Toxic friends. How do you know you have them? I mean, you feel their negative influence, but you ignore it because you all have been friends for a while. You know that you need to do something about your relationship with them, but you don’t know what you should do. How do you recognize toxic friends and what do you do about them?
Toxic friends have a certain emotional and psychological gait. They position themselves in your life and they leave you drained, angry, suspicious doubting your judgment and having second thoughts about your relationship with them. They unintentionally and sometimes intentionally prevent you from experiencing purpose in your life. Toxic friends can lead you astray – from worship, friendship with God and friendship with others. How do we know we have toxic friends? What are some clear signs?
Signs You Have Toxic Friends
- They Are Selfish/Self-Absorbed
Every other word out of their mouths is my, I, and what about me. Their selfie show seems to overshadow you in every way. You pour out your heart, and it never fails, the conversation always seems to come back around to them and their issues. They dominate the conversation with their sorrows, their pain, and their drama. They never ask you about your day or what’s happening in your life. If they do, it’s so that they can get to what’s going on in theirs. When you want to talk about what’s going on in your life, just for a minute, they either trump your issue with their problems, or they call you selfish. Relationships should be: give and take, push and pull, and mutual sharing with one another. But, if your friends are self-absorbed and are always talking about themselves, then you might have a toxic friendship.
- They Pressure You to Sin or Make Unwise Choices
Why does it seem you make the most ungodly and unwise decisions around them? It seems when you are around them, they pressure you to do things that are either sinful, uncomfortable or unwise. Sometimes, you give in and you make decisions with dire consequences. However, if you don’t give into the pressure, then you are made to feel like a guilty loser. When a so-called friend pressures or forces you to do something that is sinful or unwise, that friendship is probably toxic.
- They Are Chronic Complainers
Another sign of a toxic friend is someone who is a constant complainer. “Woe is me” is the eternal song of people who might be toxic friends. They complain about everything – weather, traffic, their jobs, their parents, their co-workers, slow, but free WIFI, and a host of other things. They always have a headache, backache, and a foot ache. Their aches have aches. Toxic friends grumble and have a grievance about everything. These people are like Ee-or or Glum in your life. They weigh you down with complaint after complaint. When they walk into the room, you can hear the Debbie Downer music.
- They Are Envious/Jealous/Competitive
A third sign that you might have toxic friends is that they are envious, jealous and competitive. You feel like you have to cover up your good news and happiness because your friend will be jealous, envious or harmful. Moreover, if you share your good news, your friends feel like they have to compete with you with better news. They cannot rejoice when you rejoice. Friends should be able to share in your success and excitement. If your friends cannot genuinely be happy for you, you probably have toxic friends.
- They Are Gossipers/Underminers
People who talk to you about others, more than likely are talking to other people about you. Gossipers separate close friends with negative talk. Gossipers are cowards. They don’t have enough emotional muscle to approach you to have a crucial and courageous conversation. Gossip undermines and robs a person of social capital, and it plants seeds of doubt about you in other people’s minds. It is much healthier to talk TO people with whom you have issues rather than talking ABOUT someone with whom you have issues.
- They Are Self-Righteous
The sixth sign of toxic friends is self-righteousness and judgmentalism. When individuals in your life think they are morally superior, they tend to look down on others – even you. These people seem to recognize how wrong you are and how right they are. This is a sign of toxicity. Individuals who are always holding others to a morally higher standard that they cannot and will not attain are self-righteous and hypocritical. These people want grace when they fail, but have little grace when others fail or don’t live up to a certain standard.
- They Are Unreliable
Unreliability is the quality of a person or thing that cannot be trusted or relied upon. The Book of Proverbs says in Proverbs 25:19 that unreliable friends are like broken teeth and lame feet – they cannot be trusted in the time of trouble. When life serves up a cold dish of pain, with a side of suffering, you need friends you can trust to practice the ministry of presence. If they consistently expect you to be there for them, but they are never there for you, then you probably have toxic friends.
Why It Is Difficult to Leave Toxic Friendships
Why is is so hard to dump toxic friends? The same reason it is hard to get out of any dysfunctional relationship – there is something compelling about the familiar. Also, because, in the past, we have been made to feel guilty for thinking about leaving the relationship. Or, if we dissolve the relationship, then it’s our fault for ruining the friendship.
How To Deal with Toxic Friends
Confront the person
Sometimes, friends are simply unaware of what they are doing. So, we should have the tough conversation with them about their toxic behavior. The way you confront them matters. It should be gentle but firm. The person might become angry, but if the individual is truly a friend, they will receive your constructive feedback and seek to change their behavior. If they fail to change, then you have to take other steps. Now, remember, love should be the motive behind any confrontation.
Downgrade the friendship
If the person’s toxicity is too much for you to handle, then you must make the decision to move them from your inner circle to your outer circle. They simply cannot be privy to the intimate parts of your life anymore. Unfortunately, they become acquaintances and not close friends. I know this might be difficult, but it is a necessary ending if you want to maintain a modicum of sanity and emotional health.
Limit your time
Limiting your time with this person is a by-product of downgrading the relationship. The less time you spend with the person, the less likely they will negatively affect your life. Limiting your time with your friends might receive a large amount of criticism, but you have to remember you are making this move for your own emotional and psychological health.
Remove the person from your life
Sometimes, toxins become cancerous, and the only way to handle the issue is to remove it surgically. If the relationship is emotionally unhealthy, you might have to make one of the toughest calls in your life – cut the person out of your life. Now, this is the last resort and it should be done with dignity, honor, and grace. If the individual is causing permanent emotional damage to you, then you need to distance yourself from her. Your future and destiny and sanity are more important than hanging on to a relationship that is more poisonous than positive.
God created us for relationships. These relationships should be a source of encouragement and safety, not bastions of danger and toxicity. When you’re in a great friendship, it blesses you emotionally and spiritually. But toxic friendships are sickening. Friends are supposed to add to your life, not take away from it.
What other signs or markers of toxic friends would you add to the list?