4. Misplaced loyalty
It’s one thing to be loyal to friends, it’s another thing to let them abuse your trust. If you’re in a situation where a friend has been manipulative, it may be time to draw a line. What have you promised them and what do you really owe them?
You may be blind to situations that have gone on too long and need more accountability than you’re providing. Your loyalty needs to be to the best version of your friends and family—to their health. True loyalty will fight against dysfunction.
Instead of growing in maturity, you may be staying in a place where your weakness is enmeshed with the weakness of your friend. Instead of encouraging your friend to grow, you actually help keep them in a place where they are stuck. Why? Because in some way that makes you feel needed.
Change is hard and committing to growth is hard. Much easier to stay in your broken place and hang out with people who will validate your broken behavior, not seeing that your codependency is not healthy for either of you.
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So loyalty taken too far can keep us from growing. But loyalty is in short supply these days. So many people live transactionally, often in lonely and isolated places. What about situations where your loyalty is a positive thing? How do we discern the difference between this kind of loyalty and dysfunction?
Cloud makes a distinction—yes, we should help those who can’t help themselves. But we need to recognize that every adult is responsible for herself or himself.
When you find yourself covering for someone else’s responsibilities, Cloud diagnoses your problem and tells you what to do next: “Not only are you stuck with a delayed ending, but you are probably harming that person.”
The best thing to do is to break off the relationship. This doesn’t mean saying goodbye forever, but it does mean establishing boundaries and moving toward the freedom you were made for.
How do you do this? First, recognize that you probably need someone who can be more objective than you. Few are fortunate enough to have the kind of friend to help in this way. Read Necessary Endings and take notes. Start to formulate a plan.
If you know of a good counselor, they can often help you discern just how dysfunctional the relationship is. Has it gone over into abuse? What do healthy boundaries look like?
And then, be prepared to say the hard things that need to be said. If doing so in person seems impossible, at least write a letter to get the conversation going. Apply the principles in Matthew 18:12-35, and if necessary, bring an intermediary to help you communicate what you struggle to share.
As you do this, recognize the spiritual stakes. They are high. Get friends who you trust to pray for you and to share with you what they sense God saying. You will likely need more support than you currently have to walk through this and share the truth in love.