My mom has always been full of good advice for life. Have I always recognized that? Absolutely…not. I remember so many times, coming home from a sleepover and hearing my mom say: “You’re acting just like [so and so].” She would always tell me that I would begin to behave like the people I spent the most time around. You know what I thought? I thought she was crazy. Surely she was making a big deal out of nothing. I would roll my eyes in my teenage angst and carry on.
As an adult, I’ve come to recognize just how important your environment is. The company you keep can make or break your life. My goal here is to help you recognize some tell tale signs of bad company. There is so much more we could say on this topic and my words here are limited. Do you have anything to add? Let me know in the comments below.
If I asked you right now, who in your circle is someone you might consider “bad company,” you’d probably have someone come to mind. You might not want to admit who, but deep down you know. It can be uncomfortable to acknowledge it. What makes us so much better than that person or people group? Who are we to judge? There are a whole slew of excuses we use to keep us tied to these wrong “soul ties.”
What’s a soul tie? It’s a bond that forms when we spend time developing a relationship with someone. Even on a friendship level, our souls bond with the people we spend the most time with. That bond can be a great thing! It can be a healthy thing. When we’re surrounded by people who are going where we want to go in life, who encourage and build us up, we’ve found a healthy soul tie.
In the same way, an unhealthy soul tie can leave us trapped in bad habits. They can keep us in drama, discouraged, anxious and afraid. Unhealthy soul ties lead us in the opposite direction of where we want to go in life. These relationships can be parasitic and leave us feeling drained and used.
So why would we hold on so tightly to these unhealthy soul ties? Here are some common excuses that I believe hold us back from letting go and moving on.
Common Excuses We Make for Keeping Bad Company
1. I’m Ministering to/Helping them.
I’ve heard this one a lot, especially in Christian circles. We are in fact called to sit with the broken, to get into the mess with people so that we can lift them up. But what happens when we are in too deep? What if instead of helping them out, we find ourselves struggling too?
How can we minister to others without being influenced by thinking patterns and lifestyles? People with an empathetic heart towards hurting people should be wary of the pitfalls. We need an empathetic heart. We need loving kindness toward hurting people. But watch yourself that your empathy doesn’t turn into codependency. You don’t have to be their Savior. They already have one in Jesus! You may not be equipped to help them in all the ways they need help. Encourage them to seek professional help if they need it.
We cannot help but be influenced by the people we are surrounded by most often. If your job or ministry involves spending a lot of time around people who are struggling in life, be sure you have a healthy support system to build you back up. Even Jesus, who ate with sinners and prostitutes, had his core group of 12 friends. Jesus oftentimes retreated into solitude to pray and spend time with God. You need to have like-minded, encouraging people around you. They can pick you up, remind you of your purpose and reinforce your convictions. If you don’t have that support system in place, you are leaving yourself dangerously open to the negative influence of others.
Our hearts are beautiful things, filled with great compassion for others. But they can be easily led astray if not held in check.
2. They don’t have any other friends.
Some people don’t have many friends, but that may be for a good reason. Maybe they just aren’t a good friend to anyone. We’ve all had those people in our lives who take advantage of others, are unreliable, lazy and rude. You should not continue to spend time with someone out of guilt that you may be their only friend.
So what, should you just cut them loose and leave them lonely and friendless? I don’t think it has to come to that. But you can start to limit your one on one time with that person. Do your best to include them in group activities. The influence of a group can help that person to see what good friends look like and how they behave. You can help that person grow in their capacity to be a friend, rather than enabling them to continue being a bad one.
Being a doormat for bad behavior in others doesn’t do anyone any favors. You deserve to be treated with as much kindness and respect as you give to others. If someone treats you badly, you are not obligated to stay just so you won’t hurt someone’s feelings.
3. I know what I believe. Their opposing beliefs don’t affect me.
You’re strong in your belief system. You know what you believe and you’re confident you can’t be swayed. But spending time with people who continuously challenge your beliefs will eventually wear you down. Someone who makes fun of or belittles you because of something you value isn’t the type of friend you need in your life. You may think that you can sway a person with your conviction. But if the majority of people around you subscribe to a different way of thinking, it’s highly unlikely.
Think of it this way: if you were standing on a chair, I could easily pull you down to my level. How easily could you pull me up on the chair with you? It’s the same way when it comes to our values and beliefs. If you really want to help change the hearts of others, let them see your example and the example of your like-minded friends. Surround them with people like you instead of the reverse.
4. I love them and they love me.
“What’s most important is that they love me and I love them. Love is all that matters.” There is nothing wrong with loving someone. It’s a beautiful, pure quality. But how do you know that someone loves you? Is it enough that they say those words? I would venture to say that there are some very clear indications of actual love. It’s easy to say “I love you.” It’s much more challenging to walk that out in your actions.
Love in it’s very nature is not self-seeking. It keeps no record of wrongs. It’s patient, kind, always protects, hopes, perseveres. Love never fails. Does the person who “loves” you look out for your needs above their own? Do they encourage you to do what you love doing and be all that you were meant to be? Or do they isolate you and attempt to manipulate your emotions in order to control what you do? Unhealthy relationships that claim love, tend to be controlling and possessive. It can be easy to rationalize as, “they just love me so much, they don’t want to share/lose me.” But that kind of love is not love at all.
If you find yourself trapped in this type of relationship, take a step back and evaluate. Are you truly happy? What relationships did you have or hobbies did you enjoy before this person came into your life? Have you changed key things about yourself in order to be accepted or approved of by this person? It can be difficult to be objective in these relationships. But they are the makings of a toxic connection.
5. They aren’t bad people.
Do you find yourself defending that person that came to your mind as “bad company”? They most likely are not bad people at all! I mean, if you’ve found a friendship with them, there must be some goodness in them as a human being. But rather than ask if they’re bad, ask yourself, are they good? Is this the type of person I would want to become more like? Do I want to have their same lifestyle, morals and family life? If the answer to any of those questions is no, then they are not good company.
Does that make you super awesome and so much better? Of course not! Although, you ARE super awesome and worthy of the best things in life. Here’s what I know: who you are will mirror the people you spend the most time with. That doesn’t even have to be people you are with physically. It could be someone you watch daily on YouTube or whose Instagram account you religiously follow. These are all influences in your life.
So if you’re saying, “Amanda, I just don’t know any of these people who can encourage me or build me up. I’m in a really bad environment with no perceivable way to get out.” I hear you. Take to podcasts, books and uplifting speakers. You can choose to put more good into you than what you are surrounded by.
6. How can I judge someone else?
Some of you remain unconvinced. Maybe you think that picking and choosing who to spend your time with sounds “judgy” or opportunistic. We aren’t supposed to judge other people or think we’re better than anyone…right? You’re right. But what does it mean to judge someone?
The dictionary describes judging as forming an opinion or conclusion about someone, without really knowing all the facts. Maybe someone cuts you off in traffic and you judge them by deciding they’re a jerk. When in reality, maybe they just lost their job or they’re having a bad day. We don’t know who may be silently suffering and acting out of pain. It doesn’t excuse bad behavior but it makes it more understandable. Giving people grace in their circumstances is so important.
What we are talking about isn’t judging but common sense. If you’ve been a bad friend, I’m not judging you. I’m recognizing toxic behavior patterns that I don’t need to subject myself to anymore. Have the self respect and self image to demand better treatment from the people around you. People will treat you the way you allow them to. Know that you deserve the best. You are worthy of every good thing and it starts with the company you keep.