Friendship Gone Wrong

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Friendship Gone Wrong

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The Bible records many marvelous stories about friendships to inspire and encourage us on the benefits of having loyal, uplifting and helpful friends—Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, Abraham and Lot, Paul and Timothy, just to name a few. Yet not all relationship stories have a happy ending, so this issue of Vertical Thought would be incomplete without some information about friendships that go wrong. Consider the story of Ahithophel, told in 2 Samuel 15 through 17. He was a close adviser and high official of King David. He gave such outstanding advice that his words were regarded almost as though they came straight from God (2 Samuel 16:23 2 Samuel 16:23And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counceled in those days, was as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God: so was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom.
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). Yet when David's son Absalom usurped the throne and David had to flee his capital city of Jerusalem, Ahithophel defected to Absalom. The crushing sense of betrayal David felt from having a trusted friend turn on him to become his enemy is expressed in Psalms 55:12-14 Psalms 55:12-14 [12] For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: [13] But it was you, a man my equal, my guide, and my acquaintance. [14] We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in company.
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. David describes his view of the smooth words of his former friend that now feel like daggers stabbing him in the back (verses 20-21). These same concepts are used in the New Testament to describe Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus' trusted 12 disciples who betrayed Him (John 13:18 John 13:18I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against me.
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). So, in addition to our personal experiences, we have historical, biblical proof that not all friendships end on a positive note. In fact, vertical thinkers who want to think ahead to avoid some of the heartaches that come from less productive choices (see Proverbs 22:3 Proverbs 22:3A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
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) will pay close attention to whom they have as close friends. The Bible tells us we should be concerned about everyone and not show partiality by paying attention to only the rich, famous or those we think can do something to help us. However, the Bible also tells us to be careful whom we choose as our best friends—those we spend more time with. Biblical instruction Proverbs 22:24 Proverbs 22:24Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man you shall not go:
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warns us, "Make no friends with those given to anger, and do not associate with hotheads" (New Revised Standard Version). The next verse shows this advice is for our own good: "You might learn their habits and not be able to change" (Today's English Version). It's natural for us to think we're strong enough to not let someone else's habits rub off on us, but the reality is that bad behavior always rubs off more easily than good behavior. And bad behavior is called a "snare" to us because when it gets us in its grip, we have a hard time breaking free. Just ask yourself how easy it is to break any bad habit you may have started in your life. But what if you have already built a friendship with someone not involved in glaring bad habits, but who has since begun to drift into them? What if someone betrays you and still wants to be your friend? After all, few of us will ever face a situation like King David where a friend and adviser defects to an opposing army's leader. But almost all of us have felt betrayed by a friend at one time or another—or we've experienced some other negative relationship issue, such as gossip. Proverbs 16:28 Proverbs 16:28A fraudulent man sows strife: and a whisperer separates chief friends.
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says a whisperer (someone who spreads private or embarrassing information) can separate the best of friends. How do you deal with such issues? These are some of the "hard issues" in life and require a lot of serious thought, heartfelt prayer to God for help in making the right decisions, and often getting counsel from someone—such as a parent, pastor or other counselor—who can help you sort through the variety of issues and concerns. Smaller concerns in a friendship can often be resolved by applying the principle of going to your brother (Matthew 18:15 Matthew 18:15Moreover if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone: if he shall hear you, you have gained your brother.
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). This means going to your friend to openly and humbly discuss the issue that is causing problems in the relationship. This is an important subject covered in "Friends Don't Let Friends . . ." on page 6. When friendships turn toxic What if you've talked to your friend with no positive result—the issue is not resolved or even becomes worse? What if your friend begins to change—starts to become an angry hothead, for example, and won't change? What if your friend begins using illegal drugs, or starts some other serious negative behavior, and won't respond to your loving, concerned efforts encouraging him to change? What if the friendship has begun to turn "toxic," as it is sometimes called—detrimental to you? How should you respond? What are your options and what is expected of you? What determines if it's really a "toxic friendship" in the first place? A subject this large is impossible to cover completely in a short article, but here are some important, general points to consider and apply: • Toxic friendships are those that are consistently negative or hold potentially serious negative consequences for you. A friend getting into drug use is easily recognized as toxic. It is more difficult to recognize that a friend who is always needy, negative, emotionally draining, controlling, gossiping, self-absorbed or overly critical can also be a toxic friend. • The more subtle emotional issues require much thought, and often counsel from someone else, to help you recognize if a friend is just struggling with a problem (where you would want to be a supportive and helpful friend), or if he or she has no interest in changing and is becoming an emotional "black hole" that will swallow and consume you. • If you are a true friend, you will try to help your friend change his or her bad behavior. • If the wrong behavior of a friend is an immediate safety or health danger to you (physically or emotionally), you need to express your concern to your friend and put some space between you (literally and emotionally) for your own protection. You don't have to stop caring about the person, but you must withdraw from a close friendship in such instances. The distinction between the last two points is the hardest and most challenging because it requires us to think and analyze our friendships. That's hard work! Often it's also difficult to see clearly when we're close to a situation, which is why getting advice from other trusted, wiser and often older people is so important. As Proverbs 11:14 Proverbs 11:14Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.
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says, "Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety." A wise person will monitor his friendships, even as he enjoys all the wonderful benefits of having close friends. If you feel there is any chance a relationship is becoming toxic, find a wise counselor to help you decide the best course of action. It may be that your friend really needs your help at that time to overcome a bad behavior, and you need to be that friend who is there through thick and thin, who sticks closer than a brother (see Proverbs 18:24 Proverbs 18:24A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
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). It could also be that the friendship has become "toxic," meaning you need to withdraw and build other, better friendships. As you look for answers in dealing with a friendship gone wrong, always remember to ask God for guidance to help you with this tough issue. VT

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