When I was a kid, I used to talk to my mom about my “best friend”. And at the time, she would tell me that I was too young to know what a best friend was. She would tell me that most of the people I knew and went to school with were only acquaintances. Looking back now, I can see where she was right, and that she was wrong.
When we are kids, we really don’t have a lot of friends. We have only the people we go to school with, or church, or whatever extracurricular activities we do (in my case, girl scouts and something else – whatever that something else was that year). I had very few people that I hung out and played with. I typically wasn’t allowed, so those I was allowed to go socialize with, to my limited child understanding, were my best friends. And those were few and far between.
Not too long ago, I mentioned a trip that I had recently taken with one of my “besties”, and I talked about some of the reasons why she is one of my best friends. Today, I want to talk about something a little different. Today I want to talk about the cost of friendship, or why would someone I have known for years might still only be an acquaintance, or friend at a distance.
My husband and I know many people. And most of those, we really don’t consider close friends. We’ve had friendships where we were able to maintain a reasonable closeness for many years, but when the dynamics of the relationship changed, we were able to see the true nature of the person (or people) involved. Once that occurred, in nearly every circumstance, our relationship with that person underwent a drastic change.
Let me give you a couple of examples:
Once of the reason I am so close to my “besties” is that in our relationships, there is a balance. We both put in equally to the relationship. We can ignore each other for months, or years, and then pick up the phone and talk for hours as though no time had gone by. We send each other gifts, we check on each others kids and families. When we get together, we share cost and expense. It’s equal. That’s what friends do.
For most of the people we know, there is no sense of balance. We have friends that we’ve known for years, and sometimes share time with equally (but not usually), but not always at each others homes, or with us sharing the cost (dinners, gifts, travel expenses, etc) equally. In most cases, my husband and I took on the bulk of the expense, whatever it is.
With my true friends, conversation is key. I can talk for hours with my friends and know that, just like with the expense, the conversation is equal. We share thoughts, ideas, experiences, and we learn from each other. With acquaintances, there’s no equality in the conversation. It’s always them telling the same stories that we’ve heard (and can now recite as well as they can), with us being able to put in little to the conversation. Since we are always trying to bring enlightenment to our encounters with people, it becomes very difficult when the people you are with don’t want to hear what we are trying to express.
Our last example is what I will call “a giving acquaintance”. Giving acquaintances are entities unto themselves. You could almost call relationships with them an “unbalanced balance”. They are difficult to talk to and often stressful to be around as they don’t want to hear what you have to say, and are certain they have everything figured out, but they actually put into the relationship by bringing gifts, they don’t take more than they give, etc.
In the end, who you call a friend is up to you. And you are the only one who has control over how much you put into your relationships. If a friendship becomes too stressful or overwhelming, or too far out of balance, it may be time to consider changing the dynamics of the relationship. It doesn’t mean that you have to give up the friendship entirely, but think about reassessing and taking more control over the relationship. In other words, if you have a friend that you know you have to do all the transporting with, and they will always demand food, then instead of hanging out once a week, consider spending time with them once a month instead. Little changes like that can make a big difference in your stress levels, and have the potential to show your friend that if they want to continue to be in your “circle” that perhaps they need to balance the equation a bit from their end.
My husband and I know a lot of people. But we have very few friends. We still socialize, but we do it on our terms. It helps us maintain our connections with people, and allows us to bring Spirituality where and when we can. It also means that we can do it while maintaining balance within ourselves.