Understand the Difference Between a Friend and an Acquaintance

Failing to understand the difference between a friend and an acquaintance can easily become the biggest detriment to growing as an individual. Sounds heavy but it’s true. We deal with so many people on a daily basis that we get caught up in the moment without awareness of whether we should be treating the person in front of us as a friend or an acquaintance.

Let’s differentiate the two

Before I go into the different situations involving friends and acquaintances, I would like to put out a simple differentiation of the two. A friend is someone that coincides with your principles and provides you with wisdom, honesty and loyalty in order to make you a better person. The same thing goes for the reverse. Friendship is a two way relationship.

An acquaintance is someone you see possibly everyday at school or work or maybe you see every now and then through common activity. An acquaintance is someone you help without expecting anything in return. This isn’t a person you open up to or provide high level of commitment to.

I know this all sounds obvious, but understanding how different the roles are in the two types of relationships is crucial. In the following sections, I’ll be going over three different scenarios that we can go through when struggling to associate someone as a friend or an acquaintance.

I think they’re my friends…

This type of person is actually a minority but I want to discuss it just because it’s important to understand. These are the people who if you asked who their friends are they’ll struggle to put any name out and essentially guess just because saying no names is super embarrassing. But I’m here to say that it’s actually better to say no names and I’ll explain why. Thinking certain people are your friends is SUPER dangerous. More often than not the individuals that are thought to be friends are really just acquaintances. Friendship means honesty, you are essentially being honest to people you aren’t totally confident have your best interests. You are providing your end of the “friendship” but gain nothing in return. Remember, a friendship is a two way relationship, you’re obviously not keeping score but there needs to be some give and take in which both individuals in the relationship are improving.

So how do you know who the real friends are? Well first, you need to self-reflect and understand who you really are. Then you can start having a connecting relationship with God, because if you’re not honest with yourself you won’t be honest with God. Finally once your self awarenness and faith is strong, you can see which people around you fall in line with your principles to have a healthy relationship. If these steps aren’t followed in line the consequences can be vast, without strong self awareness and faith, your character is at the hands of those you surround yourself with.

I know who my friends are and I don’t talk to anyone else

This is a complete turn to the previous scenario but another dangerous mentality to have. It’s dangerous because it’s based off of a “nationalistic” mentality. My friends are the only ones that need my attention and I don’t wanna care or think about anyone else. The reason this is very foolish is that this sort of thinking is counter-productive. You aren’t put into this world to only help out your friends. As a constantly growing individual you have experiences and wisdom that can be given to those you deal with outside of your friend group. So even though you may not truly wanna hang out with certain people from work or school, it’s important you do from time to time. That is what fellowship at the core really is. You’re offering up yourself at the gain of others, in other words, service.

So it’s important to recognize this type of relationship and the role that it comes with. Completely ignoring it not only hurts possible growing opportunities for those around you but also hurts your relationship with God. Because it’s His other children you are ignoring for selfish reasoning.

I’m friends with everyone

Now nobody really says this, but these are the kind of people that consciously try to befriend everyone because it seems like the self-fulfilling and nice thing to do. What do I mean by self-fulfilling? Well simply put, by having a lot of friends it generally makes you feel needed more and you’re placed more in the spotlight. Psychologically it feels great, but only momentary. This type of befriending is not sustainable and I’ll explain why.

If you’re involved with too many friendships you’ll get burned out and not be able to provide a high quality commitment to those you supposedly care deeply about. This will make those who are truly your friends feel neglected, because your attention is diverted in too many directions.

Another issue with not differentiating between friends and acquaintances is that through friendships comes honesty. If you’re friends with a lot of people then you are having to open up to many people which can be really dangerous. It sets you up for gossip amongst the community putting your character at unintended judgement. Therefore it’s crucial break down the number of friends and move the others into an acquaintance relationship in order to safeguard yourself from anxiety and public scrutiny.

Not separating between friends and acquaintances can also set you up for countless “dramatic” situations to assist with. Friendships need to come with loyalty but everyone comes with their own set of personal problems. The more people you are closely with, the more issues you have to deal with. This in turn takes up more personal time than it should which will only hurt your growth due to your time being spent wrongly.

There’s nothing wrong in not being friends with everyone, your time is valuable and your needs are important too. It’s also not beneficial to those you are spending hair amounts of time with. So separate between friends and acquaintances wisely and surely you’ll start living a more peaceful life.

Conclusion

Hopefully seeing all these scenarios I’ve laid out leaves you with better preparedness in identifying the individuals in your life. My send off advice is to view friendship in the same standards as the four friends in the paralytic man story in Mark 2:1–12. These four friends knew Jesus was preaching in Capernaum. So they brought their paralytic friend to the building where Jesus was. However seeing how crowded it was, they were not able to enter it normally. So the friends took the paralytic man on the roof and broke their way into the home. In which Jesus saw their faith and healed the paralytic man.

Give the level of commitment to your friends as those I’ve pointed out in the Book of Mark. This level of loyalty and commitment to the betterment of their paralytic friend should be the standard we want in our own friendships. This story should help us understand which relationships should be in the realm of a friendship or an acquaintanceship.

Thanks for reading, please share and give feedback so I can constantly improve these posts. ✌️

Acquaintances give us moments; friends give us hours; good friends give us days — Harry Beckwith

Software Engineer @ Moody’s & Co-hosts a podcast called Anomaly Talk