Inspiring Relationships 5

When it comes to friendship, most of us have been raised with the belief that it’s ideal to make and hang on to as many friends as possible through life. It’s certainly a belief I subscribed to for my life—that is, until I read an article from Inc. Magazine that really got me thinking.

The premise of the article is simple: Eliminate relationships that are depleting, and increase relationships that are inspiring. Although it is geared slightly toward professional relationships, it no doubt has merit in our personal friendships. All of us have relationships in our lives that are depleting—or as the author of the article called them, “space fillers” (which, admittedly sounds harsh but I suppose is somewhat accurate). Perhaps they are people we’ve known for a long time who we no longer have anything in common with, or people who always seem to drag us down, making us feel bad about who we are or even belittling our ideas or interests. Whatever it is, if we think about it, we can all identify relationships that need to be let go to make more room for the types of people who are uplifting, inspiring and encouraging.

But how do we do that? How do we choose which relationships to invest in and which to let go? How do we create a relationship base that is positive and energizing? How do we ease away from the people in our lives who are taking us down (that is, of course, after we’ve tried to resolve any underlying issues or conflicts)?

To start, we have to identify who falls into what category—something that should not be done lightly, of course. And while it may be a bit difficult to admit which relationships are draining us, it’s absolutely necessary to do. We may even find that our inspiring column is actually quite short—and that’s totally okay. As the author of the article writes, “Having a few true and loyal friends is better than a bunch of negative acquaintances any day.”

Once we’ve identified which category everyone fits into, it’s time to eliminate the bad relationships and nurture the good ones. The truth is, there is only so much time in the day and each of us only has so much to offer. And while it’s important for us to be available to volunteer or serve those who are less fortunate, the friendships we have in our life should be mutually beneficial and positive all-around.

Life is just too short to surround ourselves with people who make us feel bad or don’t really care about us. Remember: As we step away from the bad relationships, we free ourselves up to nurture the positive, lasting, inspiring ones.

Do you have depleting relationships in your life that need to be let go? What’s holding you back?

Photo by Morgan Blake for Flower Crown Society



  1. Hi! Thanks for this article. This has been one of the toughest lessons I’ve learned in the past few years. It has been painful, in the way a cleanse can be, removing the toxic relationships from my life. I clung to them so hard, desperate to make them work! We must always guard our hearts, not out of fear, but out of discernment; unfortunately, wisdom can take some time to acquire. If a relationship is not edifying or wholesome than it can and should be cut out. Loving without boundaries isn’t love, it is something quite different.

    1. I completely agree with you here: “If a relationship is not edifying or wholesome than it can and should be cut out. Loving without boundaries isn’t love, it is something quite different.”

      Thanks for reading!

  2. I agree with this article wholeheartedly. However that being said, I don’t think you should totally shut negative people out of your life(though I did leave Facebook this week because it was depleting). My mother used to tell me “there are friends and there are ministries” meaning there are people you love, open yourself to, are vulnerable with(friends), and then there are people you love on, show them the love and acceptance and kindness of Christ but this is a one way street don’t look for anything in return, don’t depend on them, or share your deepest-darkest-secret, just love them because they are hurting.

    1. Yes—well said! I couldn’t agree more. Also, what some would call “depleting” others might not. My favorite kind of people are really broken and dealing with a lot of stuff—they’re so authentic and out there with who they are, and that isn’t depleting to me at all! The friends I personally find depleting are those who don’t give me the time of day, or who refuse to be truly themselves (or even those who make me feel like I can’t be myself). Those are the relationships I’m personally choosing to say goodbye to. Thanks for reading!

  3. I agree with this article although I will admit that it is difficult to identify the point where a friendship needs to end. I had an experience like this and ten years into the friendship I knew I had to let it go. I have been able to cultivate so many more meaningful and healthy friendships in its place. Thank you for the wonderful article!

