We have all different kinds of friends. We have best friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, school friends, sports friends, work friends, church friends, and even ex-friends. There are “friends with benefits” (which really aren’t friends…but that’s for a different time), friends you meet online, friends of friends, and Facebook friends.
Friends are awesome. But, what happens when one of your friends becomes needy? Remember Needy Nikki? You know, the friend who has an unhealthy attachment to you. How do you deal with this? This is what I’d like to shed some light on.
Needy friends are tough. I’ve had a few friends like this in my life, and, at one point or another, I’ve been one. But, if your anything like me, your first instinct on handling these situations is to do your best to ignore and avoid these types of friends. However, we have to fight this temptation.
One main reason friends can become needy is because they are looking for someone to love them or accept them. Often people who are needy don’t have a solid support system or have people in their life to love them the way they need. Usually this causes them to gravitate toward people they see as having these qualities—loving, caring, and accepting.
Unfortunately, the unhealthy part comes in when needy friends cling as tight as they can to another person, and as a result, that person begins to feel suffocated and sometimes gets angry or annoyed.
As Christians we are called to love, even when it’s hard. I want to offer a few suggestions on how you can handle needy friends in a healthy, loving way that have worked for me over the years.
The Gift of Understanding.
Understanding is a gift of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1831). This gift helps us to empathize with another’s situation without knowing all the details. Using this gift with needy friends helps you understand that there is more happening with them then just needing to be around you. It helps you understand that it is not about you at all but that they are trying to fill a void. You have a great opportunity to lead them to Christ. When you are feeling upset or annoyed by this friend, spend some time in prayer for them and ask Christ to help you help them in a healthy way.
The Fruit of Patience.
Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1832). If you’ve ever tried to be patient with someone you are angry or annoyed with, it was probably pretty hard. Having patience with a needy friend will take time. Instead of trying to avoid places or situations they will be, make an effort to smile and greet them when your paths cross. If they want to talk, spend a few minutes talking (or listening). Approach the friendship with a genuine, kind heart knowing that they need you more than you need them. This is another opportunity to show them Christ and show them acceptance just by simply being kind (another fruit of the Holy Spirit).
When we talk about being honest with someone we sometimes see that as an opportunity to “tell it like it is” without reservation or regard to the other person. Honesty cannot be without prudence, self-control, and love. If you feel like you need to sit down with your friend who has become needy, then do so. Just remember that you can’t tear down others in “honesty” to make yourself feel better. Be sure you know what you want to say and how to say it before your conversation, and know ahead of time that your friend’s feelings may be hurt. Do your best to come to a conclusion on how to move forward.
Now, with all that being said, there may come a time where this friendship in your life becomes too unhealthy and needs to end. It’s okay to recognize that in some friendships people need more than we can provide. It’s not our job to save people.
If you’ve tried to continue the friendship to the best of your ability and love the best you can, and it’s not working out, it’s okay to walk away. Although the friendship may end, your prayers for them shouldn’t.
No matter how old you get, the friends you have in your life are gifts from God. Cherish them and work hard to keep them.