I asked the kids at school this morning what are some traits of good friends and this is what they said: trustworthy, uplifting, encouraging, humorous, reliable, kind.
Then I asked if anyone has ever had or currently have a negative friend? I didn’t even have to explain what I meant and almost every hand went up. It seems we have all had a friend who is always negative, who puts others down or puts themselves down. A friend who seems to be focused on complaining about things. These people tend to be very exclusive wanting to be ‘best friends’ and assigning extreme importance to that status. They can be very jealous of their friends having other friends. So we talked about practical things we can do if we find ourselves in a negative friendship:
We should first and foremost repent and seek forgiveness for our part in the relationship. We have allowed negative things to be said we may have agreed or laughed or even engaged in expressing our own frustration about others. Even though someone else may be the instigator of the negativity it is very likely we have participated in the antagonism. Secondly we should pray for our friend. We should ask for tenderness, understanding, accountability, and kindness as we deal with the issue and address it with our friend. Third we should pray for our relationship. Ultimately we want our relationships to be healthy and bring glory to God.
Encourage the value of others.
We should be happy that our friends have friends and encourage healthiness there as well. We need to make a point to speak well of our friend’s friends and discourage character assassination. Exclusivity is not healthy in friendships. The bible continually encourages fellowships implying networks of friends “a threefold cord is not quickly broken”. Always try to include others in your friendships. If we are continually trying to grow our network of friends then we are less likely to fall into negative habits.
Do not become secret bearers.
We all need to be trustworthy but nothing can destroy friendships faster than secrets. If we don’t have secrets then we can’t be betrayed by gossip. We should strive to live openly and things that don’t need to be shared shouldn’t be shared with anyone except God. If you find yourself saying “please don’t tell anyone else” then maybe you shouldn’t be talking about the subject at all. Even God says he will “bring to light the things hidden in the darkness”. Secrets create a false intimacy between people the fruit of which is selfishness. True intimacy is the sharing of life together not secrets.
Do not say ‘Bye Felicia’.
Include them. Although there may be situations when you have to cut people out of your life for a time, especially if they are unrepentant, it is much better to include negative friends with others in your life that have good healthy attitudes. Don’t tolerate their complaints but nothing is more encouraging than to be included. They may not like it and may in their flesh initially rebel. But even though they may not like sharing you with others, ultimately if they are repentant then being with other positive people will help them recover from negativity. Being a third wheel is better than not being on the tricycle.
Be honest- Be intentional.
Tell your friends that you are struggling with negativity and that you want to be more positive and ask if they will help you. Talk to your bestie about opening up your friendship to others. Invest time and energy into friends who have positive attitudes. These people may seem silly or even annoying at first but the more you get to know them you will begin to see how hard many work to be positive. “Being somber does not make you sober.” There is joy in wisdom. Be intentional about your friendships don’t let friendships just “happen” to you.
Wait a minute… that’s ME! What if you are a negative friend?
Well it all still applies: Pray and repent, allow yourself to be accountable to your friends, value others, remember how flawed you are, be intentional about your life and look for the positive thing to say.
Friends of life make great friends for life.by