Oppressed people attempting to challenge and overcome their oppression naturally do so by targeting outside oppressive forces (i.e. corporations, police, government agencies, etc.). This is of course a logical and correct position. But in our efforts to address outside demons, we often fail to address those within, both on collective and individual levels.
Indeed, history is replete with examples of organizations infiltrated by those seeming to be genuine members or individuals killed or betrayed by those they counted as friends or comrades.
Robert Green, in his book The 48 Laws of Power notes, “You must never let your guard down…always be on the lookout for any signs of emotional disturbance such as envy and ingratitude…the closest of friends can be transformed into the worst of enemies.” He goes on to write, “Be wary of friends – they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy.”
I’ve been blessed to experience true friendships in my life. We may fall out of touch sometimes, but we pick up right where we left off. These are honest and respectable people who want the best for themselves and me. They are for the most part, reliable and seeking to be of service to others. Many of us have collaborated on successful projects together. Some helped me in times of crisis and vice versa. I will not name them, and don’t have room to mention ALL of them, but one is a celebrated NYC anchorwoman and author; another is a brilliant scholar, talented musician and professor of Black Studies, another was like a big brother to me growing up in Harlem, who now lives in the South; another is an actual cousin living in the South who is a close confidante and beautiful spirit.
But I’ve also experienced fake friends as well, as I’m sure you have. It seems counter-intuitive but the very people you often assist, counsel or share victories with will often be the very people who are jealous and resentful of you. It is an odd phenomenon how someone can love and supposedly admire you, but boil on the inside when you share good news or achieve something. They will speak of you highly in one breath, and attempt to cut you down in another. Everyone from Caesar to Jesus to Dr. King and Malcolm X faced betrayal by people they deeply trusted. So it is important that we correctly identify our enemies posing as friends in order to neutralize their ability to sabotage us and our activities.
Signs of a False Friend
- Genuine friends will often tell you that a certain person seems to resent you. Instead of dismissing this, take it into consideration, especially when you hear it from several people
- This person will often indirectly tell on themselves when they speak to you; “Well I’m no genius, expert, great writer, or guru, but….If this person often prefaces his/her comments with such words when speaking to you, it sometimes means they think you believe yourself to be an expert or know-it-all.
- This person will often use opportunities to attack and ridicule your personality and achievements through the disguise of “keeping you humble,” or making you aware of your shortcomings. In fact, they might be feeling insecure around you and they feel better when they bring you down a notch. Such conversations often end with them telling you how much they love you or value your friendship above all others. This is more likely to happen when said person is drunk, high, or extremely upset. This is when their guards are down and they say exactly what they mean without censoring.
- When you share conflicts with this person, he/she might compare your issues with their own and suggest that you have no right to complain because you have it so good. The implication is that you have it much better than they do, and they resent you for it.
- Sometimes a person will covet your possessions, qualities or experiences directly. They will often say things like, “I wish I had this or that,” and tell you how “lucky” you are. All of us have said such things to someone innocently, but with this type of person, they mean it, and might even believe you don’t deserve such things.
- Sometimes this person’s friends or mates will accidentally reveal to you things the person has said about you that indicate jealousy or deep resentment.
- They are quick to remind you that you are not perfect or that your “shit stinks” like anyone else. As a variation, they will repeatedly tell you that you are arrogant or think you know it all, are a hypocrite, or not as great as you think.
- They will attempt to make you feel like the things you do have no impact because deep down, they feel unaccomplished, wasteful and unfulfilled. In fact, some of these people do nothing to help anybody! (Misery likes company)
- They sometimes become uncomfortable when you share good news about a job, love interest, or new project. On rare occasions they will actually demand you stop speaking about such things because things are not going well for them. A true friend wants you to do well.
Some of these people harbor many inner demons and they demonstrate this in being constantly depressed, suicidal, getting into altercations, losing jobs, and never taking accountability for their actions. All of us have people who dislike us, but with these people, you will notice that many of their own relatives and associates disconnect from them. In other words, there is a general consensus that this person is bad news! This might come from an ugly childhood or feelings of insecurity, but whatever the case, distance yourself from this person. They are toxic and tend to negatively almost everything they touch. In fact, if you research a toxic person’s background, you will see a long record of blown opportunities, fights, arrests, lost jobs, abusive relationships, crimes against the community, betrayed trust, or broken friendships.
Personally, words from insecure people don’t affect me at all. All this does is convince me that this person is not an actual friend.
They can lie to everyone else, but can’t lie to themselves. Trust and know the hatred and bitterness they display toward you isn’t even a fraction of that they feel toward themselves. They thrive off of fighting and insults, so the best advice is to put space between you and them like an astronaut and if you choose to, pray for them. Also remember, such people can be your friends, relatives, love interests, co-worker, or fellow organizational member. If someone exposes him or herself as a fake friend and real enemy, don’t be upset; be grateful. A hidden enemy is dangerous and we are blessed when we can accurately determine who’s for us and who’s against us. You’ve been warned, but here’s a video clip from T.D. Jakes just to remind you.
Agyei Tyehimba is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.