Friends and Aquaintances

It's fascinating to me that in this day and age of Myspace and Facebook there is no longer a relational category of "aquaintance".  Everyone is a "friend". 

The problem is, we aren't quite sure what a friend is.  Modern American friendships have lost the force and importance they once had. C. S. Lewis for example, in his The Four Loves, writes:

"To the Ancients, friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it".

According to a 2006 study documented in the journal the American Sociological Review, since 1985 Americans are thought to be suffering a loss in the quality and quantity of close friendships. The study states 25% of Americans have no close confidants, and the average total number of confidants per citizen has dropped from four to two.

In the age of social networking, we are all alone.

But in the avalanche of ceaseless change, we need good friends to migrate with us through its intensity. In your social network who are your friends and who are your aquaintances.  The distinction is important. How do you know? 

To me, an aquaintence is more like a CEO. You know, the boss that keeps you on task, highlights the bottom line, and has the power to promote or demote depending on your performance.  They put conditions on your future behavior and leverage your vulnerabilities as a show of their managerial finesse in helping you.  

We all need people to play that role in our lives, but as aquaintances, not friends. A friend is uniquely suited to nurture your soul and invigorate your thinking.  It is a relationship of mutual caring and intimacy among one another. A friend is one who knows you as a person and regards you for who you are and not what he or she is looking for in a good friend. 

A friend suffers fools because we all are fools from time to time. Aquaintances don't put up with our crap for long. Friends do, thank God.  Savor the following quote from Frederick Buechner as you reflect on friends in your life.

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.”

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