Writer and broadcaster Deanna Fletcher tells of her experience of a toxic friendship and shares five things to look out for in an envious friend.
What are the character traits you find most unappealing in a friend? Does rudeness, gossip, or put downs turn you off a potential relationship? While none of the above are very appealing, envy would be the attitude of the heart I most avoid.
I once had a friend who I had known for years and, while none of our friends are perfect people, I saw in her a kind-hearted and hard-working woman. Eventually it became clear she was spreading falsehoods about my character and generally telling untruths that painted me in a very negative light within our church and its leadership. Somehow, according to her, I was born under a "lucky star" and she was more deserving of the recognition I often received. Uncovering a hateful, "green-eyed" spirit in someone I thought I knew was surprising to say the least, and not easily forgotten.
Proverbs 14:30 says: "A tender, tranquil heart will make you healthy, but jealousy can make you sick." Envy is harmful because it can lead to negative emotions and behaviours that damage both the person experiencing envy and others around them. Sadly, when a person turns to sabotage, as a way to right what they perceive to be a wrong (a friend’s popularity, success or achievements), the harm they cause may not easily be undone, if at all.
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Envious behaviour can manifest in various ways. Here are five signs you may have an envious friend.
- Negative comments. Do they make negative comments about your achievements, possessions, or relationships? Notice if your friend frequently attempts to downplay your success or the good things happening in your life.
- Comparison. Do you have a friend who consistently compares themselves to you? Consider whether they feel threatened by your accomplishments.
- Excessive Criticism. Do they actively try to find fault in everything you do? Look out for people who are overtly critical of your actions or decisions.
- Passive Aggressive Behaviour. Envious people may act passive aggressively towards you, such as giving you the silent treatment or making snide remarks.
- Sabotage. Unfortunately, in more extreme cases a friend may lie or pull you down in conversation with others when you’re not around as a way of making themselves feel better. This is no joke and can cause harm to your relationships or career, so take note!
While we can't control the actions of others, we can safeguard ourselves against toxic behaviours by paying attention to how our friends make us feel, setting clear boundaries and protecting our daily sense of peace. By surrounding ourselves with people who choose to champion our success, celebrate with us when we achieve goals and speak well of us when we’re not around, we will avoid looking over our shoulder in case people we know are secretly trying to remove what God intended for our good (Jeremiah 29:11).
Invest your time wisely, knowing you are worthy of love and friendship that is both supportive and has long-lasting fruits. Where the sickness of envy has caused pain and broken relationships, choosing forgiveness is a sure-fire way to heal and move on. There are women in your future who can’t wait to be your friend!
Deanna Fletcher is a broadcasting executive, radio and television presenter, speaker and activist who helps women journey from disillusionment to a joy filled life.