The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about relationships. It doesn’t necessarily call them toxic friendships, but it does suggest severing yourself from negative friends or wrong relationships. It’s best to sever toxic relationships to gain healthy, life-giving relationships, as well as strengthen your relationship with God.
Gain Knowledge about Relationships
With their words, the godless destroy their friends, but knowledge will rescue the righteous. (Proverbs 11:9)
Your toxic friend will kill your self-esteem by the way they talk to you, and about you behind your back. He doesn’t breathe life into you but takes every breath you have. Your deep need to feel accepted causes you to hang on to him even when he hurts you. His toxic poison tongue demeans you, tears you down, and puffs himself up just by the words he uses. You don’t know how to sever the relationship, but honestly, you’re not sure you even want to.
First ask yourself: What are the benefits of the relationship? You must recognize the reasons why you are keeping the relationship. Write down how he is benefiting you. If there’s no true biblical benefit, then there’s no reason for you to be involved with him. Listen, he’s not really a friend to you. He’s stealing your joy every time you have contact with him.
~ Seek Wise Counsel
Another way to gain knowledge is to seek the counsel or your pastor, mentor, or accountability partner. Proverbs 27:9 says, “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.” You’ll quickly recognize the difference between the advice of your toxic friend in contrast to the aromatic fresh fragrance from heartfelt counsel.
If you don’t have someone outside of your family to turn to, talk to you mother – usually, she can recognize toxic relationships well before you can. I’m not just coming from a mother’s point of view (I have three adult children) but also from a friend who had toxic relationships and couldn’t see them. My mom and dad knew long before me that some of my so-called friends were toxic. They said, “He’s bad news,” but it’s the same thing.
~ Read Scripture
The Bible has a slew of references to relationships and how they should look. Proverbs is a great place to start. Do a search on reference sites like Bible Gateway for more information.
If you don’t gain knowledge, Proverbs says “the godless destroys” you. I pray you learn it soon and quickly to sever your toxic friendship.
Stay on the Right Path in Your Relationships
The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray. (Proverbs 12:26)
Your toxic friend is always giving you unwelcome advice. He thinks he has it all together so you should listen to him. However, the last thing you want to do is be led astray from the right path. Listening to your toxic friend’s advice is the quickest way to walk off into the darkness. You have a tough enough time staying on the straight and narrow road without listening to advice from “the wicked.”
It’s hard to stop listening to someone who texts you 100 times a day or calls at all hours of the day and night. There are many ways to avoid these forms of contact. Blocking their number on your cell phone, remove your house phone and only use your cell phone, or shut your phone off during the night. For drastic measures, you could change your phone number. He has to know you’re through listening to him.
Be Quick to Sever Toxic Relationships
My child, if you have put up security for a friend’s debt
or agreed to guarantee the debt of a stranger—
2 if you have trapped yourself by your agreement
and are caught by what you said—
3 follow my advice and save yourself,
for you have placed yourself at your friend’s mercy.
Now swallow your pride;
go and beg to have your name erased.
4 Don’t put it off; do it now!
Don’t rest until you do.
5 Save yourself like a gazelle escaping from a hunter,
like a bird fleeing from a net.
Your toxic friend has swindled you. Yes, he has found a way to manipulate you into signing your hard-earned wages away for something he wants. He says it will benefit you, but you never received any benefit. Something he said, or did, pushed you toward selling away your signature. Scripture tells you very boldly how to change that, but it’s not easy instruction.
~ Swallow Your Pride
Once you have recognized the seriousness of the toxic relationship and have gained strength to sever it, you need to swallow your pride to face him. You need to discuss getting your name off the papers you signed or co-signed. He may or may not agree, but the Bible tells us that is the first step.
~ Do it Now
Don’t put it off! Do it now! Don’t rest until you do! Does this sound like a serious command to you? Um, yes! Don’t be lazy about this, or afraid of what he’ll do. You cannot be responsible for his reaction, but you must be accountable for your finances. Sound financial stewardship is on your shoulders, not his. He doesn’t care. The longer you wait, the deeper the trouble can become as he stops making the payments. Do it now.
~ Save Yourself
Do you know how fast a gazelle is? Maximum speed is 60 mph but it’s not just his speed that helps him evade capture, it’s also his maneuvering. He runs in shorts bursts to the left and right to confuse his attacker. It’s very hard for a predator to capture a gazelle.
Save yourself as a gazelle saves itself from a predator. Run fast in the opposite direction of the toxic relationship. Don’t turn back. Just like the gazelle who never stops to rest, or turns in the wrong direction, you will find yourself returning to sign another document before you know it if you don’t save yourself.
Stop Giving in Toxic Relationships
Wealth makes many “friends”; poverty drives them all away. Many seek favors from a ruler; everyone is the friend of a person who gives gifts! (Proverbs 19:4;6)
Have you ever noticed that some friends only come around when your wallet is out? Have you seen your toxic friend invite you to the mall for fun only to end up buying him something new? But then, when you stop spending money on him or buying him gifts he starts calling you names like “Grinch,” “tightwad,” or other names, to try to manipulate you into giving away your paycheck.
I have seen it in my life as well. It’s hard to say no because he’s just so awesome…sometimes, right? If you don’t spend money on him, he’ll leave you. It’s a terrible game of manipulation. The hardest thing is to stop giving, but realize your relationship is built on your wealth or poverty, not on the amazing person you are. In the end, however, you’re the only one who loses if you continue to support him financially.
Be Loyal to Yourself
Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable? (Proverbs 20:6)
Most of the time I don’t go around telling people to be loyal to themselves, but you’ve got yourself into a serious situation that requires a different type of approach. For too long you’ve allowed your toxic friend to run your life. You’ve been disloyal to yourself. You’ve given up a huge chunk of who you are to keep poison in your life. Start understanding that you are worth so much more than to be weakened during every contact with him. Stand up for who you are and be loyal to yourself. Forget your identity in him and regain your identity in Christ.
Choose Love, Not Fault-Finding
Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. (Proverbs 7:9)
Truly, we are to love everyone. First & 2nd Peter, along with 1, 2, & 3 John talk in depth about loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. You should not start blabbing to all your girlfriends about how bad he’s treated you. Finding fault in him will only keep you focused on how he’s found fault in you throughout the relationship – and so the cycle continues. You become a victim and stay focused on that identity instead of focusing on the cross. Choose not to bring up his past behaviors. You CAN choose how you feel and what you say – or not say.
For seven years, I had a toxic relationship. I thought he was everything I ever needed. Even though he spoke harshly to me, degraded me, called me fat, and never showed up when he said he would, I clung to him like a baby to her mother’s breast. He borrowed money, and I often gave him random gifts which he used up and threw away. I just couldn’t bear the thought of losing this great relationship!
Finally, after the I stopped the flow of money coming in and stopped listening to his advice, I recognized he had been poisoning me all that time. Once I chose to end it, I sought productive relationships – the ones who were loyal and offered sweet smelling advice which helped me grow, not faint.
I praise God for the wisdom of Solomon through the book of Proverbs. For it gave me insight into how a good relationship and a toxic relationship looked. It took the courage I received from the Holy Spirit to sever the toxic friendship and obtain freedom. You can do it too!