10 Toxic Behaviors to Be Wary of in Friendships

10 Toxic Behaviors to Be Wary of in Friendships

Webster’s dictionary defines a friend as “one attached to another by affection or esteem.” Thus friendship is “the state of being friends.” Friendships are important to Christians because they are important to God. God called Abraham His friend. And even Jesus calls us friends. I always say that all Christians are my brothers and sisters-in-Christ, but they aren’t automatically my friends. We can’t choose our brothers and sisters-in-Christ, just like we can’t pick our relatives. However, we can choose our friends. Unfortunately, some people choose friends who bring with them toxic behaviors and attitudes that only wear themselves and their friends down. Here 10 toxic behaviors to be careful of, and the different ways they might appear in relationships.

“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” (Proverbs 27:17 KJV)

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  • 1. Gossip

    1. Gossip

    “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.” (Proverbs 11:13)

    Whatever we tell our friends should stay between us. I have confidence that whatever I share with my friend, it won’t go any further. Some women believe they need to tell their husbands everything. My friends and I hold our secrets between the Lord and us. If she tells me something in confidence, she can rest assured my husband won’t find out about it. If you desire to have healthy friendships, you must learn to keep your friends’ secrets. 

  • 2. Competition (or Covetousness)

    2. Competition (or Covetousness)

    “Nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:10)

    My friend, Alissa, is one of the best singers I have ever heard. Her voice can make angels weep. Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but she really does have a beautiful voice. Although I wish I could sing like her, I am not jealous of her singing gift. And she isn’t jealous of my teaching gift. We are one another’s best cheerleaders. Competition is rooted in pride. Pride will prevent you from enjoying the gifts God gave to them. If you have a jealous or covetous spirit, ask the Holy Spirit to heal you so you can enjoy your friend’s gifts and contributions to the body of Christ. 

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  • 3. Anger

    3. Anger

    “An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.” (Proverbs 29:22)

    Have you ever met someone who always seems angry or mad? You tend to walk on eggshells around them because you don’t know what is going to set them off. And you can’t predict what they will do when they’re angry. Sort of like the Incredible Hulk, they can be nice when they’re in a good mood, but when they’re mad, watch out. Friendship with an angry person is one filled with drama, negativity, and uncertainty. You cannot heal an angry individual. They need help from the Lord. And they may need help from a therapist. Be careful being in a friendship with an angry person. 

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  • 4. Abuse

    4. Abuse

    “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and truth." (1 John 3:18, NIV)

    One cannot discuss anger without discussing abuse, hostility, and aggression. Being verbally or physically assaulted (slapped, pushed, punched, etc.) isn’t normal and has no place in any relationship. Passive aggressive behaviors have no place in friendships either. Depending on how long you’ve been friends with this type of person, you may not realize they’re exhibiting aggressive behaviors. Or, because of your past, their behavior may seem reasonable to you. Being abused isn’t normal and should never be tolerated. If you’re the one exhibiting aggressive behavior, ask the Lord to help you overcome it because it is wicked and it’s not pleasing to God. 

  • 5. Dishonesty

    5. Dishonesty

    “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices.” (Colossians 3:9)

    Dishonest people cannot be trusted. These are people who promise to do something but then never follow through. Friends should be able to depend upon one another. When one of the parties in a friendship isn’t dependable, it makes the friendship difficult. And someone who blatantly lies makes friendship impossible. The Bible commands us not to lie to one another (Colossians 3:9). The dishonest person not only sabotages their relationships, but they’re also walking in disobedience toward God. 

  • 6. Critical or Judgmental Spirit

    6. Critical or Judgmental Spirit

    “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)

    When I’m teaching Bible study and am about to make a confession, I always say, “This is a judgment-free zone, correct?” Your friendships should be judgment-free zones too. However, a person with a critical or judgmental attitude is a difficult person to befriend. Why? Because you can’t do anything right in their eyes. They will criticize your clothes, home, children, spouse, marriage, career, vacation plans, everything. And they usually do so because they are unhappy with themselves. Friendships should encourage, motivate, and inspire. Friendships should add to your life, making it better. Friendships that drain you aren’t friendships at all. And critical people will certainly drain you. If you’re the critical person in the friendship, STOP it. Repent before God and apologize to your friend. She deserves better. 

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  • 7. Selfishness

    7. Selfishness

    “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

    Webster’s dictionary defines selfishness as “the quality or state of being selfish: a concern for one’s own welfare or advantage at the expense of or in disregard of others: excessive interest in oneself.” The selfish person doesn’t show any concern for anyone else but themselves. Being in a relationship with a selfish person is difficult. They won’t ask how you’re doing, and even if they do ask, they will turn the conversation back to themselves and what they’re doing or going through. The selfish person filters your conversations through their own needs, plans, purposes, and agendas. All relationships are give-and-take. Friendship with a selfish person will be all-giving. You won’t receive much in return. Selfish people can also be needy people. 

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  • 8. Neediness

    8. Neediness

    “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)

    Being in a relationship with a needy person is exhausting. These are the people who always have a need and they’re always demanding that you meet their needs. These needs can range from financial to emotional support. If you’re not careful, a needy person will sap the life out of you. And they won’t care nor understand how their neediness affects you. If you’re the needy friend, it’s time to take a step back and ask the Lord to heal you. You’re looking to your friends to satisfy something that only God can fulfill. And you’re tiring out your friends in the process. 

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  • 9. Withholding Forgiveness

    9. Withholding Forgiveness

    “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

    Everyone messes up. Everyone sins. Everyone forgets birthdays, anniversaries, and events. It’s normal because we’re human. Friends forgive one another. Friendships that harbor grudges are ticking time bombs. The person withholding forgiveness in her heart will eventually let it out. And when she does, it can lead to the abuse we discussed above. The unforgiving person wants her friend to pay for the real or perceived offense. Unfortunately, the payment will never be sufficient. Forgiveness is key to healthy, thriving friendships. If you are the person holding back forgiveness, you must forgive. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. Discuss the offense with your friend, forgive, and then move on. 

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  • 10. Easily Offended

    10. Easily Offended

    “Love... is not provoked.” (1 Corinthians 13:5)

    Everyone gets offended every once in a while. However, I’ve come across people who are offended by everything, all the time. These people are extra sensitive. Their sensitivity causes you to monitor everything you do and say. Although we’re called to love sensitive people, it’s difficult to be in a friendship with them because you can’t be yourself. You’ll find yourself continually explaining and apologizing for things you didn’t realize offended them. If you’re the friend who is easily offended, pray and ask the Lord to heal you. Also, please remember that your friend isn’t a therapist.

    Special note: While friends discuss many things, we can do more harm than good when we try to step into the role of counselor or therapist. Many people have deep-seated issues that a Christian counselor should help them resolve.

    The key to all these toxic behaviors and attitudes is love. The Bible does a wonderful job explaining what love truly is: Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails... (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)

    Let us love one another. If friends truly loved one another, we wouldn’t fall into the trap of being toxic in any of our relationships. 

    Aretha Grant serves her local church as a Bible teacher and elder. She loves writing and is the author of Overcomer: 25 Keys to Walking VictoriouslyAretha resides in Hagerstown, MD with her husband and two youngest children. You can read Aretha’s blog at www.arethagrant.com.

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