Can you be different from those that you closely associate with? Is the saying “birds of a feather flock together” true? Or “show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are” is that right? If it were not so, how then can you be guilty by association?
Growing up I always heard the elders talking about, “be careful of the friends and the company that you keep.” But as with all teenagers, I thought I knew best because they were born old and knew absolutely nothing about life. I mean, how dare they with their ancient selves! Well, you guessed I hung around with less than savory people and wondered why certain negative things kept happening to me. I developed some very bad habits. I was making very questionable choices, that looking at it now, I would never make. I was imitating the habits and opinions of those I closely interacted with. I even went as far as justifying the choices I made, as though that would magically make them right.
I was surrounded by people that sold illegal substances, involved with fraud, stole, were bitter, complained, ungrateful, gossips and straight out bad mind, always wanting revenge on their perceived slights. People that would stop speaking to others they had been friends with for years without a reason. Would literally just drop them because they felt like it. I fell into that category a couple of times and years later from time to time, I still wonder what happened. I even had friends that would knowingly get involved in intimate relationships with married men or men that they knew were in relationships. Those were some of the people that I called “friends”.
I would eventually learn the hard way, the people you surround yourself with is a reflection of you, if they are seen as being untrustworthy, the chances are that people won’t trust you. I would learn years later that there were good people that stayed away from me because they saw who I kept connected to, who I kept as friends. I was later told this verse, “Be don’t deceived, bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33
As I got older, I began to evaluate these people in my life and went through a process of elimination. This epiphany came after yet another failed relationship, a broken friendship, and a friend being convicted of a crime. I had to look at the quality of the people that I was surrounded by. I began to realize that some of the people I was surrounded by were not a blessing in my life, I was not happy, and their company didn’t bring me happiness and I certainly had no peace. In fact, in some cases it was a burden, stressful and exhausting.
I recall an instance where we went on a party beach trip. There were coaches from around the country converging on a seaside location. The it was going well, the day was spent at the fairground and beach and the evening into the night was the party. A friend I was with, was seeing a man that she knew was in a relationship, with not just one woman but two and had children with them both. One of these women was also there, and this girl like to fight. Because of that I wasn’t able to fully enjoy, relax and have a great time.
We were at the party that night and I felt someone pick me up by my elbows and move me out of the way. Just as he put me down, I looked at the spot where I was standing and there were two women rolling around on the floor fighting. Yes, you guessed, one of the women was the person in a relationship and had children with the man that my friend was also seeing. Apparently, there was a third woman there that was suspected of also being entangled with this man.
I made up in my mind that day and said to her, “I will not fight for you over a man, especially that man. The man you know is already sleeping with multiple women.” I was livid! Any of my friends knew that I would fight for them, even if they were in the wrong. I would not stand by and let a friend of mine be attacked. I would defend them and then deal with them later.
Some people in our lives are either a help or a limitation and this was a prime example of the latter. Also, an example of being a burden more than a blessing to have in my life.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it? If only I had foresight as well as hindsight. I began to make better decisions, I had to be wise with who I allowed access to me. I had to look at who in my circle enhanced my life or diminished my life. I had to look at who in my circle was nurturing to me or exhausting me. I had to look at who was uplifting me or tearing me down, who was increasing, decreasing or nullifying me.
I had to learn to disconnect from toxic people, toxic friendships and toxic relationships. People that were killing my dreams, that were taking my peace and sucking the joy out of life. Some of the people in my life were stealing my faith, not just my faith in God, but also my faith in myself and my abilities. My faith in the dreams I once had. People that were so certain that my dreams were too big, too elaborate, after all “who do I think I am?”
There are people in prisons around the world, why, because they followed and got into bad company, they listened to the wrong voice. There are people who are single parents because they met and got into a relationship with the wrong person. In many cases they fell for the charm and ignored the red flags. This goes for men and women as there are single fathers out there.
There are some with failed businesses or have even gone into bankruptcy because they listened to a shady businessman or trusted someone close to them that is always trying to get rich quick in some scheme or the other and take short cuts. Sadly, there are even some that we now visit in the cemetery because they fell into bad company and paid for it with their life. We must be careful who we are connected to. This is important because it can either lead to our destiny or it can lead to our destruction.
Many times, because we don’t want to hurt a person’s feelings, or we think, “well, I’m supposed to love everyone, aren’t I?” Yes, that is true we must learn to love everyone, but that does not mean that person needs to be back in your bosom, that does not mean that person has to be your friend. Love is a must, it serves no one to have a heart of hate or resentment. But relationship is by choice, we can choose who we let close and love others from afar. You can love and forgive and keep it moving.
I had to look within, I had to look at myself, where I was in life, had I achieved what I wanted to? Was I at the place in life that I wanted to be? What happened to the goals and the dreams I had? Had I accomplished them, even one? If not, then why? I could no longer make excuses blaming others for my poor choices or where I was in my life, a place that I was not happy with.
I had to evaluate the who’s who in my life, limit the time I spent with toxic people, some of them thankfully took themselves out of my life. I mourned their loss and the part that they played in my journey and learnt from it. You will notice that when the wrong people, toxic people leave your life that makes room for the right healthy relationships and healthy influences to come into your life and be cultivated. Your thought process and behavior will change. Your life will change for the better. The barrier to the right people is removed.
I noticed that I became a positive influence that people wanted to be around and even came to for advice. If you walk with the wise you become wise and if you spend your time with foolish people……
My address book/phonebook should not look the same today as it did ten years ago, there must be some additions and some subtractions. That shows growth.
So, if you can be guilty by association in bad company, then the same can be true when you surround yourself with the right people who can add to and enhance your life. Choose your friends, your associates, the people you get into relationships with and the company you keep wisely. Because the company you keep determines what accompanies you!