  4. Eliminating relationships is quite literally and biblically not Christ like. Your post is a form of thought I’ve watched creep into my small groups and become justification for church moves, giving up on friendships, and gracefully exiting places where our generation doesn’t feel they’re getting the appropriate amount of inspiration all in the name of things like “boundaries,” or “lack of fulfillment.” If Christ eliminated all toxic relationships – Judas would have been out before he could have ever been given the opportunity to betray Christ. The Samaritan woman at the well was undoubtedly not creating “inspiration” for Christ but sucking the life out of Him emotionally. The disciple who Jesus loved betrayed Him 3x which probably falls into the space of a relationship that makes us feel bad about ourselves. I totally get where you’re at – I’m there too – there are a ton of girlfriends I’ve watched transition in a way I don’t connect with any more. Yet at the same time, I serve a God of love and reconciliation who doesn’t give up the fight for our souls – doesn’t place boundaries on people who don’t inspire Him. Have you ever been friends with someone completely poor and broken? It’s a serious drain emotionally – its so much work it can make your eyes droop, but isn’t loving the LEAST OF THESE more important than placing boundaries around those who don’t inspire us? Natalie – I love reading your stuff and I think you’re a super rockstar in pursuit of God’s greatness for your life. This article is awesome because it got me thinking about how badly I’d like to cut some un-inspiring relationships out of my life – but I won’t. I just don’t think that’s how the modern day church is called to work and love people. Maybe I’m guilty of having some super lame friends – but as a believer in community being a driving tool in bringing us to holiness, I’m not cutting them loose yet. I sure hope they don’t cut me loose either. xo

    1. Sweet Jessica, it is right to love and help and, if you have been called, to pour into that life on a continual basis. But without discerning whether or not your calling and priorities are with those who are resistant to change and chronically stuck in a negative pattern, your own life and family may begin to deteriorate. Jesus only did what the Father told Him to do. He had boundaries. That meant that not every one got healing, not every one sat in on teaching, not everyone got fed with a few fish and loaves. He came as a man, suspending his God abilities and used them only as the Father allowed and released them, just like it is for us. Clearly you have a tender and merciful heart. Temper that with prayerful seeking and you will find that not every needy case is for you. Love them, intercede for them, and give to them with prayerful guidance. Relationships can be beautiful that way…love always has boundaries.

      1. Yes, I think Susan perhaps better understood the gist of what I was after with this article. In all honesty, if there is a relationship that is depleting that you don’t feel ready to step away from, by all means I think it’s worth fighting for it! But if we’re only staying in bad relationships because we feel guilty, it’s likely time to step away. We can’t be all things to all people—if we spend all our energy trying to win over people who think we’re annoying or who make us feel awful, we do a disservice to the people who love us and are there for us by not being available to them. Shauna Niequist writes about this concept in her book “Bittersweet” and refers to it as the “home team”—have you read it? That might shed a bit more light on what I’m saying here 🙂

  5. It’s a hard truth that one, putting it into practice can be even harder. You never want to dishonor anyone who comes into your life but there are times when it’s necessary to recognise that you may be dishonoring yourself by passively accepting that friendship. Sadly not everyone who walks through the door of our life delights in creating an atmosphere of life and joy necessary to see our lives and their lives simultaneously flourish. Thanks for the article Natalie – great work!

  6. this article is to the point. I have to agree, relationships that do not build you up are a waste of time, as I have come to a realization of some of my relationships and I have been easing myself away from them. I have a few good, trusted friends and I am ok with that. Thank you for that thougthful article.

  7. Yes—negative friendships really do take so much out of us. I think we should always try to resolve issues in those depleting friendships, but if there really is nothing to be done, we need to learn to let go and move on so that we can invest in people who inspire and encourage us!

  8. this article was just what i needed to read during this season of my life. thankful that you articulated everything i was thinking + feeling.


  9. This is such a great post. I feel like I naturally do away with meaningless friendships, and can’t let go of the people that are truly important to me. I wish more people realized the truth in this article. Negative friendships are so draining and create unneeded stress and drama.

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