Personal Growth Means Tough Decisions | Choosing Friends Wisely

When you choose to grow, what becomes of the relationships of the “old you?” If I know one thing about you, it’s that you are growing. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this.

Tough Decision

You have to work on yourself first before you can ever influence someone else (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook




When you choose personal growth, it will mean making tough decisions like:

Who do I hang out with?

Who do I talk to at the water cooler?

What do I talk about at the family reunion?

And the process can be very painful at times. But you will get through it. Let me tell you how.

I received an email from a friend recently that sparked this post. In fact, it initially sparked my own internal debate that raged inside of me.

Here is the digest version of his email:

My wife noticed that I no longer have anything to talk about with my friends when we all get together. She said that I have withdrawn from them, that I’ve changed. And it’s true…I have nothing to talk about with them. We’re interested in different things now. We just don’t have anything to talk about.

And I immediately thought about my own life. Was I doing the same thing in my own life as I was growing? Was I isolating myself, and therefore others? Or was I consciously choosing my friends?

My tough decision

There is one person in my life who particularly came to mind. For various reasons, I’ve always looked up to him for some reason. But he is the most negative person I’ve ever known and I noticed that it was rubbing off on me in the worst way.

So I made a decision to withdraw from this person. Since childhood, I have always had the unique ability to find the cloud in every silver lining, so I knew that the last thing I needed was more negativity in my life. It’s the same reason why I don’t watch or read the news or read online forums. Ninety percent of the stuff on there is negative garbage.

As soon as I made the decision to no longer interact with this person, a voice said to me:

But Jesus hung out with prostitutes, cheaters, and certainly grumps.

Ouch. My own conscience just “Jesus Juked” me. (Not sure what a “Jesus Juke” is? It’s explained here)




But immediately another voice said:

Take care of your own household first. Your relationship with Me, your wife, and daughter come first. (paraphrase of 1 Timothy 5:8)

And so it was decided. I would choose to withdraw from this person for the sake of my relationship with God and my immediate family. The fact is that I am negative enough without a bad influence and if trying to impress this person or maintain a closer relationship with him is going to cost me my family or my closeness with God, it’s not even close to worth it.

We face tough decisions like that every day as we grow. Do we continue to hang out with people who drag us down and try to be a light to them? Or do we withdraw to focus on ourselves?

There is a fine line you must walk between the two…and only you can decide which side of the line to fall on.

I am not suggesting we abandon our friends or not try to be good influences on them first. But you have to work on yourself first before you can ever influence someone else.

Read Part Two, Change Yourself then…Change the World

Question: Have you ever found yourself caught between your own personal growth and the negative influences of others? How did you respond? You can leave a comment by clicking here.







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  • Kirbie Earley

    BOY am I struggling with this right now. My issue, though, is that the two most ‘negative drivers’ in my life are also two of my closest family members and they feed off of each other. My mother and my daughter. My daughter IS in a bad situation right now – she has house “guests” that she didn’t choose to have and who have no motivation to get out of their nice, cushy lifestyle that their son has provided. She hates it, they are a bad influence on her kids and it eats away at her every day. She gripes to my mother, and often I am present for these conversations. All of my family (parents, brothers, children) lives within about 10 miles of one another. We’re close.

    SO, what I have had to do is just exit those conversations by sort of sitting by and just not talking. If I am able to interject something positive or something to move the conversation in a different way – to a new topic – then I do. If not, I take up playing with one of the grandbabies to distract myself from the conversation.

    My mom has always had that tendency – to egg on the bad situation in someone’s life – not egg on as in make the situation itself worse, but egg on as in to bring it up and start a complaining session. I’m working on not talking to her on the phone as often to avoid those conversations and when they do start, I try just to move off of the topic that has her all worked up.

    It takes a very conscious effort not to allow the negativity of others to seep into our lives, and when they are so close, as in my case, that you can’t really eject them, then it’s even tougher. This is truly a battle I think we all fight!

    • Wow Kirbie, Thanks for sharing.

      You said it best: “It takes a very conscious effort not to allow the negativity of others to seep into our lives”

      • Kirbie Earley

        You know, I even TOLD my mother that I was trying to not expose myself to negative environments (hence my turning off the OSU/Michigan State Big 10 championship game 15 minutes in)…her response…”good for you” but she doesn’t realize she’s doing it. I hope that I don’t have to get more direct with both of them. I often try to prepare myself for that before I see one of them…what would I say if I HAD to say something?…

        • Katherine Leicester

          I’ve practiced what to say beforehand, and it does help.

