She asks a lot of questions about your personal life, especially your weaknesses, but doesn’t share hers.
You can’t put your finger on it, but for some reason you feel guilty when you spend time with other friends.
Somedays she acts like your biggest fan, but, others, you wonder if you’ve somehow offended her.
If any of this sounds true of a friendship you’re in, you may have a frenemy. According to leadership blogger, Lawrence Wilson, everyone has one or two. You may be interested in his list of seven characteristics of a frenemy here.
I want to dig a little deeper though. Let’s talk about why we have frenemies and what to do if you have one (or are one!).
Can Christians be frenemies? I don’t think so. Or, at least they shouldn’t be.
Sometimes we can control it (if we are acting as the frenemy) but other times it feels we can’t (if we’re the friend of a frenemy.)
Here’s some useful information for navigating the world of frenemies.
Why Do We Have Frenemies?
According to research everywhere, and even a study I conducted last year, most women compare themselves to others.
Let me clarify that even further, according to my study, close to 100% of Christian women admitted to comparing themselves to other women, sometimes multiple times a day.
So, here’s what happens:
We decide that a certain person has what we want . . .maybe its her marriage or her body or even her walk with the Lord. . . and we think that perhaps we can replicate what she has simply by getting closer to her. We initiate friendship. We open up (maybe too much), hoping that will yield a closer relationship.
Subconsciously we think: Maybe some of that good ___ she has will rub off on me.
Note: There’s nothing wrong with any of that. In fact, it’s sound thinking. You should spend time with people whom you aspire to be like. Because studies show, you’ll end up becoming like who you hang out with.
But, somewhere along the way the tide turns in our hearts. We stop genuinely loving the one we’ve befriended and instead start competing with her. We compare ourselves with her in every way.
Are my kids as well-behaved as hers? Am I as cute as her? As successful as her? As . . .
(Fill in whatever ways you like to compare yourself to others here. We all do it. So, just pick a few.)
Then, mostly in our subconscious, a battle begins. If you feel she’s ahead, you strive to catch up. If you determine she’s behind, you rest pridefully in your achievement. (i.e. She’ll never have her house decorated as well as mine.)
Any genuine warmth you would extend goes through the flash freezer of the comparison contest.
And you get stuck there. You know you shouldn’t compare, but you aren’t sure how to flip the switch and make it stop.
You know you shouldn’t secretly cheer when she doesn’t get that promotion at work or lose the twenty pounds she’s been trying to drop, but you can’t keep your heart from happy-dancing each time you feel you’ve gotten ahead.
How Frenemies Can Stop Comparing
If you’ve read the above and a person came to mind, don’t feel guilt and shame over it. Rather, say it out loud. Confess to the father, “Lord, I’ve made____ a frenemy. Help me to stop comparing.”
Start by invoking God’s help. Because, goodness knows, you’re going to need it to successfully stop comparing. Then rest in his grace. You are forgiven.
Second: take a few steps back from the relationship while you gain perspective.
Allow the Lord to work on your heart. Ask him why you’ve idolized her or that attribute she possesses. Realize that you’re probably a lot more alike than you are different. Stop and dig deeper into her storyline. Is she thin because she was raised by a father who verbally abused her about her size? Is her home always perfect because she feels that’s where her worth is derived?
Third: Apply the gospel to your comparison issues.
Remember you are already accepted beyond measure. Being more like her, in any way, isn’t going to garner you more love, acceptance, peace, joy or anything else you think it will. It’s fear that drives our comparison issues and nothing else. We develop a scarcity mentality and falsely believe that if she has what we want, there may not be enough for us. But, it’s not true. Remind yourself that we serve a big God who has enough resources (and a purpose) for each of us!
Fourth: Consider confessing it to your friend.
If you care about the relationship and want to continue being friends, bring this to the light. Tell her you’re sorry you made her a frenemy. Set boundaries in your relationship. Ask your husband or another friend to hold you accountable and help make sure you don’t turn your comparison into friend idolatry.
When one friend idolizes another. . .Wow! Does it create a mess!
It happens too often in churches where someone new to the faith will pick out a woman she sees as more spiritual, and determine that woman can do no wrong.
If you’ve turned a friend into an idol, recognize the harm this can cause both of you. It can, often subconsciously, cause the idolized friend to puff up with pride. It can cause you to lose sight of your own relationship with Jesus (especially if following him is a new concept). Even the “most spiritual” woman will fall. She’ll not have it right 100% of the time. She can’t replace Jesus in your life. Her voice should not have equal weight with his either.
If you’ve started to believe you have an infallible friend, ask God to help you take a more balanced view of your relationship.
In the long run, these friendships always crash and burn–hard. When the friend does something to fall from the top of the pedestal, it hurts. The weight of the expectations of others often crushes these men and women and they must scramble to keep up appearances when they feel their cracks are showing.
The kindest thing you can do for a friend is to not idolize her. Love and idolatry can’t co-exist. You don’t truly love someone you idolize.
Love only exists in a relationship that possesses both grace and truth. All truth and you feel criticized, belittled, and defeated in the relationship. All grace and you are on a slippery slope towards creating your own rules that may not line up with what’s in God’s word.
And, love is what we’re called to. No matter what. Don’t confuse love and worship. Friends who think they are safe being vulnerable with you will only get hurt this way.
If You Think You Have a Frenemy
What if you think you have a frenemy? I think you have two options.
Option #1: Ask the friend if there’s competition between you.
You don’t have to be weird about it. But, gently say, “Hey, I feel like you are upset that I got that promotion at work . . .” or “I may be way off on this, but it just seems like you aren’t happy that I’m having another baby?” And, give them the opportunity to confess their struggle with comparison. If they don’t say anything, then you’ve done your part. You can’t read others’ minds, or know their motives, so just leave it there and then consider option #2.
Option #2: Back off.
You don’t have to be friends with anyone. God’s command is to love everyone, but even he chose those guys he wanted to spend time with. If you feel like you are being manipulated, criticized, or put down (even subtly) by another woman–she’s not a friend. If you feel like another woman has you on a pedestal and expects you to be perfect all the time, she’s not a friend either. These are frenemies. Start backing away and pray that God will bring other women in your life to fill the relationship gap.
What do you think? Have you experienced frenemies? Tell me your stories here in comments or on social media!
Also be sure to join our new Comparison Crushers Facebook group. You’ll enjoy and benefit from the discussion there!