Acceptance or Friendship: Figuring it out in a new community

Does accepting you mean that I simply accept your inherent worth and dignity? Or does it mean I embrace you into my circle of deep friendship? Or is it something in between?

I have many casual acquaintances, a large circle of friends, and very few close friends. Which of these levels would make you feel that I accepted you?
Which of these levels would make me feel accepted by you? When I first meet someone, how can we move from acquaintances to friends, to close friends? How do we decide if we want our relationship to progress to the next stage of friendship?

It’s pretty easy for someone to move from the casual acquaintance stage to the friend stage. Since moving to Athens, I’ve met many new people and have established friendships with many people at my church and at the Newcomers Club. We have accepted one another on the level of “church friend” or “Newcomer friend.” We share something in common and our participation in these organizations gives us the opportunity to spend time doing things that interest us both. These friendships are still growing and have not existed long enough for us to develop a joint history of years of shared memories. I consider joint history an important part of deep friendship, but it’s not the only factor. It also takes time, trust, and vulnerability to develop deep friendships. It takes supporting each other through difficult times.

Frequently, a new friend and I may like each other a great deal, but our friendship will not progress to the level of deep friendship. It may be because we don’t have sufficient shared interests to build a shared history beyond that of the activities of an organization to which we belong.

It may be because our husbands don’t bond. A variety of reasons may limit the extent of our friendship, but should not limit our acceptance of each other.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that some people will never move out of the casual acquaintance stage. From time to time we all meet people we simply do not like. That’s OK — some personalities just don’t click. But, I can’t waste time dwelling on why this happens. I’ve met so many fabulous people here in Athens I would rather take this time developing and nurturing the growing friendship that we have established!

*Prompted by a Spiritual Writing class at the Unitarian church on the topic of Acceptance.

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