Sunday, December 30, 2012

Friendships versus Acquaintances


" A friend is one who walks in when others walk out"

  Walter Mitchell

It occurred to me recently while I was at a party hosted by a friend of mine and his family that true friendships are very valuable (and very rare indeed) in life.  I have known my friend Jeff since I was 17 years old.   I was a freshman in college, and we pledged a fraternity together, he taught me to snow ski, and we were roommates when I got engaged.  He was in my wedding in 1982.  I am now 52 and here I was in his house, yucking it up with him and several other friends I have known just as long like no time had passed and we had seen each other yesterday!  I am happy to say that Jeff is, and always has been a "true friend".  He has stayed in touch although he moved to the east coast years ago, and my wife and I were fortunate to attend his wedding years later.

Beyond Jeff, we are blessed with many friends that meet the standards of true friendship, and we value, cherish and hold tightly onto each and every relationship.  We are social creatures, and we desire and hold precious the social aspect of our lives.  In our quest for new friends, we sometimes come across people that we want to believe are true friends, but under closer examination, they unfortunately aren't.

True Friendship

What do I mean by true friendships?  I define them as those people that you meet in life who accept you for what you are, never judge you, never take you down perilous paths or get you to "fall off the wagon" with struggles in your life like losing weight,quitting smoking, a bad relationship, etc....   Instead, they always are there to lend an ear if needed; they encourage you and are there to make you feel better about yourself and your life- not worse.  Don't get me wrong...a true friend is blatantly honest and will tell you what you need to hear because they care for you and are trying to steer you n the right direction.

True friends are always happy for you with your life's successes - not jealous, and will be the first to congratulate you and will want to get together to celebrate your success.   Regardless of social stature, net worth, looks, religion, age or gender, a true friend and you share a very strong bond, usually from having commonality in many core personal beliefs such as trust, integrity, honesty and not trying to be something or someone you are many ways a true friend is a reflection of all we hold valuable in life, and ethically, what we believe is right and wrong.  Friends can be totally opposite, but for some reason they find each other....quoting the great Jim Morrison " A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself".  I believe that in order for true friendships to survive and thrive they must be  balanced, with a equal amount of "deposits and withdrawals" in the relationship. 


An "acquaintance" on the other hand, may seem like a friend, but they just don't meet the litmus test when it comes to those characteristics that define a true friend.  How do you tell the difference, and if you have to or need to deal with them, how you should act and how much information about you and your life should you share when they are around? 

Anyone can be a true friend or an acquaintance. Which category do those you know  fall into? 
Some questions to ask yourself about whether someone is just an acquaintance and not a true friend:

  1. Does that person come to mind when you need somebody to talk to?
  2. Does that person ever appear jealous regarding you or things you share in your life?
  3. Is that person ever condescending?
  4. Does that person ever try to sabotage goals you have made for yourself in life?
  5. Does that person make an effort to reach out to you when you are struggling and offer frank, heartfelt advise as to how to deal with the issue?
  6. Does that person talk about you in a negative way to others?
  7. Do you and that person share the same beliefs and core values?
  8. Do you trust that person?
  9. Do you have to be guarded with information about yourself when dealing with them?
  10. Does that person make you feel good when you are around them?

Spend a few moments to think about those in your may have a spouse or significant other, kids, parents or grandparents,  co-workers, former or current classmates,  neighbors, or someone you have met through another friend, at a party, at the gym or at church.   As you start to analyze those on your list, apply the above questions to figure out who is a true friend.  Once you are able to discern that, you will know who should matter the most to you in life and conversely, those who may be damaging you in your relationship that you might want to consider distancing or guarding yourself from.  There is a word called " Frienemy"...defined as "an enemy disguised as a friend or someone who is both a friend and a rival" that may fit some of your acquaintances.

Just as important, think about how others may perceive you as a friend....if they made your list did you make theirs? 

That being said,  acquaintances are part of life, we all have them, and they can be fun to hang around with on occasion.  They may be a convenience or a necessity in our day to day lives, which is OK as long as we understand their role and apply applicable interaction limitations  to those types of relationships.

"Friends make the bad times good and the good times unforgettable"


Please feel free to email me with your comments, stories, ideas or article or links to topics.