Why You Can’t Be Friends with That Guy by Donald Miller

Why You Can’t Be Friends with That Guy

Donald Miller
I’m continuing my series called Start Life Over today. The series is about the real way people change. People don’t change by believing in hokey formulas; they change because they experience and understand serious, foundational paradigm shifts.
If you want to download the entire series in which I explain these shifts in a PDF, just click here. Otherwise, we’ll continue with the fourth principle.
The fourth principle is this: You will become like the people you hang out with.
If you’ve ever attended Storyline Conference or if you’ve already purchased Creating Your Life Plan, you know this is one of my core beliefs.

And it’s not just a belief.

It’s a fact. You are more than what you eat, how much you exercise, or how much sleep you get. You are a conglomerate of the people you hang out with.
I have a friend who runs a small business and is just now experiencing a great deal of success. His team is great, but there’s one guy I’ve noticed my friend has trouble with. When I asked him about it, he said dealing with the guy was like dealing with a 7-year old.
“Why do you keep him around?” I asked.
He told me he needed him, that he was sure his ideas were valuable. I told him what I’d tell anybody: Let him go. He’s going to corrupt your entire culture. Pretty soon you’ll have other team members taking on his characteristics.

My friend listened.

But he ultimately didn’t take my advice. Or at least he didn’t for six more months. He finally let him go when he just couldn’t take it anymore. The guy was causing too many divisions and spreading a negative culture.
Photo Credit: Mikaela Hamilton
Photo Credit: Mikaela Hamilton
These days, my friend’s company sings right along and he hardly even misses the guy. Isn’t it funny how much we think we need certain people when the reality is we really don’t? Often, we’d be better off without them.
One bad egg will make your life miserable. And worse, eventually you’ll become like them. If you hang out with bitter people, you’ll get bitter yourself. And the sure way to become a cynic is to hang out with cynical people. Want a Darwinian, cut-throat view of life? Just hang out with sharks.
Every once in a while I get some pushback on this idea.

Shouldn’t we be gracious and forgiving?

And my answer is yes. But what does being gracious and forgiving have to do with selling your soul? And if you’re people pleasing your way into relationships that are negatively affecting you, you’re definitely compromising your soul.
The idea isn’t that we’re viewing ourselves as better than others; the idea is that we’re protecting ourselves from becoming somebody we don’t want to become.
When Jesus talks with the rich young ruler, he explains the rules, grieves the ruler’s decision not to become like Him, and walks away. He doesn’t misappropriate grace by joining the ruler and forfeiting His mission in life.

Who do you want to be?

Do you want to be kind, smart, authentic, vulnerable, wise, and disciplined? If so, find people like that and spend a lot of time with them because that’s exactly what you will become.
Some of us pay more attention to what we eat than we do to who we’re eating with. The reality is, the latter has a more dramatic affect on the quality of our lives.
Now this gets complicated in a couple ways. The first is, well, there are certain people you can’t get away from. Perhaps your coworkers (though you really could quit if you had to) or maybe your spouse. These situations really stink.
In this case, putting up some boundaries would be great.

And while hard, it’s really doable.

Just refuse to become whoever it is they are. In time, you might even have a positive affect on them. After all, they’re also becoming a lot like you.
The second way this gets complicated is that it’s contextual. What I mean is, certain people have more strength than others.
If I’m around a really selfish person, I’ll become like them too easily. I have to keep my distance. I have friends, though, who are way less impressionable. They can stay in those relationships longer and not be affected. So our levels of tolerance vary from person to person.

The idea remains the same, though.

We can be way more proactive in choosing who we spend time with and this will make all the difference. Are there relationships you need to let go of? Are there new people you need to intentionally get time with? Let’s make some changes in who we hang out with and watch how powerfully we begin to change ourselves.
Tomorrow, the final principle in Start Life Over. I’ve enjoyed this series so far and I hope you have too!

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