Monday, September 2, 2013

Friends And Acquaintances

I just heard a quote today that made a lot of sense to me.  Here it is:  "It's important to have friends in this world, but you don't have to make room in your life for every person you meet."  There's a lot of truth to that.  My own version of that quote is, "I believe that it's not the quantity, but the quality of your friends that's important."  I've been doing some pondering and reflecting and I've realized that I really don't have a whole lot of quality friends.  In fact, I have very few.

I guess it's important when you're talking about such things to define the differences between a friend and an acquaintance.  To me, an acquaintance is someone you've met at some point in your life, who has played a role that is somewhat important enough that you would know them outside the part of your life that you know them best.  That might include a co-worker who you've socialized with, or a member of your church that you spend time with outside of a church function, or even someone from your past that you maintain contact with, such as from high school or college.  I'd say the vast majority of folks I'm friends with on social media, aside from relatives, particularly on Facebook, fall into this category.  Relatives fall into a completely different category.

My definition of a friend is similar, but somewhat more important in your life, someone who you have an emotional connection to in addition to where you know them from.  As I mentioned before, I have very few people in my life who fit this definition anymore.  In fact, I've steadily lost many friends over the past decade, which is a shame but is also a reflection of the direction my life has taken.

After I got married, I would say the number of friends in my life increased a lot.  It didn't include just those friends who I had prior, but also a number of my wife's friends.  We had "couple friends", other married couples who were similar to us and who we had much in common.  We could "hang out" with them, and do things with them.  It was kind of cool, actually.  When my wife died, that part of my life seemed to die with her.  I read about this phenomenon in a book.  When you lose a spouse, within the first year you will lose most if not all of those "couple friends".  And that's what happened to me.  Sure, I might see them occasionally, but they transitioned into the acquaintance category.  I was blown away at first, but then I picked up on why this happens, and I was okay with it.  Why does it happen?  Because you become a third wheel.  And I was okay with it because I didn't have that "couple" thing in common with them anymore.

Ironically, I thought it was odd to see many of my friends from before I got married return to my life.  A group of guys I used to hang around with all the time and who had almost all vanished shortly after I got married (other than one or two), came back to support me in my grief after losing my wife.  It was short-lived, however, since, as time has gone on, I realized that once I was back on my feet emotionally, they returned to their lives.  It hurt at first, because I do consider them close friends, but it's apparent that I cared more about them than the other way around.

I recently watched WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, and the movie espouses the belief that men and women can't be friends.  I think there's some truth to that.  And, in fact, it's something that I miss about having couple friends.  I think, if you're both in a strong marriage, it's actually kind of cool to be able to hang out with another couple, and actually be able to have a friendship of the opposite sex.  If one or the other is not married, or is not in a strong marriage, it probably isn't a good idea to explore a friendship with the someone of the opposite sex.  And if both are single, then it becomes somewhat awkward if one or the other feels any attraction to the other.  It that's the case, then it's hard to become friends.  It may even become to difficult if one feels that way about the other and it's not reciprocated.

Where does this leave me?  Well, I really don't have very many good friends.  I don't have what I would consider a "best friend" anymore.  My father kind of fits that definition more than anyone else, but it's a little bit different than just a best friend.  Unfortunately, now is one of those times in my life when I really feel like I need that best friend in my life.  The flip side is that maybe I'm just not that great a friend.  I'm obviously not sending out the right kind of vibe for attracting the type of people that can be good friends.  Finding good quality friends is not something you just set out and do, either.  It's such an organic thing.  It kind of just happens.

I hate being an introvert.  My boss is an extrovert and she recently shared with us how hard it was for her to have to move as often as she did while growing up.  But her personality allowed her to make friends easily.  I don't know if her definition of a friend is the same as mine, but, if so, I'm kind of jealous of her for being able to do that.  It goes back to what I said at the beginning of this post:  I really have very few friends than acquaintances.  I just don't have the right personality to attract people.

How different might our lives be if we all could tell the people in our lives how we really feel about them?  If you love someone, do you tell them?  Wouldn't it be great if that quiet but pretty young lady on the other side of the room who you've exchanged several glances with would just tell you they are interested in getting together with you?  Or if you could walk up to her and tell her the same thing?

So I'm taking applications for "best friend", c/o Sweet Daughter Melody.  Speaking of my daughter, she has no problem making new friends.  In fact, she has shown me that she can make friends with just about anyone.  She's pretty special.

Have a great evening, friends!

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