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Friend versus acquaintance

Friend versus acquaintance

By: By Don Harold Lawrence

In their conversations with me, a number of bereaved people have mentioned the difference between a true friend and a mere acquaintance.
A mere acquaintance is one with whom we share a congenial, shallow, superficial and limited relationship — no more and no less — and each of us respects that boundary.
On the other hand, a true friend is one with whom we can honestly share our thoughts, feelings and grief without fear of being judged, criticized, rejected, abandoned, corrected or admonished.
They can be trusted to keep secrets and guard confidences. In describing his closest friend to me, one man said, “He’s the kind of friend to whom I can bear my soul and rest assured that he will never share what I have said with another person.”
True friends play an important role in our recovery from grief. They listen as we pour out our heart and discuss our problems, battles, questions, doubts, anger, guilt, fear, emptiness, loneliness, depression and despair.
There is a therapeutic value in being able to honestly share our deepest thoughts and completely trust another person during the darkest hour of life. This happens only with a trusted friend, not with a mere acquaintance. However, there is a fear of taking the risk of completely trusting another person because we feel vulnerable when someone “knows” us. We fear being “found out” and exposed.
This brings us to the essence of this discussion — the importance of letting someone else come into our inner world, opening up our deepest self and sharing our most personal thoughts and feelings. Thus, a friend walks through the “valley of grief” with us.
Years ago a friend shared with me a personal parable that has helped me understand this distinction between mere acquaintances and true friends. This parable pictures our life as a sacred garden enclosed by a stone wall, and in the wall there is a gate that either opens or remains closed, depending on the quality of relationship we have with the person who stands at the gate. Some who pass by the gate of our garden of life are mere acquaintances and we converse with them at the gate. Then, there are special friends we invite to come through the gate and into our garden. They are always welcome. We trust them so completely that we invite them to walk among the trees, plants and flowers and touch the leaves, taste the fruit of our life and smell the roses that grow out of the soil that has been watered with the sweat of our struggles and the tears of our grief. Likewise, these special friends invite us to visit their garden of life, and we both recognize that the sanctity of these gardens must never be violated.
Don Harold Lawrence is coordinator of SUNRISE, which is sponsored by Shackelford Corporation. He may be contacted by mail at 145 Abernathy Drive, Adamsville, TN 38310-3001 or by telephone or fax at (731) 632-4483. His Web address is
Published in The Messenger 1.17.08

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