I had an incident occur recently that has made me ponder the difference between a friend and an acquaintance. Now at age 70, I have evolved over the years and feel differently about the two relationships than I did in grade school. Actually, I seriously doubt that until about age 40 I gave much thought to the distinction between the two. But I have grown to feel there is a big distinction.
In grade school I wanted almost everyone to be my friend. I wanted to be liked. Maybe that’s natural. So probably like most other young kids I accepted, and most likely gave back, some not very nice behavior. But we squabbled, made up, fought again, etc. By the time I reached high school, I began to understand and welcome the true meaning of friendship………someone you simply connect with in some way, someone you grow closer to, laugh, cry, and most important, build a history with.
And my scope of friends grew. Depending on my likes, interests, etc. So by the time I reached age 40, I could look back and see that one of those childhood friendships still endured. I met Mary Ann in second grade. We lived in Ohio at that time and I was devastated to have to leave my best friend at age 13 to move back to the Boston area. But…….we stayed connected. We wrote letters via snail mail. All through high school, through marriage, births of children, divorce, new careers, etc. And now over 60 years later, we’re still friends. No, we’re not in touch all the time. But once you’ve built a history with somebody, that doesn’t matter.
And by age 50 or so I found that instead of increasing friendships, I was doing the opposite. Sometimes nothing significant happened. We just drifted apart for various reasons. And that’s okay. It’s part of life. But I was also coming to see that “I” had changed! I became much more choosy WHO I called “friend.” I began to understand the difference between “friend” and “acquaintance.” I also began to see that some people might initially start off as a friend but they’re only meant to briefly cross your path. Something is lacking. That true connection, that closeness. It’s missing. I’ve also felt that friendship is most definitely a two-way street. It cannot be one-sided. It must be nurtured if it is to not only grow, but to endure.
About 15 years ago I reconnected with a high school friend, Alice. We weren’t all that close or chummy in high school. But we knew each other, we shared mutual friends, knew the same people, had a sense of place and history together. That was the seed. If the seed grew or not was up to us. Despite almost 1,200 miles difference, we initially worked at our friendship………we emailed, we called each other, we made plans to visit, to stay in touch, to give updates on our lives. We also shared our love for knitting, for books and that very special teen age high school history. Sometimes we go a few days without being in touch. Some days we’re in touch throughout the day with texts, phone calls, Facebook, etc. Which proves once a friendship reaches a certain level, it just IS. Nothing is forced. It’s authentic. And it’s highly valued.
And I recently made a new friend who lives locally. Sherry and I were brought together by our mutual passion for this past election. This was the stimulus for the beginning of a friendship. This shared interest. But it didn’t take long before I realized we had a lot more in common. A shared love for social events…..the beach, movies, metaphysical, travel, etc. So while our friendship is still in the formative stages, it feels right. And hopefully, it will grow and endure.
Many of us consider people we’ve never even met in person our friends. Like on Facebook. I absolutely feel this possible. However, and THIS is the point of my entire post here………..the reason I feel this is possible is because these friends allow you to get to “know” them via the medium of social media. They posts photos and commentary of their children, grandchildren, dogs, cats, craft projects, travels, etc. etc. And they visit your page and get to know you in the very same way and through the comment section, a dialogue transpires. In other words…..despite a very different way of making new friends from grade school, this DOES work! You make this connection, this shared interest, something that brings you to like this person. To WANT to get to know them better.
And THAT, to me, is the key. The difference between a “friend” and an “acquaintance.” According to my trusty Webster, a friend is: Known by oneself and for whom one has regard or affection. The word is frequently used of very close or deep associations. And it goes on to say: One’s feelings for an acquaintance are less warm than for a friend and have more of courtesy than of affection.
That sounds right to me. And I’ll take it a step further by saying, I also firmly believe there are different levels of friendship. I have a few, very few, what I consider best friends. And although they’re dwindling through my own choice, I still maintain a fair amount of regular friends. Who I enjoy being with. Who I enjoy sharing things with. Who I enjoy hearing what’s going on in their life. Who I would definitely miss if they weren’t in my life. They might not be what I consider best friends, but they are very important to me. And I love them dearly.
Maybe it’s because I’m an only child, but friends have always been important to me. I value how they enrich my life. Make it better. Make me think. Make me laugh. How they share their life with me and let me be a part of theirs. All of that, to me, is what a friend is all about.
So yes, at age 70, I’ve come to define a friend much differently than I do an acquaintance. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just my thoughts………….
See you here next time………..