At the core of everything in life are relationships. Technology may be changing this, but the basic truth is that everything we do revolves around other people.

Our spouse.

Our kids.

Our boss.

Our clients

Our parents.

Our friends.

Our coworkers.

Our pizza delivery guy.

Everywhere we look are relationships. Some of them are healthy. Others aren’t. Some are beneficial. Some aren’t.

So how do we know which relationships we need to go all-in with and which ones need to run away from?

A few years ago my pastor from college gave a talk called Wise Foolish Evil. Here’s the description of it:

“We’ve all been in a relationship, partnership or group and assumed we could relate to and approach one of those like we did another, only to realize that the reaction and results were completely different: wise, foolish & evil.”

In the talk, he talked big picture about three types of relationships every person has. As I re-listened to that talk this week, I realized how relevant it still is today. Below are my condensed down versions of each category he talked about. If you want the big picture version, you can watch it here.

Relationships you learn from

These relationships are the best relationships. They make you a better person. Whether it’s your wife helping teach you how to be a better husband. Or a mentor helping you become a better person. Or even the trainer at the gym helping you be healthier. We all have relationships that we can and should be learning from. Invest in these! Don’t take them for granted.

Relationships you limit

Some relationships are okay in smaller doses. That friend from high school who you love but always makes stupid decisions? It’s okay to hang out with him occasionally. But we should probably limit our time with him because he’s not the best influence in large doses.

A personal example of this is came back around Thanksgiving. I received a message from a “friend” from college asking if I could pray for her marriage. Things with her husband were bad and she was ready to give up and move on.

I’m not the type of person to completely ignore someone going through a marital crisis, but I told her up front I wouldn’t be able to counsel her through everything given our past. It wouldn’t have been healthy for me or my marriage to do that. We talked for a little bit and I helped her as much as I felt comfortable doing. I didn’t give up on the friendship, but I did limit it for the health and safety of my marriage.

Relationships you leave

These are the hardest relationships of the three. Leaving a relationship, even a bad one, is tough to do. But some relationships aren’t healthy. They drag you down emotionally. They discourage you spiritually. Some even have negative physical side effects.

Run from these relationships and don’t look back.

This is what my college pastor said in his talk:

Get as far away from [these] people as possible. They’re not changing. You and I cannot change them.

We have to protect ourselves, and sometimes the best protection is to leave.

Where are these relationships in your life?

Who is someone you are learning from that you can invest into even more so you can become a better person?

Who is the person who you love but maybe need to distance yourself from a little bit?

Who is that one relationship that if you cut ties with today you’d be better off for it?

Relationships are hard. But they’re important. Do the hard work now so you can benefit from it sooner and longer.