How Bad Friends Can Help You Grow

Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with. Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up.
Thomas Watson

It’s true that we need to gather around positive people if we want to grow. But – as counterintuitive as it might seem – your “bad” friends can also help you grow. Your annoying and irritating friends can enrich your life if you treat them the right way. Looking that way, they are actually not bad. Just here I will use the term “bad friends” to refer to friends that are difficult to deal with.

Bad friends Bad friends can enrich your life by helping you develop the traits you need. I’m sure there are good traits you want to have in life, but do you think you can just have them right away? No, the traits must be developed and you can only develop them through training. Your bad friends can provide you with the training you need.

For example, you want to be patient. You can’t just suddenly be patient out of nothing. To be patient you must go through situations that make you angry. These situations train your patience muscle. If you handle such situations the right way, you will be more patient. After experiencing such situations for a few years, you will see that many situations that previously make you angry will no longer be problems.

Your bad friends can give you situations through which you can develop your character. When you look at it this way, you should actually be grateful for them because they make you a better person.

It’s not easy to have this perspective, especially in the midst of difficult situations, but it’s necessary for your personal growth. Here are some tips to help you grow through bad friends:

1. Find people who are different from you

If you just gather with like-minded people, the chance is small that you will find those that can shape your character. They can enrich you in many ways, but they won’t develop your character.

So find people who are different from you. Find people who see and do things in a different way. Move out of your comfort zone and befriend various kinds of people.

2. Don’t avoid bad friends

When we befriend different kinds of people, chance is we will find some that we don’t feel comfortable with. Our first reaction when we meet such people is to just avoid them. Don’t. I know it’s not easy to do, but if you avoid them you will lose the opportunity to grow. Remind yourself of the great benefits these people can bring to you. Finding people who can develop your character is perhaps more valuable than finding people who can develop your knowledge.

3. Train your muscles

Now that you have these bad friends around you, let them train your character muscles. When they present you with challenging situations, don’t try to run away from them. Face them wisely. Be patient. Be humble. Stay in your training session so that you can get the most out of it.

4. Know your limit

While you need to stay in your training session, you also need to know your limit. Doing 100 push-ups while you can only do 30 won’t help your health. Train your character muscles, but know how much training you can bear. Otherwise, negative things could happen. You might no longer be able to control yourself and end up being furious. That will only make the situation worse.

So stop your training session when you know that you’ve reached your limit. Take rest, meet positive people, or simply avoid the bad friends for a while. Next time, train your character muscles further by being more patient.

5. Be persistent

No training will give you the results you want if you quit after only a few sessions. Be persistent in your character training. If you do that, you will eventually realize that you have developed the traits you want. It takes time, but you will come out as a better person.


It’s difficult to change other people, but you can change yourself. Your bad friends can help you a lot in the process.

What do you think?


  1. Donald – Normally I agree with most of what you say, so I’m surprised at this post. To me “bad friends” is an oxymoron. There are bad bosses, bad coworkers, bad peers, and even bad family members. But, friends should always be good friends (i.e. not toxic or overly negative as in high maintenance personalities) or else they should no longer be your friends — if you want any real hope of happiness in your life. I collected “300 Friendship Quotes” ( ) and reviewed perhaps a total of 500 or more in the process of that research. And in all that time I never found any quotes that recommended actually having/keeping bad friends.

  2. Shanel,
    Thanks for your input. I do have some difficult-to-deal-with people whom I call “friends”. They are not my close friends, since my close friends are all positive people, but they are my friends nevertheless.
    In my case, it happens because I join social organizations in which I must work with different kinds of people, some are comfortable to deal with and some are not. Out of such experiences I learn how the difficult-to-deal-with friends (whom I call “bad friends” in the article) shape my character to the better.

  3. I had two “bad friends” who overacted to my words and spread rumors about me. The first one motivated me to get pulished in Chinese; the second one motivated me to get published in English. I don’t think they are my friends any more, but I can’t deny they are beneficial to my character strength.

  4. Jade,
    I have never met “bad friends” who spread rumors about me, so your situation must be difficult. I’m glad you take the positive side of the experience.

  5. I’ve had enough character-building of this type, thank you very much.

  6. Flora,
    Everyone is different, of course. I can still learn a lot through them.

  7. Nice article Don. Well if we think positively, those “bad friends” only “different” from our nature, maybe the way we think, the way we act, etc.

    I believe in everything there are causes and effects. Every men we met or yet to come have a purpose in our life. Well at least that’s what I believe. ^_^ Cheers.

  8. Aries,
    Thanks for stopping by.

    Every men we met or yet to come have a purpose in our life.

    I agree with you. That’s a good way to look at it.

  9. So by your definition, I should not just befriend “positive” people but actively seek out “negative” people? And not only is it their problem that they are difficult to deal with but MY problem that I’m not patient enough with them? I don’t know what you definition character building is, but good luck in your pursuit in becoming a doormat.

  10. Li,

    Of course we shouldn’t actively seek “negative” people. What I’m saying is we should take advantage of all kinds of people around us for our personal growth, not just the “positive” type but also the “negative” type.

    I don’t know about you, but in my life there are both people who are easy and difficult to deal with. Rather than just blaming people who are difficult to deal with, why don’t we see our interaction with them in a positive way?

