When Should You End a Friendship?

Craig Groeschel on why boundaries aren’t a bad thing.

Think about your relatives for a moment. Who is the difficult one in yourfamily? Yes, every family has one, a psycho, tough-to-deal-with sort ofderanged person who makes life challenging for everyone around them.They may be angry or silly, defensive or detached, petty or delusional,shrill or sullen, whiny or saccharine, bitter or baffling, critical orindulgent—or all of the above!

Based on my experiences and observations, I see three common types of toxicpeople. They can be found in most any family, office, church orneighborhood.

The chronic critics. These are the people who can find fault in everything — and I do meaneverything. The chronically negative person wears on you, dragging youdown day by negative day. Their criticism is never constructive. Theirjudgmental spirit clogs your heart. Their gossip infects your opinion of others. Some have the spiritual gift of encouragement; these peoplehave the unholy gift of complaining.

The controller. Controllers are overbearing, forcing their way and opinions upon youregardless of your will. It might seem small and insignificant at first — going to their favorite restaurant or movie. Before long they arechoosing your college, your girlfriend, and your future career. Ifyou’re married to a controller, you might feel like you are losing yourpersonal identity. You’re barely able to make even the simplestdecisions for yourself, always surrendering to avoid a fight. Yourspouse knows how to manipulate, wielding fear and guilt as weapons thatthreaten your soul. Controllers may have good intentions, but theirdarts are poisonous.

The tempter. This type encourages you to do things that you know you shouldn’t and maynot normally even want to do. It might be your boyfriend who pushes youto do things sexually, although you’ve made it clear that you’d rathersave that for marriage. Or it might be your buddy who smokes two packs a day and lures you back into the old destructive lifestyle you fought so valiantly to leave behind. It could be your rich friend who lives formaterial things. Though you know there is more to life than possessions, each time you’re close to your blingy-friend, you crave what she has.

Good Fences

If you’re becoming aware of a toxic relationship with potential to poisonyour life, don’t panic. The good news is that God’s Word is full oflife-giving examples and instructions on how to love your friends andfamily back to health. First, we begin by learning to set healthyboundaries.

Our boundaries will help us to enjoy the good people without inhaling thebad. If you think that sounds unnecessary, realize that even Jesusregularly set boundaries. Our Savior loved everyone equally, but Hedidn’t treat everyone equally. There’s a big difference. For example,Jesus recruited twelve disciples, not twelve hundred or twelve thousand. Although He loved the whole world with the same godlike unconditionallove, He didn’t select everyone in the whole world to be in His innercircle.

You may also notice that when Jesus entered a village, crowds gatheredhoping for miracles. Jesus often healed a handful of people, but Hedidn’t always heal everyone’s needs. With some people, He made Hisboundaries explicitly clear, especially with the Pharisees. Jesus fenced some out, placing boundaries for higher purposes.

Even those closest to Jesus hit a wall every now and then. When Jesus’friend and disciple Peter tried to talk Jesus out of giving His life,Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are astumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, butmerely human concerns” (Matt. 16:23). No one could distract Jesus fromGod’s agenda, not even His followers.

Cut to the Quick

If you try faithfully to establish healthy boundaries with a toxic personand the person continues to abuse, criticize, threaten, tempt or harmyou, it’s time to cut off the toxic relationship. The right thing to dois sever the relationship to protect yourself.

To be crystal clear, I’m not talking about divorcing your spouse. If you are having a tough time in your marriage, don't run into the bedroom shouting, "You're toxic so I'm leaving you!" Instead, call your pastor or a Christian counselor andwork on your marriage.

I’m also not talking about cutting off one of your family members. It mustbreak God’s heart how often a parent writes off a child or a siblingstops speaking to another. With the exception of extreme abuse, mostproblems can be resolved.

But if we can’t redefine the relationship and it becomes increasinglydangerous, we must cut off the relationship. Genesis 39 shows us a great example as Joseph faithfully and loyally served his master, Potiphar.He did anything the family needed, until Potiphar’s wife crossed a lineand made a move on Joseph. The story says, “She caught him by his cloakand said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he left his cloak in her hand andran out of the house” (Gen. 39:12).

Notice Joseph didn’t stick around to share his faith with the seductive wife.He didn’t stop and hold hands with her to share a prayer. Instead, hegot out of Dodge. He severed, cut off, and ended whatever type ofrelationship they had.

Once you’ve tried and tried and tried but failed to detox a toxic friend, it’s time to clear out so you can heal.

As we mature both spiritually and with age, ending relationships shouldbecome more and more uncommon. The most important thing to remember isthe why. If you ever have to distance yourself from someone toxic, theonly reason is to protect yourself so you can be spiritually strong,know God intimately, and share His love. You must be spiritually healthy if you want to bring God’s healing love to a world of sick people.

Taken from Soul Detox by Craig Groeschel. Copyright 2012 by Craig Groeschel. Used by permission of Zondervan.


Adeleina Loto-Meleisea


Adeleina Loto-Meleisea commented…

Hey Erin,

That was probably the most useful post (for myself) yet.

Thanks for letting God speak through you,



AskApril.com commented…

When a relationship is no longer beneficial, it's time to end.


wanderluster commented…

Forgive me if I'm misunderstanding the article, but are we as believers supposed to avoid any relationship with "toxic" people? If so, how do we tangibly love them? Are you saying it's appropriate to be estranged from some people? Is it possible to love people from afar and not be personally involved in their lives? I'm having a hard time reconciling this idea.


Tobi commented…

You must always love people but the first commandment that fulfills ALL commandments is Love God with all your heart, soul, might and strength. Then Love your neighbour. If the latter comes in direct compromise to the first, then it must be killed because it is now a sin. My sister also pointed out to me that if you also look at the first commandment in the old testament it was "You shall have no other gods or idols before me" God takes being first VERY SERIOUSLY and He is worthy and rightfully deserves to.

I'm sure you're aware of "If it causes you to sin, cut it off" This is not being unloving to the person, this is protecting your love for God which again is the most importantRead Matthew 10:34-39, Jesus said "...I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother...whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me..."(Read whole verse please). It is because Jesus Christ knows the anatomy of the heart and if God is not first within a human, that human is already compromised and the devil will work. "The heart of man is desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9)

In conclusion Read Revelation Chapter 2:1-5 - After all the impressive things that God stated about this church, He said they were without their first love(First commandment both in the old and new covenant) and if they don't repent He will remove their lamp stand. Your Love for others MUST only come from Your love for God and never without.

Grace and Peace to you sir
For His Glory always


Tobi commented…

The word beneficial makes me conclude that you're in that relationship for selfish gain unless you want to explain the term beneficial within context. Maybe I'm taking it out of context. It should be more about if the relationship is instigating and awakening sinful desires that you should be killing. Otherwise, if it's not doing any of those (AKA threatening your love for God), then you should never give up on the person...ever

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