as to whether or not you should remove yourself from that relationship.
This is not an exhaustive list, just some major areas I’ve personally seen and dealt with myself.
Prune what is Toxic
As I get older, I want to spend what free time I get with people that bring light into my life, not darkness.
We were created to be in community with others. Our desire for friendship is natural and placed inside of us by God. However, we have to be mindful of the kinds of people we allow close to us. They should be the ones encouraging you and pushing you closer to God. As iron sharpens iron, they should be able to help you grow and teach you.
I believe God has a purpose for each and every one of us. Part of that purpose will be fulfilled based on who we allow into our trusted circle of friends.
Evaluate the friendships in your life. Does anyone come to mind that fits into a couple of the areas mentioned above? Maybe it’s time to make the tough choice to distance yourself from what is toxic for you. Maybe it is time to delete that number or “unfriend” and “unfollow” on social media. Pruning what is toxic makes room for forward momentum and healthy things to grow.
We cannot experience the fullness of God’s purpose for our lives if we are allowing toxic people to weigh us down.
This is not an easy task, especially if that person has been in your life for a long time. Trust me, you will be doing yourself a favor. Also, you may be helping that person by showing them there are consequences for negative behavior. Love yourself and know you deserve better. Believe in your purpose to make sure only those that are lifting you up, not dragging you down, are along for the ride