Frenemies: What to Do When Friends Turn Mean
by Hayley DiMarco
What To Do When Friends Turn Mean
By Hayley DiMarco
What Is a Frenemy? If an enemy had insulted me, then I could bear it. If someone who hated me had attacked me, then I could hide from him. But it is you, my equal, my best friend, one I knew so well! We used to talk to each other in complete confidence and walk into God’s house with the festival crowds.
The frenemy. She’s a friend and an enemy. A little bit of good and a little bit of bad. She’s nice a lot of the time, but boy, when she’s mean, she is oh-so mean. How did it get this way? When did she turn? And now what do you do?
Living with a frenemy is difficult, if not risky business. She can attack you on a whim and then love you just as fast. You like being with her, most of the time, but sometimes she makes you sick to your stomach and tired to the bone. The frenemy isn’t easily understood or changed. Her ways need some explaining, but more than that, your reaction to her ways needs a boost. She’s chosen her path of destruction, and now it’s up to you whether you will capsize in the storm of her mean or change your course and maybe even help her to correct hers.
So what makes a frenemy any different from an enemy? And should they be treated just the same, or should the friend part of the relationship make a difference? Good questions, both.
First let’s take a look at the definition of enemy in order to get a better idea. According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, an enemy is “one that is antagonistic to another; especially: one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent.”
Have you ever felt like the opponent of your frenemy? It’s so weird how someone can claim to love you, can spend time with you, and can even publicly profess their “like” for you, yet at the same time can be looking for opportunities to hurt you or mess with you all the time.
We’ve covered the definition of an enemy; now let’s try look at the definition of a friend. A friend is defined as “one attached to another by affection or esteem.” The biggest difference here being the presence of affection and esteem. Seems like a reasonable definition.
Okay, now let’s mush those two defs together for our own definition. “Frenemy: someone attached to another by affection or esteem who seeks to injure, overthrow, or confound them as an opponent.” That’s a mixed-up puppy. “I love you,” “I hate you,” “I love you, but I hate you.” Ugh! Not a good feeling for either person involved. Frenemies are at the very least confused and more than likely divided. It’s hard to have an opinion or to take a stand on something like friendship when you are forever changing the definition of it. In the book of Proverbs we read that, “A friend always loves, and a brother is born to share trouble” (Proverbs 17:17). A friend should be constantly loving, constantly on your side, but the frenemy is anything but consistent—consistently inconsistent is more like it.
A lot of times the frenemy is actually worse than the full-on enemy. In my book Mean Girls: Facing Your Beauty Turned Beast, I wrote about this full-on enemy— the Mean Girl who is anything but a friend. The Mean Girl is one of the ultimate tests of girlhood, but how you deal with her is hugely different from how you have to deal with your frenemy. Your frenemy is a part of your life; she isn’t going anywhere soon, and you have to decide if you’re going to try to salvage the friendship or just walk away completely.
The subtle difference between the Mean Girl and the frenemy is that the frenemy was invited into your life by you or is there because she’s related to you. You love her, or at least like her, and because of that your reactions to her are probably gonna be different than your reactions to a Mean Girl. It’s complicated, life with a frenemy—much more complicated than dealing with a Mean Girl who isn’t your friend at all. Just like a Mean Girl, your frenemy might make you sick, tired, or even depressed, but more than a Mean Girl ever could, your frenemy is probably affecting your spiritual life.
The real problem with the frenemy, though, isn’t how she makes you feel; that is a good signal that something is wrong, but it’s only a symptom. The real problem is her influence on your spirit. In whatever way she takes your eyes off of God and makes you focus on worry, fear, anger, loneliness, depression, or anything else that leads you to question God or sin, she has drawn your spirit away from the pursuit of holiness and into the pursuit of acceptance. In every situation you have to ask yourself, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10 NIV).
