If you’re following these posts from the last few weeks, you know my photos aren’t having anything to do with the subject but merely to show joy still happens in the midst of hard times. Regardless of what’s going on your lives, dogs still need to go out. They still need walked. They still have accidents. And Rosie still begs for treats from Sarah.

My friend Shelly and I were talking yesterday about how it’s so much easier to be the kind of person who remains on the surface-level, doesn’t question and only shows a pretty front porch. They don’t make any waves and yeah, they lack depth but truth be told? There are days I would like to lack depth, too.

It’s far easier to throw up the jazz hands each day and project that not-a-care image and go with whatever the higher-ups say.

Easier, yes. Less fulfilling? Maybe. How can you miss something you don’t understand?

But sad? Absolutely.

Sadly, those who put-up the jazz hands often eschew others who don’t live in a false reality that is counterfeit and counterproductive. Counterfeit because it’s false and counterproductive because we get so much more done for the world when we are vulnerable and notice stuff that matters. Noticers are the ones that change the world, my friends.

I’ve met more wolves in sheep costumes in the past two years than I have in the previous 42. It seemed they were everywhere – like land mines that go off intermittently and in places you would never expect.

Two big disagreements in my extended family rocked me to my core. A betrayal from a friend who was like a sister. Being “ghosted” by the other one of our trio. Cold shoulders from church leadership. The list goes on.

And, if you’re like me, when people share a myriad of relationship issues with me, that’s a flag, right? Because the common denominator is, well . . . the person sharing.

So I get it. I’m sure you might be thinking the same.

Trust me, I’ve done my fair share of self-reflection through prayer, counseling and much-needed white space. Since I am a human being still learning, yes, I’ve screwed up in some areas. I identify it. I own it. I confess it. I seek forgiveness. I forgive myself. I move on.

But this recent string of stuff? It’s mostly because of one key point:

Those who benefited the most from you once not having boundaries will be the most upset when you start putting them in place.

If you’ve read much around here or in Heart Sisters or Becoming Heart Sisters, then you know I am a recovering people-pleaser. It’s not unusual for me to put others’ needs above my own or even sacrifice my family’s needs for another family’s needs.

In the past, I haven’t asserted myself much when “stuff” comes up because who likes conflict? Whenever I speak to a group, I always ask people to raise their hand if they love conflict.

Guess what? No one raises their hands. Not a one.

No one likes conflict.

But like it or not, conflict happens if you are going to be in close, authentic relationship with other people.

As you gather your tribe,  consider these five key points in identifying wolves:

1. Wolves care more about appearances than they do reality. I once knew a person who immediately stopped associating with someone if they heard something unflattering about him or her. Good grief, even Jesus was verbally bashed by other people. Everyone has fallen short. Everyone has days that aren’t so great. Everyone needs grace. If your friend starts pulling away and ghosting you because she’s more worried about her reputation then . . . yeah.Not your people.

2. Wolves say they will always be there for you but when you need them, they are suddenly very busy. If they need you, they throw a hootie if you aren’t available immediately. The thing about wolves is that they are so sneaky – they wear that sheep costume and oftentimes don’t even realize themselves that they’re actually wolves. In fact, they’ve worn this costume for so long they don’t even know who they really are. Sad? Again, yes. But if they aren’t there when you need them the most, nope. Not your people.

3. Wolves tell you they’re too busy to talk through a conflict with you. Translation: you aren’t worth the time it takes  to work this through. If a conflict has come up between another person and you and they refuse to discuss it or unloads their side and says they’re done with the conversation before you can even respond, yeah. Not your people.

4. Wolves refuse to say ten very important words: “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?” You guys, I talk about humility all the time. Know why? It’s the building block to vulnerability. Vulnerability is the foundation of authenticity. Authentic, real relationships are the only ones worth having. If they aren’t willing to stick-in when your world gets a little messy, yep . . . not. Your. People.

5. Wolves will say what sounds good but do what ultimately benefits them. See a trend here? Wolves are very “me” focused. Forget your needs – wolves are about themselves and themselves only. These masters of PR know how to project an image to persuade you to do what they want – even if it’s not in your best interest. Anyone not interested in your best interest? You guessed it – not your people.

It’s often difficult to cut wolves out of your life because, as I said earlier, wolves are gooooood and smooooth. They know how to work it. But if you’ve been betrayed by a wolf, consider yourself lucky – even though, trust me, I know, it’s extremely painful. The earlier you get a wolf out of your life, the better.

Are we to love them? Sure. I’ve prayed blessings over my wolves and I love them from far, far away. I wish them well. I forgive them. I forgive myself for not seeing the truth.

But . . . move. On. Sister. Ain’t no wolf worth it.

Disclaimer: my husband has this really great tattoo of a wolf and Native American on his chest. He loves wolves and I have to admit, they’re fascinating. There are many amazing qualities we can glean from wolves. I’m just going with the scripture of “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Wolf lovers, please do not send hate mail. You included, Jason Snapp. <3