“Dime con quien andas, y te diré quien eres.” / “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.”
Growing up, my mom would continually remind my siblings and I of the quote you just read. Some days, it was a gentle reminder. Other days, it was a hard pill to swallow. I can’t even begin to explain how many times as a teenager I argued with my mom defending the people I hung out with. She didn’t get it!!! (Actually, I didn’t.)
I’m not a mother yet. But as I’ve grown older and as I have experienced certain hardships as an adult, I am just now beginning to realize why my mom was so wary of who we kept around. It wasn’t precisely because she was being extremely strict and didn’t want us to enjoy our lives. It was because she knew how easily influenced and shaped we could become by our company’s actions and lifestyles.
Even though it was hard to admit then, I can now admit that my mom’s nugget of wisdom was what I needed all along.
When you’re young, you don’t really pay attention to who your friends are. Usually you meet a classmate in class or on the playground, you get along for one moment, and then boom, suddenly that classmate is your diary and the person you go to for everything. I think it’s beautiful that as children, we choose friends based on the memories we have of them, what we shared, and how they made us feel. If a child knows that another has been bullying or picking on other kids, odds are they aren’t going to want to be around that particular child. But children are innocent and somehow understand that when someone’s actions aren’t good, they should stay away.
As we grow older, a shift begins to happen though. We begin to keep friends around no matter how they make us feel. I’m still trying to wrap my head around why this happens. Some questions I’ve asked myself are:
Am I friends with this person because I’ve known them for such a long time?
Am I friends with this person because I don’t want to bother meeting new people?
How Do You Feel?
I’ve found myself time and time again keeping company around that didn’t always make me feel good. Whether it was their language, their actions, attitudes, or mindsets, I could feel a shift in my own self whenever I was around them. If you pause for a moment and think of the company you’ve been keeping, I want you to keep the following questions in mind:
After you're done hanging out with them and even during, how do you FEEL? Do you feel that your heart, soul, and mind are being fed? Or, do you feel that the last bits of life are being sucked out of you? After you’re done hanging out with them, are you more inclined to make positive choices or negative ones? Are you more inclined to consume things (food, media, entertainment, etc.) that help you or stunt you? Do you feel encouraged and uplifted? Do you feel unmoved and apathetic?
Take a moment to digest those questions and if you feel inclined to, journal them down. It always makes a difference seeing your responses right in front of you! I genuinely desire for you to reflect on those because for a long time I didn’t understand, or at least, didn’t want to accept the fact that who I kept around would affect me in the long run. It wasn’t until I started to firsthand experience negative side effects from my various relationships that I realized my company mattered. No matter how solid I believed my integrity to be or how ingrained my values were in my heart, consistent bad company surely would corrupt what I had taken so long to build in my life.
Now, I do want to make it clear that I’m not trying to warn you to begin staying away from everyone. Especially since sometimes there are certain people you can’t necessarily avoid physically. This also doesn’t mean you need to start cutting people off left and right (unless you feel it is heavy on your heart to do so). What I want you to understand with me is the importance of choosing, when we’re able to, our company wisely for the sake of the health of our hearts, minds, and souls.
Who you keep around will surely influence you in one way or another. My hope for you is that you continue loving everyone you know and come across, but you’re aware of who is building you up and who isn’t.