Have you ever had a friend who made you feel like you were a secret agent superhero goddess? Someone who made you feel like a rock star drama queen, a gold-medalist in joke-telling, fashion, beauty, and mischief-making? And then you land back on earth: ker-PLUNK. Who was that girl back there? So bold, so loud, so…not me? And yet, you find yourself craving that friend who gave you that feeling, like a rock star craves her screaming fans, a reality TV star loves a camera, or let’s face, like a drug addict needs a hit. This friendship has become toxic, its addictive properties worse than nicotine or meth. It’s the high caused by a flattering, adoring friend who enables you to become the worst version of yourself.
The beginning of the new school year is a crucial time in your friendships: it’s a time to let toxic ones fade away, and to nurture the ones that strengthen you. Seek out friends that provoke you to think, to be disciplined, to love more, to do hard things.
Don’t get me wrong, a good friend should make you feel great about yourself, should encourage you, and should sometimes be your cheerleader. But a true friend also makes you stronger, and that’s not always an easy proceess. A true friend will tell you when you’re being an idiot, or when you’re making a bad decision, or when you need to do better.
The wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, once wrote the proverb: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). God wants us to make each other stronger, better able to fulfill our purpose in life: to love God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
The sharpening process is not something that gives you that rock star high that toxic friendships provide: it can be uncomfortable and challenging. Not unlike the Christian walk itself: the apostle Paul compares it to running a race, a lifelong marathon, so our friends should be people who make us more discipined in our training. How do they do that? By being disciplined in their own marathon, so that you are motivated to keep up. A good friend is a dedicated Christian, strong in the areas where you are weak, so that when you fall, she’ll pick you up, and when she falls, you’ll be there for her.
A true friend might also hurt you sometimes, when you need it, the same way a trainer pushes an athlete until her muscles ache so badly the next day she can barely move. A friend will break you down to make you stronger: like Solomon said, the wounds of a friend are faithful (Proverbs 27:6).
Take some time at the beginning of this school year to evaluate your friendships: which ones challenge you to be better, and which ones make you feel like you’re already the best? Ditch the girls who encourage you to do bad things, and hang out with the ones who provoke you to do hard things. These friends’ love doesn’t give you a temporary high; it pushes you toward an eternal one.
So let’s open up: What have you found yourself doing because of a toxic friendship? What have you had to do to end one? What do your ironclad friends do for you and your spiritual walk?