“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.” – Alice Walker
In the journey of finding true friends, there will be toxic ones along the way who perceives you as an opportunity. Sounds strange, right? Toxic friendships holds prejudiced sequels of issues. These friendships will effect you physically, mentally and emotionally, perhaps even your other relationships.
Based in an ancient Buddhist story, the Buddha’s loyal attendant, Ananda, questioned about the importance of having virtuous companions. Ananda questioned the Buddha whether “having noble friends and companions wasn’t half of the holy life”. The Buddha replied: “Do not say so, Ananda. Noble friends and companions are the whole of the holy life.” (SN 45.2, Bhikkhu Bodhi)
According to Buddha, There are 4 types of Good Friends:
- Helper : Protects you when vulnerable, Protects your wealth, a Refuge when you’re afraid & in countless tasks provides double than what is asked.
- Enduring Friend : Reveals their secrets, Guards your secrets, Loyal and Supportive to you & Easy-Going.
- Mentor : Restrains you from wrongdoing, Guides to good actions, Advises & Shows you the right path.
- Compassionate Friend : Grieve in your misfortune, Blisses in your good fortune, Defends your back & Encourages others to acknowledge your good qualities.
In the Sigalovada Sutta, the Buddha mentioned 4 Criteria of False Friends (Toxic Friends):
- Taker : Only takes, Demands a lot and Gives little back, Acts of fear & Offers services to gain something in return.
- Talker : Reminds of past generosity, Promises future generosity, Big empty speech of kindness & Protests personal misfortunes when asked for help.
- Flatterer : Supports bad and good behavior aimlessly, Praises to your face & Stabs you in the back.
- Reckless Companion : Appeals to your weakness, Involves you into unfavored situations, Leading you astray & Accompany you in drinking, Roaming around at night recklessly.
While it is not necessarily to be spiritual or a buddhist to understand Buddha’s teachings about friendship, but we can learn to distinguish through Buddha’s wise words. Let’s look at the differences, shall we?
1. Helper vs Taker
The Helpers will take care of you when you need to be cared for and supports you in acting independently with sensible backings. They are willing to protect you when you are at your lowest point in life. They provide advises on how you spend your finances when necessary. When you are in state of fear or had bad experiences, they listen with empathy and provide emotional safety. You would normally get called by them first and be asked how are you or if you are free to hang out. They genuinely miss you and loves your presence around them.
The Takers looks out only for themselves and measure their friendships by what they can gain from it. Beware of false generosity, behind that kindhearted persona, there are desires that are eager to be met by you. Despite many times of helping them, they can be calculative on helping you out. Even if they had gone the extra miles before, you might gradually notice about their characteristics like they are expecting something in return and one of it, is Guilt-Tripping. They will not return the same kind of the time and effort that you have given them when they asked from you. Their decisions and actions are mostly made from fear and ego. Please identify the characteristics (depends on individual) sooner it gets worst!
2. Enduring Friend vs Flatterers
Enduring Friends are ones that are true from the bottom of their hearts, they will share their secrets while protecting yours. They confide in because they trust you and you would do the same for them. When you are in pain physically, mentally or emotionally, they will not back away. During times when you isolate yourself to a harmful degree, they made sure that you taken care properly and giving the attention that you neglected yourself. They are the kind of friends that are easy-going, as they are not rigid of who you are. They want you to be yourself and feel comfortable while doing so.
Flatterers are known as Two-Faced friends, they can say nice things right in front of you but behind you, it is a whole different story that could blow your mind. They have a habit of talking badly behind your back and you won’t even know when they will stab you in the back numerous times. Regardless of what behavior you make, they just flatter you or sugar coated them, they won’t stop you from acting on regretful decisions or advise you to make better decisions. What’s worst is the flatterer is an aimless person who can’t distinguish what is right and wrong, they will tell you that it is alright to do such things, pointless to follow such ethics, take things for granted or not show you take ownership for your wrongdoings. At this stage, you will have an even harder time to get out of this loophole because your JIMINY Cricket is lost somewhere.
3. Mentor vs Reckless Companion
Mentors, these are the kind of friends that guides you into the right path. Sometimes, their soul might seem older than they physically appear to be. The conversations you have with them can be real deep, they listen earnestly then provide advises that are appropriate and fits your pace. Try reflecting on the emotions and the progress of turning the advice into reality. Was it exciting or were you panicking? Did it result into happiness or did you crashed into disappointments? You would normally go to them if you ever felt like doing something dumb, terrible or regretful, and they will be the ones who would stop you. Do you think you are someone else’s Mentor where they seek for wisdom and advise?
Reckless Companions are people appealing to your weaknesses such as persuading you to have ‘a bit of fun’ than you expected. They can also recklessly involve you in situations where it is uncomfortable or later regret such as speaking carelessly and getting drunk in an unsafe environment. They will lead you astray from the path that you planned to take or already built. Accompanying for late nights drinks is not toxic but trusting your vulnerable state to someone who often gets drunk and supervised by others, can be a terrifying option. Partying can be your stress-relief occasions but since time is precious and how you spread or use it, must be thought carefully. Where do you spend your and your parent’s hard earned money? Time and Money cannot be returned once spent. Therefore, every decision made has consequences, regardless good or bad because in the end, how you respond to it matters.
4. Compassionate Friend vs Talker
Compassionate Friends are most likely selfless by putting other’s needs above their own and wanting to take their love one’s burden away, when they are struggling. They focus more on ensuring everyone is heard, not too hasty about their own voice being heard. When you are stress or struggling to cope with your mental health, they become supportive and follow your pace of coping which is rare to find because the world rushes you to recover ASAP. When sharing your success and happiness, they congratulate and celebrate with you. Let alone, they defend your name when you are not around, they also encourage others on your good qualities.
Talkers ‘talk the talk but don’t walk the walk’. Basically, they give you the false hope and impressions, makes promises that they can’t keep. This characteristic is easy to notice within toxic friends. Another trait to notice is that they boast about their past good deeds or achievements, do not take it granted even if they are adding in between apologizes for seeming ‘braggy’. When the time comes, you ask for a similar favor or the promise they made, they back out on you by mentioning they are currently busy with their own problems or they had it harder. This will make you feel insignificant and disappointed.
What matters most…
In order to find out the true meaning of friendship, we must walk the journey to discover what is waiting for us or what we could be missing out on. The world has been harsh on us but we don’t have live like that and accept every second of it. Things happen for a reason but I believe we create them them. But can we turn those reasons and harsh time into something meaningful? It is alright to not put meaning into it as well, perhaps it is even greater to not label or put attachment. That way we move on to better experiences that our younger selves will thank us for.
My advise based on experience is to cut them off when truly necessary and out of control, but everyone deserves to change for the better. Talk to the toxic friends and try to clear out the misunderstandings, when all truth aligns together and they are willing to apologize and want to grow better as a human being, work on it together. No one is perfect, all of us have our on toxicity. Let’s admit it and grow together!
“Sigalovada Sutta: The Buddha’s Advice to Sigalaka” (DN 31), translated from the Pali by John Kelly, Sue Sawyer, and Victoria Yareham. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.31.0.ksw0.html
Apologies – Blog – Guy Winch Ph.d.: New York Therapist
Guy- Guy/ – https://www.guywinch.com/blog-archive/tag/apologies
5 Reasons Why Some People Will Never Say Sorry
Ananda. 2 December 2019. In Wikipedia. Retrieved December 7, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ananda