“My child, love everyone with the pure love of charity, but have no friendship save with those whose interaction is good and true.”
FRANCIS De Sales (1567–1622) gives what seems like very contemporary advice — don’t nurture friendships with toxic people. It’s not only unbecoming of believing people who are supposed to be nurturing holy relationships, it’s also such a waste of time and emotional energy.
If a person proves they have no regard for you, or for those you care about, this is a relationship God flags as toxic — if you venture more deeply into it. It should be allowed to wane. If we’re clear about love we’re clear also about what takes us closer and further away from love. Whatever takes us away from love should be resisted and rebuffed.
A Christian person should not feel guilty one iota for spurning a friendship with someone — anyone — who isn’t committed to love; to trying to love. Is not Jesus more important than our brother, sister or mother? (Mark 3:35) Indeed, part of our Christian discipleship is to surrender, before God, to discern his will, regarding what relationships we’ll nurture versus which relationships we’re to discard.
This is nothing about not loving people. We’re to love everyone with the pure love of charity, which is to be benevolent and of fundamental goodwill.
“So we see that the highest grace does not lie in being without friendships, but in having none which are not good, holy and true.”
Part of De Sales’ analysis considers the thought of jettisoning friendships altogether. But that’s not helpful in a life that requires contact with others not only to thrive but to thrive.
So much damage is done by toxic people who attract themselves to our lives by pure geography. It’s never God’s will that we nurture friendships with people purely because he placed them in our orbit. It would be naïve to think that way, as if we don’t have a choice of wisdom to make.
This is God’s task of each and every Christian: to rid from our lives those friendships that are not good, holy and true.
“Truly it is a blessed thing to love on earth as we hope to love in Heaven, and to begin that friendship here which is to endure for ever there.”
De Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life states plainly what is God’s will; in this case to be very discerning and disciplined about the friendships we allow and nurture. The nature of these friendships is that we start here on earth what we hope to continue throughout eternity.
See how important the friendships we nurture are; they’re a mirror image of what is to be eternally true.
It’s God’s will that we rid from our lives toxic relationships.
And a toxic relationship is any relationship that is not good, holy and true.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.