"What is acquaintance? What a funny, hard word." ~ Aunt Beast, A Wrinkle In Time
I just love the character of Aunt Beast from that wonderful Madeleine L'Engle book. She's right about the sound of the word acquaintance, though. It sounds proper, stiff. But many of us have a ton of acquaintances. I looked the word up in the dictionary.
Acquaintance: "a person whom one knows but who is not a particularly close friend."
Think of standing around the water cooler, or hanging out at the kid's soccer game, or. . .any informal situation where we encounter others on a regular basis. We get to know the generic stuff. Family, interests, likes, dislikes, the boring activities of everyday life, and maybe an occasional quirk thrown in to make it interesting.
Many of us are really good at having acquaintances. It's sort of like owning a jacket with lots of fringe on the arms. Fringe adds a little something to the look, but it's not like a sleeve or insulation against the elements or buttons. Fringe is just...fringe. According to the dictionary, fringe is "a marginal, peripheral, or secondary part."
I suppose you could also call acquaintances casual friends. We know them by name, we know things about them, but it's mostly surface information. That's where most friendships start, as we discover the common ground we all share. Acquaintances aren't people we usually call in a jam. We might not wonder much if we haven't heard from them in a week or two.
When does an acquaintance become a true friend, when they are more than just on the fringe of our lives? Maybe it's when one person shares more than everyday life, and shares a bit of their heart. And the other responds in kind. I think it's important to tread cautiously when we do this, or we could end up having a one-sided friendship.
Speaking of friendships, here's a thought-provoking blog post from 97 Seconds With God on how we choose our true friends.