In an earlier post titled We Are (Not) Your Friends, I distinguished between a friend and an acquaintance. In this post, I will describe the gray area between the two.
An acquaintance is someone you know casually; that is, one you know on a superficial basis. You and that person are not intimate to the point you both share personal information and engage in deep conversation. The relationship is shallow.
A friend, by contrast, is one with whom you share an intimate relationship. You both share personal information, you seek advice from one another, are able to give positive and negative feedback (since you know how the person will react), you self-disclose personal information that would be withheld otherwise. The relationship is deep.
Sometimes, an acquaintance may act and become a friend, as a friend may act and become an acquaintance. For example, a co-worker may do something kind for you, or support you during a difficult situation. In that one occasion, that co-worker is being a friend to you in helping you reach a goal or console you in a time of need, prompting you to ask, “Is this person a friend?” It’s important to mention that because someone helped you in a specific time of need does not necessarily make them your friend. He or she may have done it with strings attached (tit for tat). In that case, it’s selfish and the person doesn’t care about your needs–it was done so they can expect you to help them whenever the time arrives. How is it a friendship when the people involved do things for each other only to receive something in return? Observe how the person acts over time whenever you are enduring a difficult situation or facing a problem. Who was once an acquaintance may or may not become a friend.
Conversely, a close friend may betray you in some way (such as revealing a secret to others which you promise never to disclose). That disclosure will result in that person’s anger toward you, changing your status from a close friend to a casual acquaintance because the person may treat you as such, thinking they cannot trust you. Depending on the person you betray, he or she may decide to forgive you or hold a grudge. Whatever negative event that occurs in a friendship, the person betrayed questions that person’s loyalty, asking, “Is this person my true friend? Who was once a friend may or may not become acquaintance.
We don’t know our true friends until we learn how they treat and interact with us–and when adversity strikes us.