I remember the night so clearly. I was driving down a dark, narrow two-lane road with the gas pedal to the floor. Intoxicated. It was the night my life hit rock bottom. I wasn’t man enough to throw my truck in front of a tree. But if I happened to lose control, then so be it.
How did I get to this point? One word: friends. Don’t get me wrong. I owned my actions. My friends didn’t put me behind the wheel. I was responsible for the mess that was my life.
But the man behind the steering wheel that night allowed the actions of his friends to influence the man God created him to be. “Bad company corrupts good morals.” These are the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. But the words never applied to me. Or so I thought.
Looking back, I realize my naivety. The words did apply to me. Truth isn’t selective. It doesn’t pick and choose. And the truth in Paul’s words is a warning for us. Your friends WILL shape your life.
In fact, friendships contribute more to the man or woman you are going to be (or have become) than any factor outside of God. Bold words, I know.
But this one reality might change the trajectory of your life. My prayer for this post is that one person will see that their friends are shackling them from becoming the man or woman God created them to be. And they will make some changes.
Your friends can challenge you to achieve things you never imagined. Your friends can also cripple your dreams, leaving you on a two-lane road feeling hopeless.
Here are seven friends that will ruin your life.
1) The “tells you what you want to hear” friend
These friends say exactly what you want them to say. They do exactly what you want them to do. To put it bluntly, they are groupies, not friends. Groupies think their respective group, player, etc. hung the moon. The person they admire could open-hand slap an old lady on a cane, and a groupie would find some way to justify it.
These friends don’t really love you. They are infatuated with something you have. Popularity. Looks. Athleticism. But they aren’t concerned with pointing you to God and challenging you to be the best man or woman you can be.
Friends who love you and want you to succeed point out flaws.
Friends who love you and want you to succeed will point out your inconsistencies.
They don’t enjoy doing this. But, with love and grace, they step into difficult conversations because they can’t bear to watch you continue down a path that might lead to destruction.
2) The “not that serious about God” friend
You know these friends. They usually go to worship on Sunday. They might go on a foreign mission trip. But they never give God their lives. These friends are lukewarm. They think God is OK with having some of the pie.
These friends are toxic because they model a dangerous approach to Christian living. The approach that says status quo Christianity is OK. There is no reason to be a Jesus freak. Jesus freaks don’t enjoy life. So go to worship on Sunday. Read the Bible occasionally. But leave a piece of the pie for yourself.
And the moment you try to go “all in” for God, you will meet fierce resistance. Believe me. I have been there.
Several times in my teenage and early adult years, I wanted to go all in for God. But my friends weren’t there. And they saw my attempt to go all in as a threat to our Friday and Saturday nights. So, I heard statements like these:
“Are you really going to stop partying, getting drunk, etc.? You know there is no way you will stick to it. In two weeks, you will be back to your old self.”
And my friends were right. After a few weeks, I was back to my old self.
As long as “not that serious about God” friends are close enough to you to ask these questions, you will never give your full allegiance to God.
3) The “no ambition” friend
Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter. Francis Chan
These friends have ambition. But only toward things that don’t matter. Like completing two seasons of their favorite Netflix show in one day. If you mention Xbox, movies, the opposite sex, or the game plan for Friday and Saturday night, these friends perk up like the time I poured water on my roommate when he was sleeping.
But if you mention serving in the community, studying for a test or attending a Bible study, you might as well be talking to a brick wall.
Surround yourself with people who want to make the world a better place. Surround yourself with people who want to do well in areas that matter.
You were created in the image of God. This means you were created to learn, grow and give. You were created to make the world a better place and do things with excellence. Surround yourself with people who get this…and practice it.
4) The “attention must be on me” friend
Spotlight on me. All. The. Time. Do you have friends like this?
These friends are plagued with jealousy and bitterness. They are extremely insecure. And here’s the big one…their lives are plagued with drama. They live a real life soap opera. And most of these friends have no idea why drama always follows them.
These friends sell their souls to the gods of attention and spotlight. These gods are ruthless. They require everything. And the gods of attention and spotlight kick you to the curb for their next victim once they destroy your worth and value.
These friends are toxic because they are always takers. They take your energy. They take your joy. They take your time. And they will never celebrate your successes. They can’t. The gods of spotlight and attention won’t allow them to celebrate you. It means they take a backseat.
True friends are givers. They celebrate you. They are OK with taking a back seat to you. They listen to you. Surround yourself with givers.
5) The “everyone else is doing it” friend
If I had a nickel for every time I heard (or spoke) this phrase as a teenager and young adult, I would be writing this post from an oversized yacht in the Pacific. The “everyone else is doing it” friend justifies every action. Nothing is their fault.
“Yeah, I was doing that, but Jill made me do it.”
“Johnny actually sent the text, I just wrote it. So, it’s really his fault.”
You get the idea? Not only do these friends refuse to accept responsibility for their actions, they also refuse to stand for anything. They go with the flow. They roll with the crowd. They are influenced heavily by peer pressure. If the crowd is doing it, they are doing it.
Here’s why these friends are toxic: As they follow the crowd, they will encourage you to do so as well. As they refuse to take accept responsibility for their actions, they will encourage you to do so as well.
You need friends who are confident in their identity. They are content in Christ. They are steadfast in their convictions. Because even if you are the strong one, it only takes one moment of weakness for this friend to take you down a road you never intended to travel.
6) The “sees the worst in everything” friend
We live in a world where cynicism is the default posture of the majority. It’s rare to find someone who looks at the world through a positive lens. Even Christian leaders and preachers (myself included, at times) present God as an angry cynic who can’t wait to destroy the world.
God’s default posture is optimism. Your friends should see the world through God’s lens.
But this is not God’s default posture. He looks at the world through the lens of restoration, redemption and hope. You can’t look at the world through this lens unless you have an optimistic worldview.
Negative people are exhausting. They drain your life and enthusiasm. They leave you feeling like the world, in general, and your life, in particular, are hopeless.
If you have friendships that drive you deeper into cynicism and hopelessness, it’s time to consider ending the relationship. The world is how you see it. You can choose to see good. You can choose to see bad. Your friends should choose the former because your friends love Jesus.
Find those friends. And cling to them.
7) The “doesn’t know how to forgive” friend
These friends make a list of every person who disses them, shames them or shows them up. And they check it twice. They spend a lot of their time and energy seeking revenge. They wade in a pool of bitterness and resentment, drowning out any notion of forgiveness and grace.
“If Jesus was in my shoes, he would do the same thing!” This is a typical response from these friends.
These friends are cool with you…until you do something to belittle them. Then you go on the hit list with everyone else. Grace has a short leash. Oh, they want God to extend them grace, but they don’t believe God expects them to extend the same level of grace and forgiveness.
Find friends who model forgiveness and refuse to build a wall of bitterness over their heart. This is a rare virtue in our culture. So, if you find someone modeling gospel-centered forgiveness, hang on to them.
These words aren’t a call to cut ties with every friend who exhibits any of these qualities. Instead, I hope and pray you will seriously consider the people you allow to shape your life. The perfect friend doesn’t exist, but we shouldn’t settle when it comes to friendships. Too much is at stake.
I think about the friends in my life the night I hit bottom and the friends in my life today. When I sit down with friends today, we aren’t talking about the hottest girl, the latest gossip or how drunk we were last weekend. We talk about stuff that matters. And that almost always includes Jesus. My friends today challenge me to love my wife more intimately, love my kids more passionately and love God more fully.
Choose your friends wisely. They will impact who you are in the present and who you will become in the future.
What do you think? What qualities are important in healthy friendships? Leave a comment below and let’s continue the conversation!
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!