Seven Considerations for Challenging Friends

Seven Considerations for Challenging Friends

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God did not create all friends equally. You have some friends you want in your inner circle because they are biblically mature and reciprocating. Perhaps there are others that you must keep at arm’s length because they are tedious and require more work to maintain. This second group is unidirectional friends—acquaintances who cannot speak into your life, making it a one-way street: you always serve them. If you have a challenging friend, here are seven considerations.

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1: Do You Need Them

Does this person have something that you need? I’m loosely using the word need. Of course, you don’t need them in the strictest sense, but we can elevate people to a place where they control us. We call it the fear of man when we want something from them, e.g., “I need you to accept me.”

2: Friend Groups

Friendships fall into two broad groups: those who do the will of God and those who don’t. Within each group are “degrees of closeness.” Jesus had many friends who did God’s will but were not in His innermost bubble. I have friends who love God but do not have equal access to me. I have friends who don’t do the will of God; they are at different “lengths” from me.

3: Reciprocal Friends

Your closest friends must reciprocate regarding transparency, honesty, and truth-telling. There must be reciprocal benefits within your most intimate relationships. If a person is unwilling to meet you where you are and contribute similarly, they cannot be in your inner circle of friends.

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4: Transparent Friends

Many people have a hard time being honest about themselves. They talk about other people but are unwilling to turn the spotlight on themselves—in appropriate and biblical ways. You do not want that kind of person in your inner circle. That is not a reciprocal friend but someone you must lead.

5: Draining Friends

You have to determine how many “consuming” friends you want in your life. Here are five things to help determine how many draining friends you want.

  • Is God leading you to serve this person?
  • Do you have a consistent context to speak into this person’s life?
  • Is this person open to your care?
  • What is the purpose of this relationship?
  • Are you aware this person may never change?

6: Learn to Say “No.”

Learn the importance of saying “no” to those who want into your inner bubble. Jesus was willing not to meet everyone’s expectations. He would hurt a person’s feelings if it were for their ultimate good. He rebuked Peter. He did not meet Mary and Martha’s expectations. He told the rich young ruler the hard truth.

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7: Control Your Time and Space

You are in charge of your time and space. Do not give control of these things to others. Do not let people manage your calendar, mental space, time, values, and priorities. You must carefully steward your life, or you will be full of noisy people. I’m not saying you should be rude, but you must steward your soul and practical life. If you don’t, someone else will.

Call to Action

  1. Do you have annoying friends? How do you think of them—self-righteously or with pity?
  2. Do any of these friends control you? If so, why do you let it happen? In what specific way will you change?
  3. Review my list and rank the most common ones regarding your challenging friends. Will you speak with someone in your inner circle about this and seek their help?

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