4 Warning Signs You're in an Unhealthy Friendship

4 Warning Signs You're in an Unhealthy Friendship

“A friend loves at all times.” Proverbs 17:17

Friendship is often seen at face value, much like this popular verse. On the surface, a friendship may look peaceful and perfect, promised to go the way it’s supposed to go, without a hitch or hiccup. We need our tribe to support us. This is often where we get it wrong. Friendships falter when we loft them above our relationship with Christ.

The entirety of Proverbs 17:17 reads, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” The definition of adversity is littered with words like “unfavorable, misfortune, clarity, distress, and unfortunate.” Adversity is a circumstance or condition. Proverbs 17:17 is speaking of a life altering, life changing, season. We are promised to many marking moments on earth, and not every friend will be active in every season. When we live life scrambling to find friends to mend the broken and shifting pieces, we fall out of alignment, and it can damage our friendships. Here are four signs of unhealthy friendship.

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  • 1. Trusting a Friend’s Advice Over God’s Word

    1. Trusting a Friend’s Advice Over God’s Word

    To cease trusting God in exchange for a friend’s advice is a huge sign of unhealthy friendship. Healthy friendships begin by looking in the mirror and seeking God daily in His Word. That is how He prepares and refines us.

    Too often we rely on our friends to build us up and tell us how we’re doing. But that’s not their job! It’s nice to hear, and it’s crucial to have encouraging friends, but when we look to them before we listen to who God says we are, we do our friends a huge disservice.

    Everyone is dealing with refinement. At times, it’s necessary to pull a friend aside, or take a godly friend’s note. However, we should not get in the habit of tasking our friends with something that rightfully belongs in God’s hands. 

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  • 2. Selfish Attitudes

    2. Selfish Attitudes

    “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedoms to indulge in the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 2:13

    God commanded us to “love one another.” Yet we are prone to revolve our day around our own needs, our social media status, our career tracts, and many other things threatening to distract our ability to see straight. When we walk out into the day self-focused with an agenda that is driven to collect compliments and accomplishments, we miss the people God has placed around us. Face outward. Replace self-consuming thoughts by noticing what’s happening in the lives God has purposefully placed around you.

    One of my daughters occasionally allows school lunchtime to ruin her entire day. A rule to keep the lunch room in order left her without any of her friends to sit with. I empathized with her angst watching other friends chat happily across other tables but reminded her to flip her perspective. “Maybe someone at that table could really use some of the love and laughter you have exude,” I told her.

    God isn’t in the business of coincidence, and He’s not likely to put us in easy and comfortable places! Inward facing attitudes do not bode well for good friendships, but the active availability to love those God places in our lives is a recipe for life changing relationships.

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  • 3. Treating People as Property

    3. Treating People as Property

    “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:12-15

    Jesus calls us friends. He knows our hearts completely, loving us so much that He sacrificed His all for us. Though our friendship with Him comes above all others, God places people in our lives purposefully as extensions of His love. However, we are not to hold onto people, treating them as permanent accessories.

    So often, we snuff out a good friendship because we can’t let go. If a friend has us feeling as if we cannot maintain other relationships alongside or separate of it, it’s unhealthy.

    Healthy boundaries are an important part of friendship. Being able to let go and learning how to guard our hearts are both important keys to a good friendship. Keep communications genuine, and our heart’s worth based in God’s opinion.

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  • 4.  Dishonesty

    4. Dishonesty

    “…be like-minded and show sympathy, love, compassion, and humility to and for each other,” 1 Peter 3:8 VOICE

    On the surface, we all claim to be honest people and empathize with our friends. But there are many times we hold back when we know an honest word might offend a friend. We keep quiet on how we really feel sometimes because we’re afraid to lose them. The basic human need to be around other people and cultivate friendships will pressure us to hide certain notes of our personalities or past in fear that no one will truly like us for who we are. It’s worth fighting through these dishonest temptations because God is going to place people in our paths to love us for who He says we are. The worry we put into wondering who we can trust with our true self belongs in His capable arms.

    What happens when we catch a friend being dishonest with us? Be honest! Start the cycle. We are painfully short on empathy in this world, but it’s our biggest ally in the fight to attain genuine friendship. Authentic friendship meets us in trying moments and lends encouragement and empathy. As Christians, we are called to forgive before we even receive an apology. Forgiveness in friendship has to be a given, but reconciliation is unfortunately not. It’s sometimes necessary to courageously form healthy boundaries in order to guard our hearts. Sending the message that we value authentic and honest friendship is OK. 

    Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ on her blog, https://sunnyand80.org.She is a stay-at-home mom, freelance writer, blogger, and author of, “Friends with Everyone …Friendship Within the Love of Christ.” She resides in Northern Ohio with her husband of eleven years, two daughters, and their Golden-doodle.

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