Rachel. Monica. Phoebe. Ross. Joey. Chandler.

The iconic characters from the 90s sitcom “F.R.I.E.N.D.S” have shaped the way many of us see life in our twenties and thirties. I’ve always wanted to have friends like that – ones that have your back no matter what.

Unfortunately, most of the time this isn’t the case. As much as we love our friends, they’re human beings who will mess up and hurt us.

But how can we tell the difference between a good friend who has made mistakes and a genuinely toxic friendship?

  1. Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future

I’ve been a youth leader for close to a decade, and the above quote is one we repeat to our young people as often as possible. It’s important to understand that those we surround ourselves with have an immeasurable impact on our lives. Science says that we are the average of the five people closest to us. When trying to figure out whether or not a friendship is a healthy one, consider if you would like to be like your friends. Are they leading you towards abundant life or away from it?

  • The Take-Away

Spending quality time with friends is much like eating a good meal. It can either be absolutely delicious, fill you up with joy, and nourish your soul or it can leave you feeling uncomfortable and frustrated.

Some friendships can be like junk food – it tastes good in the moment but ends up with us feeling regret. When you walk away from spending time with your friends, how do you feel? Do you feel negative, pulled down and guilty or do you feel rejuvenated, encouraged and refreshed?

Spending time with those closest to us should be a joy, not a trial. That’s not to say that its always going to be sunshine and roses – tough times will always come – but the general feeling should be one of joy.

Friendship is a gift, they are God-created and God-intended. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV) we read that

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”

This scripture shows us one of the reasons that we have friends – they help us up! But what if the person pushing you down in the first place is your “friend’?

That’s a cause to seriously re-examine your friendship. If somebody is purposefully hurting you, you may want to rethink having them in your life. While “cancelling friendships” is controversial – it is sometimes necessary under particular friendships. If a friend has made some mistakes, hurt you or themselves and is going through a difficult time – that is NOT a reason to “cancel” a friendship. We are all human and we all mess up from time to time – that’s why we show people the same grace that Jesus showed to us.

However, if a friend is having a continuous and on-going negative impact on your life, it might be the time to put in healthy distance and boundaries. Oftentimes, we put this off for fear of being alone. Nobody wants to be without friends or suffer from loneliness, and the good news is that you don’t have to!

When we accept Jesus as our Lord, we are never truly alone. God is with us wherever we go. In Deuteronomy 31:6 we read:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave your or forsake you.”

So remember, you are never alone and it is God’s desire that you have friendships that lift you up and lead you closer to Him!