I played with a variety of guys, and I coached a variety of guys. Some were great, the kinds of people you hope your kids can be friends with one day. Some weren’t, the kinds you pray your kids have nothing to do with. Now, as a coach and father, I want to help the kids in my home and on my teams to discern between the two.

That quest has led me to some difficult conversations with my own son. I’ve had to be brutally honest with him about certain people he’s been around on and off the field.

No one wants to admit that their friends aren’t good for them. Especially young people. After all, that’s a friend or a teammate! I’m often loyal to a fault and don’t like to acknowledge that some folks just aren’t good. But learning to acknowledge that is key if we want to continue down the path of spiritual growth.

How do you spot the friends/teammates that are a hindrance to your walk with God?

Proverbs 1:15-16 give some guidance: “My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path, for their feet run to evil, and they hasten to shed blood.”

Now, you might not be surrounded with people who are looking to take the life of someone else, but there is still much wisdom in these verses.

Two characteristics to spot (and run from):

Quick and (often) secret engagement with what is off-limits. Of course, we are all sinners by nature, but that’s not the point here. The point is that these folks simply can’t wait to feed their illicit desires. They “run to evil,” as the verse says. This is beyond mischievous. It’s a desire to do what they want, when they want, regardless of what it is they want.

Lack of concern for others. They just don’t care how their attitudes, words, and actions come across to or affect someone else. Centuries after this Proverb was written, Jesus reaffirmed its premise: love your neighbor as yourself.

It’s never easy to let a friendship dissolve, but sometimes it’s the only thing to do. When you see yourself surrounded by (or your kids or players surrounded by) friends and teammates who run quickly to evil and have no regard for others, it’s time to get away. Your walk with Jesus is too important to let it be ruined by those who care nothing for him.

Lord Jesus, give me wisdom and discernment when it comes to the people I’m around. Show me those who run to evil and who don’t care for others. Make me the kind of person who loves you with all I am and loves others as myself. Amen.