  11. I think this is the stupidest thing I’ve read all week. Wanna be friends?

  12. […] How Even Bad Friends Can Help You Grow Sphere: Related Content Ask a Question […]

  13. I have a “friend” who wasn’t interested in a particular man until I was.. the other night she went up to him in the pub and straddled him.
    There is no care in such a situation for me from her at all.
    I beleieve any character building for me would come from choising not to have friends around me who simply have no care for me.
    Am I missing something?

  14. hmm..i like this give me a new perspective on how to handle people around me, rather than always be defensive (which i felt draining all my energy).it also a way of make out the positive out of negative situation..which is any other link or more info about this
    character exercises..ive met enough of bully people…

  15. I would accept this kind of advice for difficult colleagues, whom I have to learn to deal with. But I would NOT waste energy on building friendships with ‘difficult’ people, which are going to result in unbalanced, and ultimately unsatisfying relationships. You need to be a well-balanced and confident person to avoid getting emotionally thrown-off course by “bad friends” whose personalities clash enough to be a “challenge” to your character. But if you were that well-balanced in the first place, there would be no need to seek ‘bad friends’ for the purposes claims in the article.

    The people you seek to ‘lever’ you up shouldn’t be “bad” friends. They should be people who have achieved what you aspire to achieve. Study their behaviours and see what they have done which are are not doing and can emulate.

  16. I don’t agree with you. I don’t use “Friends”. Friendly relations supposed to be Healthy ! Or we Friends, or we not. Is nothing in the middle. You have problems with understanding what is Real friendship is. Good luck

  17. Sorry, I know what you’re talking about but it gets to the point when enough BS with “bad friends” is enough. Glad you didn’t fail to mention the “know your limit” part . Yes sure, it builds character ok in some cases… But -for example- chronic angry people who believe to be justified in all the forms of their angry behavior are just toxic. I’m talking about the furious type who got to the point where they actually seek to be disliked and piss people off as the only way to get some kind of satisfaction !… I mean c’mon! it took me awhile to finally figure out why I was feeling so increasingly uncomfortable around this person. The world around them is always plotting against them… they are so damn good and everybody hates them… They do and amazing job and yet their boss never promotes him… They treat women like queens but they’re all b…… say insulting things and hurt him… The guy he plays sports with is incredibly competitive and makes things personal to humiliate him… Had any of these things been temporary but I noticed it was a pattern with the guy…. One day I caught him lying about something petty and of course ANGER motivated! that had nothing to do with me. It seems that he’d had yet another bad day at work and he proceeded to make me wait 47 minutes to be exact for just his response regarding doing something he had agreed to do the day before but ended up canceling… That was the last straw for me, I knew he was being mean spirited and that he was lying. Having been enormously interested in psychology since my early 20’s I made the huge mistake to think that I could maybe help with some of the very simple issues I started to detect troubled him… How foolish of me, this dude was crafty, slippery, deceitful and yes…. very ANGRY… (Not to mention that this type DO NOT WANT YOUR HELP) So although probably not entirely premeditatedly, I realized that he had long time ago made the decision that the way he was going to deal with his deep self dissatisfaction and pain was by taking revenge in some petty, miserly and of course, being devoid of any character… covert way. You’ve been warned folks…! I’d say make sure you know your limits and above all become a great judge of character as to choose well who you want to help you “grow” 😉

  18. I have this one particular friend who has been selfish and unreliable since word GO. I am a genuine person and believe that if you make plans with someone, you either follow through or cancel politely in advance. This friend was invited to my wedding and she replied to the RSVP as ‘attending’. When i arrived at the church in the wedding car, i saw this ‘friend’ standing with the onlookers in her casual clothes and her daughter in the pram. I was deeply cut and sobbed saying to my bridesmaids ‘she isnt coming’. We got through the wedding and when it came to the reception, my father had to pay for her meal even though she never turned up. It not only offended me but my family. My sister and the rest of the bridal party/guests went up to the night clubs after the reception that night to find this ‘friend’ was getting drunk on the dancefloor. The next day i messaged this friend and asked why she wasnt at my wedding. She replied with several excuses- 1. She couldnt afford nice clothes to wear, 2.She didnt have anyone to babysit her daughter, 3. She didnt have any money for a present. I was still fuming the next day and let it rip. We never spoke for 12 months after that. 12months later this ‘friend’ emailed me and a dialogue was opened. This friend tried telling me all her excuses but it didnt sit right with me. I thought to myself… you couldnt find anyone to mind your daughter for my wedding but found someone to mind her while you got drunk at the pubs?! You had nice clothes and money to go out but never had any of that for my wedding?! I thought these excuses were lame. I eventually put it behind me and 2 years down the track i am still in the same boat with a gut churning feeling about lack of trust and honesty. I am now at the stages where i am slowly getting rid of this friend. This friend has lied to me, put herself first, always used me as her ‘last option’ when she didnt have anything better to do and used me as her referees without my permission so she could get ahead and GET HERSELF things in life. I put my neck out on the line and recommended this person when this person got a job at my workplace and she has now become unreliable. I will always look back on my wedding day and remember that i was disappointed by that person when i should have been the happiest. I have set myself up for disappointment in the past and learnt not to get my hopes up. I guess having a bad friend has taught me some valuable life lessons…. NEVER fully trust anyone except YOURSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. I think that what you say is one should learn from bad friends and learn from it in order to build your character. If that’s the case, then I agree with it, however, it’s best to keep those people as far away as possible.

    Not be an ass to them or shut the door, which I have done & don’t regret, but to keep them around.

Comments are closed.