Toxic friend
self-improvement,  Success

Beware the Company You Keep

Do not be misled. Bad company ruins character.
(1 Corinthians 15:33, The Bible: An American Translation, 1931).

If you are reading this blog, chances are that you have a goal you are working to achieve. If so, congratulations. It takes a special kind of determination to begin actively pursuing a goal.

Over time you may have noticed that your progress has slowed if not stopped completely. Or perhaps you want to start working on your goal but you have yet to begin.

If this is the case, you may be thinking that the problem is with you. You aren’t dedicated enough or you don’t have enough time. Perhaps you think that you were just born to be a failure.

Before you castigate yourself any further, take a look at the company you keep.

The people we surround ourselves with directly influence who we are and what we are becoming. In fact,

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Jim Rohn.

If your goal is to get in shape but your best friend is a couch potato, guess what is going to happen? Instead of hanging out at the gym doing squats, you’ll end up camping out on the couch with them watching workout videos.

If your goal is to conserve money and build wealth but your friends are perpetually broke spendthrifts, you’ll spend your time at the mall.

If you goal is to declutter your home but your best friend is a hoarder guess what? Your house will never become clean and tidy.

There is a reason for this. Your friends may like the life they lead. They may enjoy doing the things that you no longer want to do. If a clutterbug sees you cleaning your house, for instance, they may take it (consciously or unconsciously) as a judgement against their personal lifestyle choices. So deep down they aren’t going to want you to clean your home. They may not want you to improve your finances, get in shape, or go back to school. While they may encourage you to your face, deep down they want you to fail.

If you fail, they become justified because they never tried. If you fail, you will be just like them. If you fail, they will gain the opportunity to pretend to sympathize with you while they cheer inwardly.

They want you to fail because it will justify their personal failures. They will do whatever it takes to secretly derail your success.

If you have a person like that in your life, run. Unfriend them on Facebook. Block their phone number. Send their emails to the junk folder and avoid them at all costs. I don’t care if you’ve known them since preschool. It doesn’t matter if they promise to always “have your back.” Their secret goal is to keep you down at their level and they will do whatever it takes to make that happen.

I have had to do this two times in my life. Both were friends I’d had since childhood. Many years ago, the first friend decided to go ballistic after I began making some changes to my life. I dealt with their drama for ages as I tried to figure out why my writing business was spluttering.

Within months of eliminating that person from my life, I was earning enough from my writing to quit my day job. I hadn’t even realized that they were sabotaging things until years later but in hindsight the negative comments, the drama they invariably started whenever I began working on a new blog post or a book, and their insistence that I was “working too hard” formed into a barrier that was impossible to overcome until I cut them out of my life.

I recently noticed a similar pattern with another longstanding friendship. The more I worked towards my goals, the more concerned they became. “You need to stop working so hard!” They stated repeatedly. They seemed determined to keep me chatting for hours online to the point where I would have to ignore them when I was working. When I would ignore their texts, they would show up at my job since they were “in the area” around my quitting time. It would take 30 minutes to an hour to escape their litany of complaints.

I tolerated the situation. They were my friend, I reasoned.

But then I pounced upon the opportunity to go to college.

This person immediately began a series of rants concerning the subject. An unrelated rant left me with the distinct impression that they wanted me to cancel my plans to attend college since they weren’t willing or able to go as well.

I thought I was being paranoid but as the evidence continued to mount over the next few weeks I took a few days away from the friendship to clear my head.

The peace I felt was immense. I had not realized how much stress this person was adding to my life until it was gone. The difference was noticeable enough that others began to comment on my change in mood.

That helped me to realize just how unhealthy the friendship had become.

As I considered the person I want to become I realized that this was not a person I would choose to associate with in my future life. Even sadder, I realized that if I were to meet a complete stranger that was exactly like my friend tomorrow that I would want nothing to do with them or their chosen lifestyle.

I realized that the only thing we had in common any more was the time we had known each other.

It is a hard thing to lose a friend; harder still when you have to actively purge them from your life. Even so, as one must prune the diseased branches from a tree so it can flourish, we must prune away our toxic relationships if we want to grow.

Before you go to bed tonight, think about the company you keep. Do you see yourself wanting to associate with them once you reach your goals? Do they show any indications of trying to sabotage your progress through discouragement or distraction?

Do they live the life you want to live, or the life you’re leaving behind?

Do what you have to do.

Much thanks to John Grebe, author of Pray As You Can: Exploring The Diverse Nature of Christian Prayer. His donation of Bibles to my private collection helped immensely as I came to a decision in the situation described above. I received a copy of his book some time ago and I found his thoughts on prayer immensely refreshing.

REFERENCES

Maarten van Doorn. (2018). You Are The Average Of The Five People You Spend The Most Time With. Retrieved from https://medium.com/the-polymath-project/you-are-the-average-of-the-five-people-you-spend-the-most-time-with-a2ea32d08c72

I finished an excellent book today entitled The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason. It is a parable about building lasting wealth. An entertaining read, it gave me much to think about in regards to how I handle my personal finances. If your goal is to improve your finances I highly recommend it.

7 Comments

  • Carolina

    Dear Annie,

    I’m sorry to hear you ‘ve been trough this unpleasant ordeal with your ‘friend’. I tend to be very, very faithful in friendships. But truth be told: sometimes it ‘s better to let go, and I’ve had to do so serveral times. Looking back I must admit I ‘ve once been the friend that someone needed to let go of too! It hurt, but In hindsight, this person was right.

    So, well done you!! I’m sure it will be wonderful to be able to put the time and energy that certain people consumed to better use!

    Take care luv,
    Carolina

    • Annie

      I’ve been on both sides of the equation as well, Carolina. You’re right–it’s not fun to be on either side of that situation. I don’t drop friends lightly; it took a lot of thought to finally make the decision. But when I stepped back I realized just how unhealthy the situation was for both of us. Now my friend is free to live their life in a way that is pleasing to them and I am free to live my life in a way that is pleasing to me without either of us suffering.

      I hope in time that the person understands that I did this to be kind to both of us.

  • Gran

    Your post is pure wisdom. Jealousy sometimes shows in ugly head among family members, close friends and significant others. It’s always a good practice to ask oneself is this relationship healthy? Is this relationship adding joy and happiness to my life? Like you, I have had to step away and distance myself from several toxic relationships during my lifetime – even closely related family members that would die before they ever gave me a positive compliment relating to a job promotion, academic awards while I was in school etc…all while running around waving their “religious” flag. Keep up the great work. I enjoy your blog.

  • Tina

    While I agree with the wisdom of the company you keep, there is also the other side of the fence. You don’t know what was going on in that friend’s head and to make such an assumption about their motives is in error. I have made such mistakes in the past and hate to see you make the same potential mistake. There is no way for you to *know* unless you ask them. Friends are hard to come by. My point in this is yes, you have wisdom but don’t forget to look at the other side as well.

    • Annie

      Very good point, Tina. I edited the post for both privacy and brevity so some details have been omitted. I hope you will forgive me.

      That said, in my experience actions speak much louder than words in many cases; since the actions contradicted the words I went by the actions I had been consistently presented with.

  • John Grebe

    Yeah that is a sad reality at times that people change as time goes on and one or their friends change too much relative to each other, they drift out of alignment of each other as time goes on. I am glad to hear that surplus Bibles ended up being so helpful for you. That was the main reason why I wanted to get unwanted Bibles that others dumped on me to somebody that would actually put them to use instead of on a shelf gathering dust.