It happens to the best of us. You start following Jesus, and over time it feels like you have much less in common with your friends than you used to.
Or maybe you started following Jesus and don’t understand why you keep falling back into old habits and patterns that you don’t like anymore. You want to grow in your faith, and you’re not sure why you aren’t.
You've probably heard before that you’re the average of the five people you hang out with most. We’d agree. But before we tell you to think about changing your friends, we know what you’re thinking:
Yeah, I can’t just abandon my friends...You want me to turn my back on them because I want to grow in my faith? That’s messed up …They’re my ride or dies. My people. They need me! Besides, they’re a lot cooler than anyone I’ve met in the church.
It’s easy to think you are the exception to the rule… that you can still spend time with your college friends or the party crowd and “be a light.” But friendship is powerful.
If your friends are headed in the wrong direction, they’re going to take you with them as collateral damage.
The people riding your life journey with you will determine the direction and destination you are headed towards—for better or worse. Whether it’s a direction you’re intending to go or not, your future destinations of faith, marriage, relationships, and who you’re becoming are influenced by the people around you.
Your friends are stronger than your convictions (1 Corinthians 15:33), and your friends determine your future (Proverbs 13:20), so you should choose your friends wisely (Proverbs 12:26).
If you need more convincing, we’ve got you.
But for now, here are 6 Signs It’s Time to Change Friends:
1. You’re sinning together.
Nothing is more damaging to a relationship than sinning together.
If you’re bonding over getting drunk, hooking up, or anything else that doesn’t please God, it’s time to have some honest conversations. After talking with your friends about not wanting to continue in the same patterns, if things don’t change, it’s time to rethink the relationship.
The good news: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Forgiveness takes away the eternal punishment for sin, but it doesn’t take away the consequences here and now. Do yourself a favor today and avoid relationships that encourage you to sin. It will save you a lot of pain in the future.
2. You “fake it” around them.
It’s been said to “know who you are, be who you are, and like who you are.”
Friendship takes work, and you should for sure put in the work to learn about your friends—what they like, what they don’t like, and how they enjoy spending their time. Chances are, you’re friends with them because you enjoy doing the same things.
But if you’re in a spot where you’re constantly “putting on a show” to impress them, or where you feel like you can’t really just be you…that’s worth mentioning! God likes you. And we’d bet there are friends out there who will like you for you too.
3. You’re less like Jesus when you’re around them.
“Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
We’re just going to let that verse speak for itself.
4. You’re getting advice from them that isn’t biblical.
There’s a true story in the Old Testament of a king who had a choice to make. He could get advice about it from wise, godly people…Or he could ask his ungodly friends. He sought the wrong counsel, which affected his choice and led to destruction for not only him but his kingdom (1 Kings 12).
All truth is God’s truth. All wisdom is God’s wisdom. Don’t be the friend who counsels from your own opinion instead of God’s Word. And don’t get counsel from the friends who aren’t submitted to God’s Word.
5. They aren’t Christians and you don’t intend to share the gospel with them.
Here’s what we mean by that—you should totally have friends who aren’t Christians. But they shouldn’t be the ones you’re spending all your time with and getting relationship advice from.
If you’re spending time with non-believers, you should always intend to share the gospel and minister to them. It’s okay to build the relationship first, but ask yourself honestly what your intention is with the relationship.
This one’s tricky because chances are, you have friends that you knew way before you became a Christian, or at least before you started following Christ whole-heartedly. If that’s the case, they should see a change in you—you’re likely speaking differently, spending your time differently, and you probably stopped doing things you’ve done before. You’re still best friends with them because why would you ditch them, right? Be careful! It’s easy to be led astray. Keep reading for more on this.
6. Your convos don’t honor God.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”
We all know those friends…every time they speak, it’s got something to do with another person, and it’s usually not nice.
If they’re gossipers: As a rule of thumb, if they’re speaking poorly about someone else TO you, they’re probably speaking the same way ABOUT you.
If they’re negative Nancy’s: Honestly, that’s just not fun for anyone.
If what they’re saying doesn’t “edify”: There are better ways to spend your time.
But how do you change the friends you already have?
Truth moment—you can still be friends and love them from a distance. Share with them how your life is changing. Communicate that you made a decision to place your faith in Jesus and tell them why. Tell them the story of how you heard the gospel. Acknowledge the “change” in the friendship because of that.
Don’t apologize for your decision. Stand firm. But invite them to ask you questions and be okay with answering, “I don’t know, but I’d love to find that out.” Who knows whether they will see your faith and want to follow Jesus as well (that’s called making disciples).
Don’t make them a project to fix. Don’t exile them. Don’t look down on them or expect them to be where you are spiritually. Show them that following Jesus is not about religion but about a relationship with the God who made you, loves you, and controls all things.
It can be hard to change your friends, especially as a young adult. It takes effort, self-awareness, humility, initiative, and a heart that puts others’ interests above your own. But when you find your people, there’s nothing better than having friends who build you up instead of tear you down…who love Jesus and love you for who you are…who keep you accountable and encourage you as you follow Christ together. Biblical community is a game-changer, so pray for it, and do all you can to find it.