Humans are extremely social beings. We thrive off interactions, friendships, and relationships, and gain most of our energy from those brief interactions. Unfortunately, more often than not, our little circle of friends — or the people we associate with — turn out to be toxic in more ways than one. And we tend to miss the signs most of the time.
Abu Dawood narrates that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, “A man will follow the way of his close friends, so let each one of you look at who he takes as a close friend.”
As children, our friends are our entire world. We base our personalities, our likes and dislikes, on them. We have a close-knit group of people we trust without a doubt. And during those early years, those friendships and relationships are mutual; they go both ways. But as we grow older, our perception of what the word friend means alters, our friend circle changes. We still hold on to thoughts that friends will be there for us no matter what, that they would only ever want what’s best for us, but we’ve matured. Not enough to identify the signs of toxicity, but enough to know when a friend turns into an enemy. So when a friend outright backstabs us or betrays us, we cut them out. Because we can visually identify and see them trying to ruin us.
Toxic friends are people that are subtly, perhaps even subconsciously, trying to ruin us. Their actions and words are what’s causing us pain and often, we brush these things under the rug and blame our lack of energy and happiness on outside sources. Instead of inspiring you to do and be better, they bring you down. They make you forget about your true purpose in life. They take you further away from Allah. They drain you, exhaust you, and make you feel like crap.
So how do we know when a friend is toxic and not good for us? Let’s break it down with six of the most common signs to look for.
The person you’ve befriended is leading you away from Islam.
As Muslims, it is important for us to surround ourselves with people that are constantly reminding us of the beauty of our religion. They should uplift and help you become closer to Allah.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ once said, “Man is influenced by the faith of his friends. Therefore, be careful of whom you befriend.”
If the friends we keep are trying to take us away from Islam, making us forget about praying, or even making us feel bad about wanting to pray, then they aren’t the friends we should be keeping.
They drain you of your energy and make you dislike yourself.
Being around a person who, whether in class or at an event, makes you feel drained of all your energy is something you need to carefully think about. Every moment you spend with that person, dealing with their subtly cruel words and their attitude, you feel exhausted. These people can also make you feel bad about yourself. Sometimes, one of their backhanded comments or jokes that they spout casually is actually a bit more intentional than you’d think. It took me quite a long time to identify that some things my ‘friends’ would say to me when I spent time with them were actually harmful to my mental and physical states.
You’re afraid of making a mistake because it will drive them away.
Mistakes are natural and bound to occur. We are human after all. But when you feel scared of making a mistake around your friends because you think your mistakes will eventually drive them away from you, then there’s a problem. The entire purpose of friendship is being able to accept each other’s flaws and mistakes and while there are definitely boundaries, a friend should understand and be willing to move past mistakes or errors made.
They don’t care about you or your well-being.
I was in a group of friends and the one thing I noticed after taking the time to reflect on my past is that the girls I once considered friends never once cared about me. I was merely a burden not worth dealing with, but having to because I was present. They spoke to me and interacted with me and laughed and smiled, but not once did they ever care about me. These are the friends that find nothing you say or do interesting and only pretend to like you.
They use you for their own personal gain.
When a friend asks for your assignment or your notes with a kind smile and you readily hand it over, then you’re being a good friend. But when that same friend resorts to only ever coming to you when they need help with a math question or they want to see your geography assignment to get an idea on how to do their own, and never really speak to you or hang out with you otherwise, then they are using you for their own personal gain.
They bring out the worst in you.
These are the friends that bring out your worst qualities. Of course, we as humans are all flawed, however, these friends will bring out the qualities you’d rather repress. Fighting more often with people that support you, such as your parents, siblings, and family, gossiping and spreading rumors to make your ‘friends’ happy, encouraging you to misbehave. They force you to make enemies with their enemies, instigate fights between you and people who’ve done nothing wrong. Your attitude and behavior worsen and you end up becoming the worst version of yourself.
Of course, even if you recognize these signs in your friends, it’s not always easy to get rid of them. It was only until I started university did I finally realize who my true friends were and which one of my friends was bringing the toxicity into my life. Ironically, a lot of the toxic people whom I’d considered friends were people who my parents had identified as toxic and bad for me since the very beginning. I was just too stubborn and blinded to listen to what they were saying. I’d feel guilty after spending time with them too because deep down, I knew they weren’t good for me.
So take the time to personally evaluate the people you keep as company. Remove the toxicity from your life and surround yourself with people, as the Prophet ﷺ reportedly said, “-whose appearance reminds you of God, and whose speech increases you in knowledge, and whose actions remind you of the hereafter.”