Part of the ascent to adulthood is the transition from having your parents “pick” (or have a say in) who your friends are to making those choices yourself. How wisely you make those decisions can have significant implications for your life.
While many of the people you meet out in the world will be good people and potential friend-material, you need to know that we ALL encounter people who can be nothing short of destructive. These people can be negative and/or critical. They may engage in harmful activities or act in a bizarre manner. They might be people who simply bring others “down” when in their presence.
The best advice (for teens AND adults) is to be discerning. Learn to spot and avoid negative people in favor of uplifting friends who share your values. This is particularly true when you’re young and don’t always have the wisdom and confidence to be the stronger person in a relationship where one person is troubled. Many young adults have gotten sucked into bad situations because they were trying to be a good friend to someone who wasn’t worthy of it.
It’s important to recognize the signs of troubled individuals with whom a close friendship would be unwise. Here are some clues:
- They are involved with pornography, crime, or alcohol/drug abuse.
- They ridicule your positive values and interests.
- They are critical, negative, and disrespectful—seeing the worst in people.
- They put pressure on you to enter their world despite your refusals. They use the “everyone does it” argument.
- They exhibit anti-social tendencies
If you find yourself in a relationship with someone like this, take steps to distance yourself. Don’t feel like you need to “work it out” and make a destructive relationship better. It may feel difficult, intolerant, or even unloving to end a bad friendship, but continuing in a destructive relationship is ultimately a much worse proposition.
It’s helpful to have a mental list of good qualities to look for in friendships, a standard against which to hold potential new “prospects.” Sometimes a trial and process is involved before you settle on a circle of friends—and that’s not a bad thing.
Have you ever met anyone whose behavior made you feel uncomfortable? Did you trust your instincts and keep your distance? What happened when you didn’t? Identify the qualities you’ll look for in “good friends,” as well as the qualities that characterize “not my type.” Share your thoughts and comments with our online community; we’d love to hear from you!