You have that friend. Everyone does. You’re not always sure quite why you hang out with them. Maybe it’s inertia. You’re always apologizing for them to others and steeling yourself to handle your time with them. It’s not that you mind hanging around them but, sometimes, you wonder if they take away more from your life than they add.
After turning 30, I’ve reflected on many aspects of my life, including my friendships. Who are my real friends? Who is continuing on this journey with me? My intention of doing this was to make sure make I’m investing in friendships that are meaningful and genuine.
The Scriptures speak to the need for having close and reliable friends: One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). According to the Bible, we should seek to do the following in our friendships: be loyal, (Proverbs 17:17), encouragement one another (Ephesians 4:29-32), speak the truth in love (Proverbs 27:5-6), love unconditionally (Romans 12:10), make wise choices (Proverbs 13:20) and make sure you have similar values (Proverbs 12:26,1 Corinthians15:33). The Bible offers clear examples of strong friendships: Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, Elijah and Elisha.
Just like any relationship, friendships require effort, grace, patience and time. They also require balance. You can put your all into a friendship and receive very little in return. That imbalance leads to brokenness, chaos, resentment and other negative feelings.
Of course, when starting to assess your friendships, you should begin with yourself. Are you a good friend? Do you put the other person ahead of yourself or are you always insisting on doing things your way?
We are all sinful human beings, and any friendship will take understanding and forgiveness. But at some point, a friendship can become draining, which is not healthy for either person. Here are a few ways to determine if you’re in a draining relationship. It might serve as a catalyst to discuss some of the issues in your friendship or to determine if your season is over.
Are you investing in the friendship more than your friend?
It’s extremely important to determine the importance of both people being invested in the friendship. Are you pulling your weight? Does your friend only call you when he or she wants something? One-sided friendships are frustrating and exhausting. Friendships that are defined by reciprocity are more engaging and fulfilling for both people.
Are you engrossed in your friends’ dreams so much that you’re neglecting yours?
Are you always your friend’s personal cheerleader? Friends should help friends pursue their dreams—it’s a beautiful thing. However, issues arise when friends rely on their friends too much as they pursue their dreams. There should be a healthy dose of both friends helping one another along the journey to their dreams.
Do you always have to think twice about what to say around your friend?
Friendship requires the balance of respecting your friend’s boundaries and being able to be yourself. True friendships allow for friends to be their “authentic” selves. If you constantly feel that the need to tiptoe around topics or replay in your mind what not to say then you should perhaps re-evaluate that friendship or directly talk through what it is that makes you feel that way.
Does your friend complain a lot but is not willing to make any changes?
There are some people who don’t want to take your advice even after you’ve talked about it numerous times. They know what they should do, but they enjoy rehashing their circumstances to no avail. This isn’t to say your friend should always exactly follow your advice. Not every issue is cut and dry, and often things should be talked through numerous times.
But when complaining takes the place of any sort of action, listening to a friend struggle with an issue after numerous attempts to advise him or her is draining. At some point, you should decide if you’re going to “table” that particular topic or determine if you want to continue in a friendship.
These questions are just a few guidelines, so they shouldn’t be viewed as the ultimate test of a friendship. Just like any relationship, friendships can be difficult. They require sacrifices from both people involved, and they shouldn’t be dropped just because your friend can be hard to deal with—if that were the case, none of us would have any friends. But there is a point when friendships can cross the line from healthy to draining, and sometimes it’s worth examining whether it’s time—for your sake and your friend’s—to step back or move on.