You can’t go on not knowing when she’s going to hug you or hurt you. You can’t go on being afraid of the one you love. Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done now. That’s why you have to agree to be honest with yourself and, most of all, to be willing to do what it takes spiritually to improve the situation. My favorite question I like to ask people is this: if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve got—is that enough? If it’s not and you want change, then you’ve come to the right place.
Now, I have to say before we go any further that no friend is perfect. No one is so consistently loving that they never hurt you or leave you wondering what just happened. Human nature makes us hurt each another accidentally and sometimes purposefully, but that doesn’t make us all frenemies; just fallen. Nope, the frenemy is a particular kinda mean. She pulls you in with her kindness and attention, and then she smacks ya down with her hidden or even blatant insults and jabs. Repeatedly! She doesn’t even have to be 50–50 nice and mean. A friend who’s mean to you even 20 percent of the time is still a major frenemy, because that means one out of five times you talk to her, she’s going to leave you hurt and abused. And that leaves you off balance, never sure who she’s gonna be next.
You need to ask yourself a lot of questions about your friend to figure out if you’re dealing with a real frenemy or just a normal, everyday, run-of-the-mill human who makes mistakes and gets a little moody. And that’s what we’re gonna to do in this book.
It’s time to decide once and for all if this relationship is worth it or if it’s time to chuck it. And if you can’t chuck it, you’ve gotta learn how to deal. Life is short and you don’t need a friend who treats you more like her enemy than her loved one. But when is enough, enough? Ready to find out? Good.
Before we dive in, though, let me point out just one little thing that you might never have thought about: Jesus himself, the perfect man, the one everyone should have been glad to have as a friend and afraid to turn into an enemy, had his own frenemy to deal with. His name was Judas Iscariot. He spent months on end with Jesus. They worked together, they ate together, they laughed together, and they probably even cried together. But Judas wasn’t all friend all the time. He had other ideas of what he wanted out of the relationship.
Jesus was a popular guy. Everyone wanted to be with him, but he couldn’t possibly travel with and befriend every person who wanted his time, so he picked out twelve men. These twelve guys would enter his inner circle as friends and disciples. They would leave their friends and families and travel with Jesus to serve him, learn from him, and love him. Judas was one of these lucky guys. He was given the job of treasurer, the handler of the money. That meant that when any member of the group wanted to eat or to buy some clothes or anything at all, they’d have to go to Judas to get the cash they needed. It was a very important position, to say the least. But, of course, Judas proved himself anything but trustworthy. While Judas and Jesus worked together, Judas didn’t pull anything; he was a friend to Jesus. But one night that all changed, and when it did, this is what happened, “Jesus was deeply troubled. He declared, ‘I can guarantee this truth: One of you is going to betray me!’ ” (John 13:21). This betrayal would send Jesus to his ultimate sacrifice. And the fact that it was his friend Judas who would start things must have been disappointing to the Savior (see Matthew 26:48–50).
You’re not alone when it comes to frenemy problems. You have someone who understands more than you could ever know. He watched his friend stab him in the back in the worst possible way, and ultimately this friend would kill himself from the guilt of doing what he did. Yes, Jesus knows what it is like to be loved and hated by the same person. So as we start to look into God’s Word, remember that you aren’t alone. Others the world over are going through just what you are going through, and the Savior himself is intimately aware of your pain. You’re not alone, my friend.
One last thing before we dive into diagnosing and healing your frenemy problem: Let me suggest a way to make this book sink deeper into your heart, and that is through music. When I read a book on deep matters of the spirit, I like to turn on my own soundtrack of life that drives me to the place I want to be mentally and spiritually as I listen and learn, seeking God’s face and his truth. My favorite worship music is my continual soundtrack while I write and read anything about God. The words lift up my heart and my mind to where they need to be and help me get my spirit ready for the things I am reading. So give it a shot: pick up your iPod, download some tracks if you are without, and turn ’em on. Then, read on about God’s desire for you and your frenemy!
Friends can destroy one another, but a loving friend can stick closer than family.