Friend or Acquaintance?
Friend: a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard; a person who is not hostile; a person who is on good terms with another. (Dictionary.com)
Acquaintance: a person known to one, but usually not a close friend. (Dictionary.com)
It seems to me that we (well at least me during some points in my life) have confused the difference between the terms friend and acquaintance. It’s always been this way, but now with the proliferation of social media, it seems the lines between friends and acquaintances are blurred even more so. Social media has allowed us to be in near constant contact with our “friends.” Yet, I have been pondering whether those “friends” are truly friends, casual friends, merely acquaintances, or perhaps even adversaries. It’s not only in social media that I see this confusion, but also in work relationships, and face-to-face interactions.
What does it mean to be a friend? William Arthur Ward, sums up what it means to be a friend: “A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.”
If you are like me than no doubt you’ve experienced people who move in and out of your life, we think about them as friends, and maybe they are for a time. But situations change, perhaps one person leaves the workplace, or they relocate across the country, and as we drift away from one another they move from friends to acquaintances.
Then there’s casual friends, those individuals who we don’t know real well, but we have some things in common. They seem nice, we enjoy talking with them, we see them occasionally, perhaps we even share a meal with them. Spending time with casual friends can be enjoyable. Over time a casual friend can become a true, close friend, while others will drift into the acquaintance realm.
I have a confession – true, close friendships don’t come easy for me. At times it is difficult for me to discern whether someone is a friend, acquaintance, or foe. It can be confusing when an individual whom you think is your friend sends you mixed signals. They are inclusive some of the time, and at other times totally ignore you. They invite you to do something, and then they leave without you. They set up plans with you, then they cancel those plans when something better comes along. They are kind at times and rather harsh, explosive, and reactive at other times. And, then there’s someone who appears to be a friend when in effect they are just trying use you for their own personal gain, or to make themselves look better to others. Situations like those can be rather disconcerting, disheartening, and disappointing.
To me it’s in the day-to-day interactions with my “friends,” and even more so, in those times of great needs, that we can begin to see just who those true friends are. A friend is someone who is loyal, who is always there for you, they rejoice and celebrate with you – without jealousy – over the good things that happen in your life. They defend you when you are not around. But even more importantly, the true friend is there for you especially in times of adversity. During those really tough times is when I found out just who my true friends are. There’s the time of betrayal many years ago, when all but three friends abandoned me. These dear people pulled me through a really dark time. There was a time much later, in which I experienced devastation, and turned to my friends that I found that one dear person remained true.
I can count on one hand those individuals whom I believe are friends, in the true sense of the word. I am blessed to have these people in my life.
How about you? Do you have many true friends, or just a few?
Proverbs 17:17 “A friend is always loyal, and a brother [or sister] is born to help in time of need.” (NLT)
Proverbs 18:24 “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (NIV)