By not recognizing red flags, we can find ourselves acting on thoughts, making choices, and living in feelings that lead us away from our walk with Christ. And as we constantly try to clear the mental chaos, we realize that we have to journey through a wilderness just to get back on track.
If we allow it, Scripture can tell us a great deal about the health of our friendships and relationships—alerting us to potential issues in others and ourselves.
Instead of relying on magazine articles, social media posts, and friendly misguided advice, we can seek the wisdom of God. Though the Bible may not be our first thought for relationship/friendship advice, it is our best ally for our spiritual, emotional, mental, and relationship health.
Listed below are some common destructive issues. Even when we haven’t experienced them, we often know people that have. Rather than present worldly approaches, I want to provide scriptures to help identify the red flags that steer us away from our spiritual health, wellbeing and walks.
To be honest, some friendships and relationships are just plain confusing. No matter how hard we try, we won’t know where we stand. And despite our best efforts, we can’t quite figure out how to make things work or what we’re doing wrong.
In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion.Psalm 71:1
When we are constantly confused and struggling for stability, we can’t just ignore the red flags. Knowing that “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace…”, we have to ask where is it coming from?
We must also ask why we keep subjecting ourselves to these people and circumstances that keep us questioning our sanity or judgment.
In addition to confusion, we can easily be taken off our path with Christ. Our focus becomes them not Him. By aligning our behaviors with the other person instead of with the word of God, we lose sight of ourselves.
Although we don’t often think of blame as a red flag, it definitely is—in ourselves and in the person we’re blaming. When we surround ourselves with “red flag” people, we are influenced to act in spiritually and emotionally unhealthy ways.
And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.Genesis 3:12-13
Unlike Adam, we choose our spouses and friends. Ultimately, it is our responsibility to take a step back and reevaluate the people we have allowed into our lives. Blaming prevents us from taking responsibility for our choices, and instead holds someone else accountable for the things we have chosen to do or accept.
As we saw in the garden, God held Adam, Eve, and the serpent responsible for the actions they all took as individuals.
Fortunately there are lessons we can learn, when we are tempted to blame. We can:
- become familiar with our reactions that don’t align with God‘s word
- learn our triggers and their roots
- take our “blame” to God in prayer
- ask God for discernment with regard to our role and responsibilities
Whether in a relationship or friendship, fear is a bright red flag. And when anxiety starts to run the show, we must pay attention. Look closely at the scripture below, it gives us insight into two powerful effects of fear —weakness and an unstable mind.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)
In some relationships, the person deliberately instills fear or tries to keep us guessing and anxious. Sometimes, because of what we have experienced in our upbringing or previous relationships, we may fear rejection, abandonment, or being alone. In either case, the red flags are visible.
Once we start to lean into fear, we lean away from God. We become more concerned with maintaining our human bonds than strengthening our relationship above. If we pay attention to our thoughts and actions, we will notice that they are centered around worldly concerns — instead of the kingdom.
Lack of Fear
In this case, the lack of fear is referring to having no respect or appreciation for God’s authority. Some relationships, in which we are more concerned about ourselves or someone else, can cause our fear and reverence for God to fall by the wayside. For many of us, as long as we have what we want, we aren’t always focused on what God thinks.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.Romans 3:18 (KJV)
It is always a red flag when we are in a friendship or a relationship with someone who has no concern for the word of God and has no fear of God himself. Those that don’t fear God tend to make choices that reflect their mindset.
When we are willing to look at the type of fruit we (or they) are producing, we are able to see things more clearly.
Double-mindedness caused me an incredible amount of emotional chaos. I was like the old saying, and “didn’t know whether I was coming or going”. When we are double minded, we lack mental, emotional, and spiritual stability. Despite the problems it was causing me, I couldn’t seem to commit one way or another. Although I had many struggles, the ones listed below illustrate the battle between living for myself versus God.
- double standards
- inconsistent values and boundaries
- approval seeking
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.James 1:8
Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek the kingdom of heaven first—which is an incredible challenge when we are also trying to satisfy our earthly and fleshly desires. Because it places the things of the world on an equal playing field with the things of God, being double minded splits our loyalties. And since we most often operate from our flesh, the things of the world have the advantage.
For that reason, this red flag applies to us and them. It’s hard to be truly dedicated to Christ and our :
- political views
Eliminating Red Flags
Red flags aren’t always visible. And sometimes, by the time we recognize them, it can feel like it’s too late. But, when we spend time at the feet of Jesus, we gain the ability to recognize early warning signs. Additionally, we get to see them from a Biblical perspective. If we allow it, we also gain access to the strength of the Holy Spirit to do something about them.
- Make a list of biblical values and dealbreakers
- Clarify your boundaries—with yourself
- Pray about everything and everyone
- Journal and keep track of ignoring or accepting red flags
- Ask God to reveal anything that draws you to move beyond the warning signs
Though not all-inclusive, the suggestions above are a great start to building a life that isn’t tearing us down in the process. Initially it may be hard, but the truth is our key to freedom.