For the longest time, I struggled with being content about the people God placed in my life. The types of friendships I expected were not the friendships I had, and just like anyone else, I wanted a deep sense of community. Over time, I learned that there are different types of relationships we can have with people, and I wanted to share a few of them below.
1. There are people who shouldn’t be in your life.
I think there are two sides to this. There are people that you have no interest in spending time with or investing yourself in a relationship with them (this is easy). And then there are people that you want to be friends with, but you know they won’t add value to your life.
I struggled with this my freshman year. I always wanted to hang out with the people who looked like they were having a “good time.” With party culture being huge in college, I had a hard time finding people who had other interests. As a result, I felt left out and more importantly lonely.
But I had to learn that I was called to stand out even though I wanted more than anything to fit in. I had to decide whether I was going to be obedient to what I felt like God was telling me to do or give in to my fleshly desires.
As Christians, we are called to live by Christ’s standards even if that requires a season of isolation. There are several verses where we are told to live set apart or to live in the world, but not of it. One passage of scripture that stands out to me is Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV where it says,
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;
23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
That is why it is so important to choose friendships and relationships that will edify you and build you up in the things of Christ. If they are tempting you to do anything that is not pleasing to God, it is best to love them from a distance. This is not to sound legalistic, but to provide you with an understanding that your environments and the people you hang around will affect your identity and your purpose.
Scriptures like Proverbs 22:24-25, Proverbs 12:26, and Proverbs 13:20 make this point.
“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” – Proverbs 13:20, NIV
“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.” – Proverbs 22:24-25, NIV
“The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” – Proverbs 12:26, NIV
For example, I remember going to a party only to find myself literally feeling sick to my stomach because I knew I was not supposed to be there. Looking back, I realize now that it was the Holy Spirit convicting me and urging me to leave.
But I went home feeling awful, and even called one of my Bible study leaders because I was so upset. It showed me how intentional the Lord was with making sure I was in godly environments. During that time of my life, I was easily persuaded by the people around me, and knowing myself, if God would have allowed me to entertain those environments, I would not be the person I am today.
2. There are people who can’t be in your life (no matter how much you love and care for them).
I don’t know how many times I’ve had to learn this lesson, but let me paint a small picture to describe how these types of relationships go.
I had a friend who I really thought I could connect with. I mean we related to a lot of the same things! She loved Jesus. We had similar fashion styles. We enjoyed the same activities, connected on all the same issues. I mean things were great for a period of time!
But then there came a moment when I realized that I was the only one invested. I was constantly reaching out, sending the random texts letting her know I was thinking about her, initiating conversations to spend time together, with very little effort being reciprocated. Maybe you have a friend in mind as you’re reading this!
Disclaimer: You won’t always receive the same effort you invest into your friendships. There’s always an ebb and flow. There are some seasons where you find yourself giving more, and other seasons where you find yourself being the one poured into.
But the types of friendships where you are going out of your own way or finding yourself compromising your identity or compensating your time and money in an effort to somehow maintain the relationship or get the other person’s attention is not healthy. It’s a sign to step away and let that relationship go.
This form of rejection is not always noticeable. That’s why it’s important to check your intentions and ask yourself the reason you want that person in your life: Is it for comfort? Is it because they provide you with a sense of value or popularity? Are you attracted to them because they have qualities you struggle to possess? Proverbs 4:23 does not just apply to romantic relationships. It’s important to guard our hearts within our friendships too.
Think about it.
You know when you’re “doing the most” in dating or romantic relationships. You know when someone is not interested or as invested as you are. You wouldn’t suggest to your friend that she should keep pursuing a guy when he has not done anything to show that he’s committed. The same applies to friendships.
No matter how much you want to, everyone can’t be in your life and they can’t always have your time or attention. It’s okay to say no, and it’s okay to let people go. You don’t have to hold onto them.
This is not to punish you. Seasonal friends or friends that you thought would be your friend happen because there’s a greater purpose at play. God loves you so much and He has such a special plan for your life, that He will remove friendships and relationships because He knows how they would affect your purpose.
When you notice one-way relationships, ask God to help you release them. It may sting because rejection is not an easy concept to deal with, but trust that God will bring good friendships in your life in His timing.
3. There are people who will be in your life, and I’ve found that there are three types:
Mentorships or Relationships with Spiritual Leaders
These can vary between mentors, role models, supervisors, pastors or people you look up to. We may forget, but God falls into this category too. 🙂 I remember praying for a spiritual mentor or someone who could disciple me on a consistent basis to help me grow. God didn’t answer that prayer until 5 years later.
He knew that I tend to make people idols in my life. He knew that if He would have given me a spiritual mentor, then I wouldn’t have been completely dependent on Him.
But these relationships are important to have, in God’s timing. They will provide you with wise and godly counsel when it comes to making decisions, hold you accountable to living a life of righteousness, lead you to Christ, and keep you focused on Him. These are what I consider your Elisha and Elijah relationships.
These are the people that you know without a doubt are God-ordained or divine friendships. With these friendships, you don’t necessarily have to talk every day and you may not even live in the same city, but they are sweet and rare. You can pour into each other and connect with one another in a deep way. These are your Jonathan and David relationships as I’d like to say.
There is no judgment. As the scripture says, you sharpen one another like iron sharpens iron. You hold each other accountable and constantly lead each other to Christ. These are your best friends and confidants.
When it comes to your other friendships, they should still add value to your life, but you won’t necessarily feel the same closeness as you do with your divine friendships. But when it comes to relationships with friends and other associates, it’s important to not have the expectation that they are going to be just like you.
Different friends are going to offer different things, and it’s very rare that you’ll find all the qualities you’re looking for in one friend. One friend may understand your love for Jesus while another friend might not. One may understand your love for art or working out, while another may not enjoy it. That’s okay! That’s why you’ll have different networks and communities based on the interests that you have.
Discipleship or Relationships with Mentees
As you continue to grow in your relationship with Christ, you will continue to grow and become more like Him. As a result, you will learn lessons that help you become more spiritually mature. In return, the gospel will compel you to share that news with other people. That’s why Matthew 28:19-20, NIV says,
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
In time, you will begin to form relationships with people who you teach, mentor, and minister to. These are your Jesus and disciple relationships, and what your mentors do or have done for you is what you begin to do for others. This can be non-believers that you want to lead to Christ or believers who are in a different walk of life than you. They may not always sharpen you, but they are in your life for a reason just as much as you are in theirs.
Either way, I hope these descriptions were helpful! There’s a lot more to learn when it comes to relationships and friendships, so if you’re looking for more guidance, I encourage you to attend the next T-Time! In this women’s empowerment workshop, we will discuss the power of right relationships. From making new friends to handling petty conflicts, or avoiding the Christian girl cliques, come and learn why it’s so important to grow with those around you.
Filled with a general session, panel discussion, fellowship, and fun, T-Time is designed to help women like you come together to have real conversations about real life and look to God’s truth so that we can be confident in the women He has created us to be and equipped to do everything He’s called us to do. All with other women who “get it” and want to see each other succeed.
Hanha Parham is a Christian author and speaker. Her personal mission is to provide the millennial woman that wants to experience more of God fun and practical resources that help them confidently believe who God has called them to be. When she is not encouraging others or writing her heart out, she enjoys watching Grey’s Anatomy, drinking iced chai lattes from Starbucks, and connecting with friends on Instagram. Come say hi!