All the time on Instagram and Tumblr you see quotes saying things like “Friends will help you up when you fall down, but best friends will laugh at you and say, ‘Walk much, dummy?’” Or “Friends will bail you out of jail, but best friends will be in the cell next to you saying, ‘Dang, that was awesome!’” The real question is, do you want your best friends to be people who laugh at you, insult you or maybe even convince you to do something that would land you in prison? Wouldn’t you rather be friends with the people who care for you, ask if you’re okay and try to help you do what’s best for you?
It’s easy to write these almost-insults off as terms of endearment or a testimony to the depth of your friendship—like sisters, right? But it’s not always that easy. Sometimes those things really hurt, and sometimes those things hit a little too close to home. Sometimes our friends make comments about our race, social status, economic situation and other serious matters. You’re friends though, so you know they love you and don’t really mean it. They’re just joking… right? It’s hard to be sure.
Friends are meant to build you up, not break you down. The Bible says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). Your friends should challenge you to be the best person you can be, make you laugh, be supportive and let you cry—not make you cry. Finding good friends isn’t easy. Your best friends in fifth grade might not be your best friends in tenth grade. Your core friend group from high school may split up all over the country for college or work. You’ll all meet new people every single day, and those people may become good friends, or they may only be with you for this season of life. Sometimes these new friendships will strengthen the bonds you have with your old friends. The kinds of relationships you have in college will undoubtedly be different than the ones you have from home. The people you meet at school will probably have similar interests as you, or you may live on the same dorm hall or you may just pass each other on your way to class. With the amount of change that happens throughout middle school, high school and college, it’s easy to see how difficult it is to find those really good, lifelong friends. The friends who bring you down by saying hurtful things, even if they say they’re joking, are probably not those lifelong friends.
At the same time, your friends may not realize they’re saying things that make you upset. The best way to deal with this is to talk to them and tell them how you feel. Many times, meanness stems from a place of insecurity and hurt. Keep this in mind when talking to your friends because they need you to be kind to them too. They might tell you to stop being so sensitive. In that case, it might be better to go your separate ways than to continue on in such unhealthy friendships. On the other hand, they might tell you they’re sorry they hurt you and talk through it with you. With grace and forgiveness, these could be friendships worth pursuing. Think it through; whether those friends are kind and loving or mean and hurtful, they’ll impact your life in a very serious way.
In the same way your friends will impact you, you’ll also have that lasting impact on them. Take those words to heart, and be careful with what you say to another. Consider “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy,” when you’re interacting with your friends (Philippians 4:8). Stay away from the negativity, and notice all the blessings you have in your lives. Your friendships will be much stronger when you’re busy appreciating one another instead of cutting each other down!