          • Yes it really does! Thanks Katherin and @kirbieearley:disqus

    • Katherine Leicester

      Kirbie, … Yow. Your situation just struck a note with me. Family dysfunction is so painful, and people like you and I are always the ones to stay quiet, walk away, and pay for the behavior of others. Really, really hard.

      Thanks for sharing in such detail. Your story blessed me.

      • Kirbie Earley

        Unfortunately, Katherine, I think many people have the same problems. Always good to know we’re not alone! Take care!

        • Katherine Leicester

          You too, Kirbie. I hope you’ll keep us current on your situation. I learn a lot from others’ struggles.

          And if I uncover anything helpful, I’ll pass it along.

  • Katherine Leicester

    I’m struggling with this now, too. And sometimes God won’t let us go anywhere – we get to stay and be a positive influence upon the situation with our prayers and our behavior. And it is, many times, godawful.

    Know what helped this morning? Habakkuk. Give it a try. Sometimes God wants things to get worse before He wants them to get better.

    • Steve Pate

      thanks for the Habakkuk suggestion!

      • Katherine Leicester

        You’re welcome, Steve. It was one of those providential “accidents” that was given to me this morning.

  • I completely relate to this post, Matt! I had to do the same thing with a close friend for the same reasons. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about them. It just means that we have to protect our relationships and our hearts. Great post!

    • Spot on Tammy. I can seem very selfish, but the reality is very far from that.

  • Steve Pate

    A great quote from one of my friends, She would say, “if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re no good to others.”

    This is a timely post, One of my closest friends in this community we live in, has been really hard to be around lately. The tough part is five years ago, I heard God in my heart say, “go know him”! So, it feels like a mission but at the same time, our families have grown so close to each other we spend Thanksgiving together, and do a lot together. In fact our homes are like each other’s second homes.

    With that said, it has been tough on my heart to want to hang around him lately because of how negative, pissy, lazy, nose always in the phone and lack of drive he has. I love him dearly but I know I can’t help someone who’s not asking for help.

    As to your question, Yes, to when becoming debt free and recently with my work, when I decided not to be a cog but a linchpin and that has been a fun battle with those who say I can’t do it. look forward to part two Matt. Great post.

  • Wow Matt I completely relate to the sentiment your friend expressed in his note to you!!

    Sometimes you’ve gotta make those tough decisions. But I think it varies person to person. I’ve had people I’ve cut pretty muh completely out of my life because of how they attacked and belittles my dreams, most however I limit my time with them and remind myself that we have different goals and interests and try to enjoy the times I’m with them.

    You’re right. Yourself, your growth and your family need to be a chief consideration though!

    Thanks for the post!

  • Sounds Biblical to me, Matt. Proverbs 4:23 – “Above all else, guard your heart. . .”
    Proverbs 13:20 “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 14:7 “Stay away from a foolish man. . .”

    • Steve Pate

      Jana you always bring great comments! Thanks for this one too!

      • Thank you, Steve. I always like reading your thoughts too (I mean in the comments – not a mind reader!)

    • I agree with @disqus_OCuYs77zsq:disqus

      Thank you!

  • One question though. What do you do when they aren’t bad relationships? What if your interests have just changed and you guys no longer have much in common due to your new interests or their new interests? Do you just realize the relationship has changed and move on? Or try to force it and fake it and be the same type of friends you were before?

    This is a position I’ve found myself in as well!

    • Steve Pate

      I know what you mean, I’ve had to come to a place that we all grow and there is “seasons” when we need certain people and then they or I move on because of this thing called life. And I grew to appreciate the time I’ve had with them and hope for the same on their end.

  • brentmkelly

    Matt, I agree completely, but this is definitely a hard lesson to act upon. The bottom line is that you need to see the big picture. Negative relationships not only sap your own energy, but take energy that you could use building relationships with new people. Thanks for sharing.

    • It is hard. It’s something that should require a lot of thought and internal debate. Moving on from any relationship is hard, no matter how toxic it might be.

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  • Oscar Gavrilov

    A friend told me the other day that she was happy when she finally finished her masters because she didn’t have to “read anything for learning ever again”! How sad. I don’t think we should ever stop learning, or growing in fact I am attending personal growth coaching and one of the best ways to get educated on a subject is to read about it.

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