Toxic friendships can bring out the worst in people. Navigating life is hard, but if you have unhealthy friendships, it can be even more difficult. Here is a checklist to help you quickly determine whether or not your friendships are healthy (see also 3 Ways to be a More Likable Person).
1. Do you feel happy and encouraged after talking to them?
I used to have a friend who was a real downer. Every time I talked to him, I found that my outlook on the world temporarily changed. Hours after speaking to him, I would still be consumed with the sad state of the world and how my problems seemed irreversible. This particular friend’s solemn outlook on life and poor advice left me feeling drained. He talked much more about the scope of humanity’s problems than God’s ability to fix those problems. He was not a healthy friend.
It’s imperative you feel refreshed and encouraged after talking to a friend. If your friend is always insulting you, or making the world feel like a dark and unbearable place, it’s time for you to walk away. Good friends will inspire and motivate you to be a better person and a strong follower of Christ. Good friends will lovingly tell you if you need to fix an aspect of your life or modify your attitude.
However, it’s important to remember you shouldn’t exclude people from your life because they do not meet your standards. Christ calls us to love everyone, and reach out to those who are sad and broken. Never shun or exclude people because they are not “good enough.” Finding healthy friends is merely a matter of choosing the right people to be close to versus acquainted with.
2. Do you bring out the best in each other?
In middle school, I had friends who gossiped . . . a lot. Gossiping isn’t only a sin, it’s soul crushing. Have you ever noticed how bad you feel after talking about someone behind their back? This is because gossip is a toxic and bitter action, contaminating the lives of both yourself and those around you.
A good friend will be a conversation partner with whom you can talk about your hopes, dreams, philosophies, aspirations, and opinions. Favorable friends provide healthy and wholesome conversation, instead of negative gossip (see Why a Christian Should Learn to Listen). True friends motivate you to be a better person and inspire you to “do more” instead of letting life pass you by.
3. How does your relationship affect those around you?
I am not condoning watching “Mean Girls,” but if you have, consider this: The girls featured in the movie were engaged in unhealthy friendships. They brought out the worst in one another, hurting each other and those around them. You may notice the mean girls at your school do the same thing. A bad relationship is often a cycle of two people bringing out the worst in one another, therefore hurting those around them.
Conversely, if your relationship brings good things to those around you, you have a healthy friendship. If people are helped when they encounter you and your friend, the relationship is thriving. It’s important to remember a friendship should never be “clicky,” making others feel like outsiders. A good friendship includes and encourages others.
There you have it. Three tips to check whether or not your friendships are healthy. Use this checklist whenever you are in doubt about a friend’s role in your life. By picking the right friends, you will be working toward a bright future and protecting yourself from the pain a bad relationship can bring.