When Friends Become Bad Influences

We have all heard the saying “you become who you hang around”. We have all been told that the people we choose to encircle ourselves with will inevitably rub off on us. Is there any legitimacy to this saying? If so, how should we be choosing our friends and should we still remain ‘friends’ with those who are a poor influence on our lives?

Prior to answering the latter, we need to understand that our friends are not perfect, just as we are not either. There are things we do well, and things that we don’t do so well. The purpose of life is to be happy, however this cannot be achieved when you surround yourself with people who constantly drain you. We have to understand that the ability to decide whom we want to hang around with lies only within ourselves.

The problem is that most people have the tendency to seek those who are in the same disposition as they are, simply because company fosters sympathy. It is much tougher to be around people who are doing better than us while we are down. Again, that is a decision we have to make. People often refuse to recognise this as they are reluctant to leave their ‘comfort zone’, thereby prohibiting growth. Growth is paramount in the search for happiness.

You must always consider your level of happiness and the influence that others may have on your overall wellbeing. It is dangerous to spend too much time around people who are going to diminish these two points. That is not to say that we should not aspire to take on the responsibility of helping those who are in need – genuine friends who may need your help. These friends may be temporarily draining or may be having a poor influence because their life circumstances have suddenly changed. This is where your loyalty should urge you to the best you possibly can to help them.

When deciding whether a friend is a poor influence, it is human to occasionally ‘nit-pick’ – we all have the capability to find faults in others. Quite often, we lack the ability to find those same faults in ourselves. Should your friends contribute to more than 50% of your journey towards happiness, then they are a good friend. Should your friend be on a level that is below 50%, then it is up to you to decide whether that is a relationship you want to keep.

We must be careful to not have hidden agendas for certain relationships until they are no longer useful to us. We must always be above the notion of using people. When interacting with friends, we ought to be applying the golden rule; treat others the way you would like to be treated yourself.

Once you have identified those who are a detriment to your happiness and well being, the next course of action is to separate yourself from them. If you are acquaintances, then it is easy to walk away. However, if they are family, how could you abandon them in a time of need? In this scenario you need to do your best to help them, yet also try to avoid them if you are not doing so well yourself. On the other hand, those who are consciously draining us are nothing else but people who have the wrong values; values that prioritise self-preservation over anything else.

We all have our own experiences of this. Sometimes I’ve spent time trying to fix what is unrepairable mainly because I falsely believed that, because of my pride, I could do something about it. In retrospect of my interactions with others, I can live with the way that I have led my life. Perhaps I have not always been diplomatic, however, I have always been totally and wholeheartedly transparent. People know exactly where I stand and where they stand with me.

The ultimate thing is, if you are your own friend, maintain a healthy dynamic with your family and your friends truly accept you the way that you are, then that’s enough in terms of friendship. As my mother once said to me, “if you can have as many true friends as the fingers on your hands, you are a very lucky man”.