Real friends will hurt you. Fake friends will hurt you too. That’s why distinguishing real friends from fake friends can be harder than discerning between those who have and haven’t hurt you. But you can still tell them apart.
Whether you’re in high school, college, or years into your professional career, determining which friends are which has nothing to do with who has or hasn’t hurt you. It has everything to do with how they hurt you.
Real friends hurt you by telling you the truth
Broadly speaking, there are two ways friends will hurt you: by telling you the truth or by lying to you. Real friends tell you the truth. And while that’s a good thing, it won’t always make you feel good.
Unless you’re Jesus, you’ve been in the wrong before. If you’re like most people, you also don’t always immediately recognize when you’re in the wrong. You need to be told about yourself so you can own your misstep and chart a better course moving forward.
Real friends tell you about yourself. They look you in the eyes and stab you in the chest with what you need to hear. Which isn’t fun! Being stabbed hurts. And just as it hurts to be stabbed, it’s not exactly pleasant to do this kind of stabbing either. Even so, real friends will hold you accountable to yourself and others to ensure you become a better person.
The pain real friends make you feel? Those are growing pains. Good pains. Real friends are the fire that your silver is refined by.
Fake friends hurt you by lying to you
Fake friends lie to you. And they can lie in a myriad of ways. For instance, they might lie to you by saying you’re in the right when you’re really in the wrong. They might tell you you’re amazing at something you’re actually bad at to spare your feelings. They might make it seem like they’re trustworthy when really they’re taking the secrets you’ve told them and sharing them with others, gossiping about you behind your back.
Whether ill-intentioned or not, fake friends set you up for failure. Seemingly empty-handed, they look you in the eyes with a smile before stabbing you in the back with the truth about themselves. What’s the truth? That they’re dishonest. That they’re fake friends. But fake as they are, that knife still hurts.
The pain fake friends make you feel can be harder to recover from. Partly because it’s a lot harder to withdraw a knife lodged in your back than one in your chest.
Having no friends is better than having fake friends
Friendship has its benefits, including improved physical and mental health for each friend. But that’s only with quality friends. Real friends. Fake friendships can have the opposite effect. So, in a world where people try to determine how many friends they really need, it’s important to note that the quality of friends you have is more important than the quantity. A season where you have no friends can be more beneficial than a season with the wrong friends.