Immediately when you see the WARNING sign you are conditioned to know that something bad is ahead. That whatever is in front of you can do you harm.  You are given the proverbial heads up that this is something you just need to leave alone. That it is a trip or bio hazard, that it’s slippery when wet or that it is simply toxic. 

Wouldn’t it be great if we got those same warnings when it comes to our relationships?  A sign of any kind.  A flashing neon light, a smoke signal, an anonymous letter, Morse code and the one I am waiting on—that booming voice of God as He swoops down in a cloud and beckons me away from the danger. Now wouldn’t that be something?

The reality is there are signs.  We just don’t choose to recognize them. Oftentimes we are so wrapped up in our feelings that we can’t even focus on the warnings that could prevent us from not just physical but from emotional and spiritual damage.  Sometimes even life threatening harm.

“Life threatening?  Now that is a bit much.  They are my friends, my family; they only mean and want the best for me.”  Most times that is absolutely true.  The close relationships that we have, are a direct stimulus for the happiest parts of our life. Our close relationships should bring out the best in us.  They should open us up to a life of joy, happiness, encouragement, support and most emphatically love.  But sometimes it is exactly the opposite.

Family and friends are different yet sticky subjects when it comes to relationships. Especially when you are trying to distinguish those which are toxic.  In a nut shell—friends you choose; family you don’t.  It’s hard to walk away from what you never “picked up” in the first place.

Family is part of your DNA. Their blood runs through you. It is a relationship that simply can’t be denied scientifically.  It can be, however, severed in any number of ways but seldom ever is.  Why?…because its family.  It is amazing how we oftentimes allow family members to commit the most heinous crimes against us; which, if another person committed we would cry out for the death penalty as punishment.  Is it that familial connection that beckons us to allow the hurt, embarrassment, fear, disrespect, etc. to continuously take root in our mind and bodies just so we aren’t the pariah at the next family reunion? Sometimes we have to recognize that guarding our hearts isn’t only for the outsiders. Family is a hot mess. I’ll leave this for another day.  Besides, Aunt Mamie may read this.

Friends are a whole other ball game.  They tend to be those persons whom you share your everyday experiences with. Your successes, failures, your dreams, desires and secrets.  They are your kids’ godparents, your maid of honor, your groomsman, your sorority sister and fraternity brother, your co-worker, church member; simply your girl or your boy.  They know you and therein lies the problem. That intimate knowledge that they have of you is what makes these relationships work.  Unfortunately, this knowledge can sometimes work against you. Perhaps before we give so much of ourselves to someone, we should evaluate what motivates us to share those parts of us that can be used to bind us…but that is a topic for another day.

We all want to believe that our closest friends have all of our best interests at heart. We want to believe that they aren’t envious, boastful, self-seeking, easy to anger, delighting in evil nor are prideful against you.  We want to believe that they are as committed to our successes as we are to theirs. But what do we do when we realize they aren’t. Most times nothing.  We are so consumed with the idea of being lonely, an outcast or ridiculed, or with someone telling our secrets that we allow the person a power over us that just does not belong to them.

Their behaviors start to take hold of your morals and values.  They become a conundrum in your relationship.  You have to make decisions; hard decisions.  Is this relationship something I want to continue?  What value does this person bring to my life?  Am I living the God ordained life that I should be? If not, is this person or persons hindering me and or my growth?  Even simpler, is this person really my friend?

That is the question!  Are they your friend?  Most importantly, do you know what your definition of friend is?  Have you taken the time to evaluate what you want out of any relationship? And if you have, have you been receiving it.  If not, it’s time to make a change.  It is hard to do.  I know. I have been there.  However, I had to determine if the relationship was worth losing who I am and how I have chosen to live. When you embrace whose you are, you will refuse to fill your life with the toxic waste that results from a superficial friendship.

I decided I wanted a relationship that was as fulfilling to that person as it was to me.  When I was shown something different I had my answer.  It was hard to let that person go.  A friend told me it is harder to leave a friend than it is a husband. Well I don’t know much about that, but I do know that it hurts.  It leaves a space in your heart.  Take the opportunity to fill that space with those people who have proven time and time again that you are wonderful and mean something to them.  Replace that toxic relationship with love. I promise they won’t be missed! 

Love is patient, is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7


Stephanie grew up in Orlando, Florida. She moved to Gainesville to attend the University of Florida where she received her Bachelors of Science in Agricultural Operations Management. She then went on to become a Certified Public Housing Manager for the Gainesville Housing Authority for three years where she managed the day-to-day operations of 220 housing units. For nine years after that position she worked as a Management Consultant for BCN Associates, Inc. where she was responsible for all contracts, facilities operations and quality assurance oversight for the company. Stephanie utilizes what she learned from these agencies to assist religious organizations, non-profit organizations and small businesses with their business systems through her own small consulting company, Impact Consulting Services, LLC. She loves to travel both for pleasure and on mission trips. She is an avid reader and loves GOOD music.

Stephanie’s love for her community and heart for ministry led her to the CRA. She is currently a Project Manager whose projects include the construction and development of the A. Quinn Jones Museum & Cultural Center; oversight for the Cotton Club Museum & Cultural Center; Tenant recruitment and Development for the Cornerstone commercial property in East Gainesville and the Residential Paint Voucher programs. She serves in a dual role as the CRA Secretary for the CRA Board where she is responsible for all the administrative functions for the Board and its four area Advisory Boards.

She attends PASSAGE Family Church where she serves as the Women’s Ministry Coordinator and is a part of the Global Missions Team.