By Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com
We all need friends since God has created us to be connected to others in caring relationships. But we also need to be careful about our friendships. The Bible warns that some people claim to be true friends but are really false friends who can do us more harm than good. What does the Bible say about fake friends? Discovering that is vital to enjoying healthy friendships.
What Are Fake Friends/How to Identify Them
Fake friends are people who seem at first to be friends, but then reveal that they’re too selfish and untrustworthy to be true friends. They may speak and act in caring ways at times, when doing so benefits them. However, when we ask them for something we need, we often find them running away from the friendship because they’re only concerned with their own needs. Fake friends are takers, not givers. They’re self-absorbed and lack the compassion to truly care about others. Fake friends also may deceive us intentionally in order to get something they want. They can manipulate us. They may flatter us not because they truly appreciate us, but because they want to convince us to do something for them, such as lending them money they don’t intend to pay back. They may betray us. When we tell them personal information, they may listen as if they care, then turn around and gossip about us to others because that brings them attention they crave. Finally, fake friends have a negative rather than a positive impact on our relationships with God. While true friends encourage us in our faith, fake friends are critical and discouraging. True friends lead us closer to God, while fake friends pull us farther away from God.
What Does the Bible Say about Fake Friends?
The Bible features many verses about fake friends, including these key verses:
Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, has failed me. I even shared my bread with him.”
Proverbs 13:20: “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”
1 Corinthians 15:33: “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’”
Proverbs 3:32: “For the Lord detests the perverse but takes the upright into his confidence.”
Jeremiah 9:4: “Be on guard against your friends. Do not trust the members of your own family. Every one of them cheats. Every friend tells lies.”
Psalm 55:12-14: “If an enemy were making fun of me, I could stand it. If he were getting ready to oppose me, I could hide. But it’s you, someone like myself. It’s my companion, my close friend.
We used to enjoy good friendship at the house of God. We used to walk together among those who came to worship.”
John 13:35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
Proverbs 27:9: “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.”
Proverbs 22:24-26: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.”
Proverbs 20:19: “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.”
Proverbs 16:28: “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.”
Proverbs 26:23-25: “Enemies disguise themselves with their lips, but in their hearts they harbor deceit. Though their speech is charming, do not believe them, for seven abominations fill their hearts.”
Proverbs 19:4: “Wealth brings many friends. But even the closest friend of a poor person abandons them.”
Proverbs 19:6-7: “Many try to win the favor of rulers. And everyone is the friend of a person who gives gifts. Poor people are avoided by their whole family. Their friends avoid them even more. The poor person runs after his friends to beg for help. But they can’t be found.”
Psalm 38:11: “My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds. My neighbors stay far away from me.”
Proverbs 4:14-16: “Don’t take the path of evil people. Don’t live the way sinners do. Stay away from their path and don’t travel on it. Turn away from it and go on your way. Sinners can’t rest until they do what is evil. They can’t sleep until they make someone sin.”
Psalm 28:3: “Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts.”
Proverbs 27:6: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted. But an enemy kisses you many times.”
Luke 22:47-48: “While Jesus was still speaking, a crowd came up. The man named Judas was leading them. He was one of the 12 disciples. Judas approached Jesus to kiss him. But Jesus asked him, ‘Judas, are you handing over the Son of Man with a kiss?’”
A Christian Approach to Dealing with Fake Friends and Setting Boundaries
Your time and energy are limited, so don’t waste any of your valuable resources on fake friendships. By letting go of relationships with fake friends, you’ll be able to build more true friendships with people who are caring and trustworthy. By building boundaries (rules for how to interact in healthy ways) into your friendships, you’ll be helping yourself and your friends enjoy the kind of relationships God wants you to have. Here’s how to deal with fake friends and set boundaries:
If you already know for sure that someone is a fake friend, end your friendship without guilt. You don’t need to feel guilty about withdrawing from someone who is mistreating you. Remember your incredible worth as one of God’s beloved children. You deserve to be treated well – and if you’re not, you should move on to protect your well-being and live with integrity, rather than compromising for a fake friend.
Express your feelings and needs honestly. Be open with your friends and about how you feel and what you need, in all situations. Let them know exactly what you need to feel cared for and respected in your relationships with them, and ask them to tell you what they need from you to feel the same. Talk openly about how best to set boundaries for all aspects of your friendship, including how often you communicate, what is appropriate to say to each other, what is acceptable to ask each other to do, how you should agree on decisions that affect you both, and the freedom to share different opinions and agree to disagree respectfully.
Don’t tolerate disrespect. Whenever a friend doesn’t respect one of your boundaries, call attention to that and refuse to tolerate mistreatment. Let your friends know that you care about them, but you need them to learn to follow healthy boundaries in order for your friendships with them to continue. Affirm your commitment to do the same for them. If arguments happen when you stand up to disrespect, ask God to send you both wisdom and peace to resolve the conflict and move forward with a stronger friendship.
Focus on friends who want to grow closer to God with you. Fake friendships pull you away from God, while true friendships move you closer to him. Choose friendships with people who want to keep growing in faith along with you, prioritizing spiritual pursuits. In my book Wake Up to Wonder, I explain research that shows how pursuing God’s wonder together with others promotes good behavior in relationships. When people encounter God’s wonder and feel awe, their brains change in ways that lead to goodness. The brain area which establishes the sense of self in the world partially shuts down, while the area that controls emotions becomes more activated and releases dopamine (a chemical that causes people to feel good). As a result, people become more aware of their connection to others and more motivated to choose goodness. People who are focused on God together are naturally able to build good friendships with each other.
Learning and applying what the Bible says about fake friends is vital to keeping your friendships healthy. God wants the best for you – in all aspects of your life, including your friendships. When you and your friends center your lives around your relationships with God, God’s love will flow between you, empowering you to enjoy good friendships together.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/DMEPhotography
Whitney Hopler is the author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including Crosswalk.com, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and Dotdash.com (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). She has also written the young adult novel Dream Factory. Connect with Whitney on X/Twitter and on Facebook.