“Bad company corrupts good morals,” writes the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. But the words never applied to me. Or so I thought.
For too long, I allowed the actions of bad friends to influence the man God created me to be. Looking back, I realize my naivety. Paul’s words did apply to me. The truth is, who you choose to spend most of your time with will shape your life.
Your friends can challenge you to achieve things you never imagined. But, if you let them, your friends can also cripple your dreams.
This isn’t a call to cut ties with every friend who exhibits any of the following qualities. But you should seriously consider the people you allow to shape you. The perfect friend doesn’t exist, but you should make sure you’re not letting these types of friends be the primary influences in your life (and make sure you’re not one of these types of friends):
The “Tells You What You Want to Hear” Friend
These friends say exactly what you want them to say. They do exactly what you want them to do. To put it bluntly, they’re groupies, not friends. Groupies think their respective group, player, etc. hung the moon.
These friends don’t really love you. They are infatuated with something you have: Popularity. Looks. Athleticism. But they aren’t concerned with pointing you to God and challenging you to be the best man or woman you can be.
Close friends who love you and want you to succeed will point out your inconsistencies. They don’t enjoy doing this. But, with love and grace, they step into difficult conversations because they can’t bear to watch you continue down a path that might lead to destruction.
The “No Ambition” Friend
As Francis Chan once said, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”
These friends have ambition. But only toward things that don’t matter—like completing two seasons of their favorite Netflix show in one day. If you mention Xbox, movies, the opposite sex or the game plan for Friday and Saturday night, these friends perk up like the time I poured water on my roommate when he was sleeping.
But if you mention serving in the community, studying for a test, or attending a Bible study, you might as well be talking to a brick wall.
Surround yourself with people who want to make the world a better place. Surround yourself with people who want to do well in areas that matter.
The “Attention Must Be On Me” Friend
Spotlight on me. All. The. Time. Do you have friends like this?
These friends are plagued with jealousy and bitterness. They are extremely insecure. And here’s the big one: their lives are full of drama. They live a real-life soap opera. And most of these friends have no idea why drama always follows them.
Here’s why: These friends sell their souls to the gods of attention and spotlight. These gods are ruthless. They require everything. And the gods of attention and spotlight kick you to the curb for their next victim once they destroy your worth and value.
These friends are toxic because they are always takers. They take your energy. They take your joy. They take your time. And they will never celebrate your successes. They can’t. The gods of spotlight and attention won’t allow them to celebrate you. It means they take a backseat.
True friendship is a process of both give and take. Friends should be able to celebrate you. They should be OK with sometimes taking a back seat to you. They should be willing to listen to you.
The “Everyone Else is Doing It” Friend
The “everyone else is doing it” friend justifies every action. Nothing is their fault.
“Yeah, I was doing that, but Jill made me do it.”
“Johnny actually sent the text, I just wrote it. So, it’s really his fault.”
You get the idea? Not only do these friends refuse to accept responsibility for their actions, they also refuse to stand for anything. They go with the flow. If the crowd is doing it, they are doing it.
Here’s why these friends are toxic: As they follow the crowd, they will encourage you to do so, as well. As they refuse to take accept responsibility for their actions, they will encourage you to do the same.
You need friends who are confident in their identity and convictions, because it only takes one moment of weakness for this friend to take you down a road you never intended to travel.
The “Sees the Worst in Everything” Friend
We live in a world where cynicism is the default posture of the majority. It’s rare to find someone who looks at the world through a positive lens. Even Christian leaders and preachers (myself included, at times) present God as an angry cynic who can’t wait to destroy the world.
But this is not God’s default posture. He looks at the world through the lens of restoration, redemption and hope. You can’t look at the world through this lens unless you have an optimistic worldview.
Negative people are exhausting. They drain your life and enthusiasm. They leave you feeling like the world, in general—and your life, in particular—is hopeless.
If you’re spending a lot of time around friends who drive you deeper into cynicism and hopelessness, it may be time to consider scaling back those relationships.
The “Doesn’t Know How to Forgive” Friend
These friends make a list of every person who disses them, shames them, or shows them up. They spend a lot of their time and energy seeking revenge. They wade in a pool of bitterness and resentment, drowning out any notion of forgiveness and grace.
These friends are cool with you until you do something to belittle them. Then you go on the hit list with everyone else. Grace has a short leash. They want God to extend them grace, but they don’t believe God expects them to extend the same level of grace and forgiveness.
Find friends who model forgiveness and refuse to build a wall of bitterness over their heart. This is a rare virtue in our culture. So, if you find someone modeling Gospel-centered forgiveness, hang on to them.
Choose your close friends wisely. They will impact who you are in the present and who you will become in the future.
An earlier version of this article appeared at frankpowell.me. Used here with permission.