Are Your Friends Helping You Rise Or Pulling You Down?
The saying, “You are who you hang out with,” is an interesting truth. I remember in high school watching good kids get caught up with the wrong crowd and wondering who was going to win that tug of war. Would the “good” kid turn bad or would the “bad” kids turn good? Often the determining factor was the length of time spent together. If the “good” kids hung around long enough with the wrong crowd, they seemed destined to become one of them. If they left the group soon enough, they maintained their “good” core.
Let me just note that I believe most humans -- with only the rare exception -- have a good core. Unfortunately, though, people can lose themselves along the way. People can get caught up with the wrong crowd, make bad decisions and then begin to see themselves differently. Naturally when they see themselves differently, they act differently.
I see this dynamic play out in adult relationships as well.
• A “good” guy hangs out with a couple of friends who party, cheat on their wives and “have a good time.” At first, this bothers him, but soon it just becomes part of the scenery when he’s with his friends. Soon he starts increasing his partying. He comes home later and later. He starts to flirt while he’s out and learns to also “have a good time.” Before he knows it, he’s become one of the gang.
• A recently divorced woman starts hanging out with her girlfriends and is shocked at how much they drink and how many men they sleep with. She gradually begins to drink with them. They all start getting drunk more and more. She likes the feeling of flirting and getting men’s attention. She, too, starts sleeping with several men. She wakes up one day and can’t believe she’s just like her friends.
• A “partier” starts hanging out with a more reserved crowd. At first s/he thinks the new crowd is boring. As time goes on, that person starts enjoying the deeper relationships, the intellectual talks, the new sense of calm and the lack of drama. Soon s/he stops seeing the group as boring. S/he has become one of the “boring”…and likes it.
When it comes to friendships, we often become whom we hang out with—even if we didn’t start out that way. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes it’s not a good thing. We could all benefit from knowing that, regardless of our age, circumstances or gender, we are susceptible to the influence of others. If we are not deliberate in our choice of friendships, clear about who and how we want to be and cognizant of the warning signs of falling backward, then we may wake up one day shocked that we’ve become just like the people we said we would never be like.
Don’t be pulled down. Be deliberate in your choices. Be sure that the people you are hanging out with are helping you to rise. Anything short of that simply isn’t good enough.
Challenge: Look at the people you hang out with and ask yourself if you’re proud to call them friends? Do they pull you up or drag you down? Do you excuse, justify or minimize their behavior when your loved ones tell you they’re a bad influence? Next time, just listen to your loved ones’ message rather than defending against it. It may save you from falling.